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

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Snapshots from Home

From the continuing coverage in the New York Times of diploma mills for high school athletes:

Few basketball programs have benefited from recruiting players from Schofield and Lutheran more than George Washington. The Colonials are 24-1 this year and ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press poll. Two of the team's best players, Maureece Rice and Omar Williams, played at schools run by Schofield. The George Washington president, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, had a strong reaction to The Times article.

"I was embarrassed," he said.

Trachtenberg said that he planned to forward the article to the vice president, the admissions office and the athletic director.

Asked if having two players from Lutheran tainted the Colonials' season, Trachtenberg said: "Well, it's hardly good news. I wished they'd all gone to Andover and Horace Mann and finished first in their class. I'm curious how they're doing while they're here."

The athletic director, Jack Kvancz, refused comment. Coach Karl Hobbs said he never met any teachers or counselors while recruiting Williams and Rice, despite their academic struggles at the high schools they attended before Lutheran. He also refused to answer questions about whether he knew the school was unaccredited.

Hobbs defended Rice, a sophomore who will turn 22 in March, and Williams, a 24-year-old senior, by saying that when one talks to the players, it is obvious that they are educated young men.

Hobbs pointed to the lack of resources in inner-city schools. "I do think part of my responsibility as a coach is to offer opportunities to kids that have a burning desire to want to graduate and kids that have the character and the desire to want to succeed," he said.
Approaches to Teaching DeLillo's White Noise...

...a book that includes an essay by UD, has just come out.
This Sounds Like Fun

From the Stanford Daily:

When ASSU Senate Chair Chris Nguyen brought a water gun to the Undergraduate Senate meeting on Jan. 24 to protect himself from would-be killers, it served as a clear indication that Assassins season was back. Yes, the persistent reality game is once again sweeping Stanford dorms this quarter in a variety of forms. With games running in Freshman / Sophomore College, Rinconada and Branner, the paranoia-inducing game of hunters and the hunted is causing many around campus to guard their backs carefully.

“Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals” defines Assassins as a “lifestyle-invading game.” It is “essentially a live-action roleplaying game,” according to Wikipedia. Players are secretly assigned a target, whom they attempt to kill — by means which vary depending on the rules of the particular game — knowing that they too are being hunted by another player.

Games vary from the extremely involved, with pages of rules and ubiquitous water guns, to the simple. Branner’s game, characterized as an “unofficial pick up game” by its freshman creator Amara Humprey, uses Post-it notes for weapons. Rule concerning safe areas also tend to vary. While class and the target’s living quarters are considered safe in most versions, some games also exempt computer clusters, dorm events and bathrooms.

Assassins has been played at least since the 1980s, according to Wikipedia, and is most popular on college campuses.

“It’s great, especially in the beginning,” said freshman Amir Ghodrati, who leads Branner’s game with nine kills. “But as it goes on, people stop trying to kill each other and it gets boring.”

To keep the game from stagnating, FroSoCo employs a “terminator” rule, where any assassin failing to report a kill within a certain time limit is hunted down by terminators, who are essentially indestructible assassins with the express purpose of removing those who play too slowly.

As of Saturday, five people remained alive in the FroSoCo game, a game rife with betrayals. Freshman Denise Sohn, who on Friday was one of fewer than half of the 78 initial participants still alive, got her first kill while wishing her college assistant a happy birthday.

“People have become extremely paranoid, carrying their water guns around at all times and being afraid to go anywhere alone,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.

Paranoia is both the consequence of and the key to success in this game, said Francis Ring, coordinator of the FroSoCo game.

“Most kills come from stalking people on their way to class,” he wrote. “Also, of course, there are the many betrayals by so-called friends.”

Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of dorm Assassins, the ASSU Student Life Committee sponsored a campus-wide variant in spring of 2002 that drew 35 participants from 19 dormitories.

Few now remember the game.

Andrew Cross, a history major who graduated last quarter, recalled his experience. “I was a freshman and I killed this dude in ZAP,” he said. “And then, somehow I blew the job on someone in Roble and died. It was cool, but not as cool as it could have been.”

Although publicized in The Daily, the game drew relatively few participants.

After the game concluded, game organizer Eric Lai, Class of ‘03, said, “At a school with thousands of students, I know there must be more than 35 people paranoid enough to enjoy a campus-wide version of Assassins.”

But the idea of a renewed campus-wide game has met a lukewarm reception. “I don’t want to play with a bunch of people I’ve never heard of in my life,” said Ghodrati. “It’s not fun.”

“The concept of stalking people you don’t even know would be a little scary, even in a game,” Ring agreed.

In spite of the alleged creepiness, some intrepid souls expressed that they would be interested.

Said freshman Danny Berring, “Is it invasive? Yes. Would my privacy be threatened? Yes. But that’s what makes it fun.”

“If they could get it together again, it would be awesome,” Cross agreed.
T. Boone:
He Might Have Wasted Millions
On a University Sports Village,
But at Least he Did it Unethically

All billionaire T. Boone Pickens did was give a humble $165 million to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, to fund a charity for the benefit of the school's golf program, and that has teed off some folks. According to The New York Times, not long after the money landed at the school, the charity, O.S.U. Cowboy Golf, invested it in BP Capital Management, a hedge fund run by Pickens. Mike Holder, who sits on the board of the fund, says it was his decision to put the money in BP and denies that Pickens made it a condition of the contribution. The billionaire, according to the Times, got a nice tax break for the donation, thanks to a clause in Hurricane Katrina relief law that allowed "a deduction for charitable gift equal to 100% of his adjusted gross income," double the norm. Some lawyers question whether Pickens should get the deduction, given where the money ended up, though they say it's all legit. Making the point that there is no conflict, Pickens spokesman Jay Rosser told the Times, "We've waived all fees and our share of the profits on their investment."
Not Profitable

Those who assure us that for-profit colleges are the wave of the future should be aware that the industry is currently tanking. The leading company, Apollo, which runs the University of Phoenix, has issued “disappointing second quarter guidance,” and has “yank[ed] its already lowered 2006 outlook.”

Shares of the company plunged $8.31, or 14.2 percent, to $50.16 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq after earlier hitting a low of $49.51. The stock is down 17 percent so far this year, and has not traded this low since March 2003.

Investors also sent shares of Apollo's biggest rivals sharply lower in trading -- with many hitting new 52-week lows of their own.

DeVry Inc. shares dropped $1.05, or 4.3 percent, to $23.44, and earlier reached a 52-week low of $23.24 on the New York Stock Exchange. ITT Education Services Inc. shares fell $2.69, or 4.2 percent, to $61.76 on the Big Board.

The article talks vaguely about changing demographic trends in student populations, but the real problem, endemic to such schools, is illegal or close to illegal student recruitment tactics for the sake of federal funds. The schools are more or less always under investigation, which makes running them difficult.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Post-Summers Thoughts

Harvard Law School Professor William Stuntz, in The New Republic:

Three key American enterprises have seen costs rise much faster than inflation over the past generation... housing, health care, and higher education. Houses have grown bigger and better.... Doctors do things they could not imagine a generation ago. Costs may have risen faster than quality, but there is no doubt that quality has risen... substantially.

Higher education is similar -- on the cost side. Benefit is another story. There is little reason to believe that undergrads and graduate students are better educated today than a generation ago.... Teaching loads of senior professors have declined; probably teaching quality has declined with it.

The culture of research universities has grown ever more contemptuous of students, especially undergraduates, who are seen as an interruption of one's real work rather than the reason for the enterprise. Which means that, year by year, students and their parents pay more for less. That isn't a sustainable business plan.

If undergraduate education is too often an afterthought, graduate education is too often a con game. A sizeable percentage of PhDs will never get tenure-track teaching jobs, which are the only jobs for which their education trains them. Since no jobs await them, they hang around longer getting their degrees, all the while teaching classes and doing research for their academic sponsors.

It's a great deal--for the sponsors. For the grad students, it's akin to buying a daily lottery ticket as a retirement plan....

via tpmcafe
In a comment, one of UD’s readers,
“superdestroyer,” sent her to…

…a most amazing anti-PowerPoint page. Forget students at Rate My Professors complaining about professors who use PowerPoint -- YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW.

And military folks don’t seem to cotton to PowerPoint either. Let us begin with some military PowerPoint haikus:

PowerPoint briefing,
Eye candy for the big cheese,
Sycophant's wet dream!

Brief CG at noon,
Animated slides and sounds,
Cartoons for morons!

Cheese-meister to brief,
Proud to wear PowerPoint tab,
Future General!

And now some military PowerPoint quotations:

"While you were making your slides, we would be killing you."

(Russian officer […] in a discussion between US and Russian officers serving in Bosnia as to who would have won if we had ever actually fought in Western Europe.)

"Despite the level of cadet complaints about the 'Death by PowerPoint’ phenomena, I have found that they (cadets) are quite willing to inflict this upon their colleagues."

USMA Faculty)

"PowerPoint presentations are a new form of anesthesia and torture. They were even used at the Abu Ghraib Prison."


[Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's,] order [to stop using PowerPoint] is only the Pentagon's most recent assault on a growing electronic menace: the PowerPoint briefing."


A final haiku, from UD:

Why are there still professors
inflicting PowerPoint
on their students?
Robert Kuttner Calls
For Colleges To Boycott
US News and World Report’s

From American Prospect Online:

[T]he worst thing about it is what the ranking obsession is doing to the allocation of financial aid. More and more scholarship money is being shifted from aid based on financial need to aid based on ''merit."

…[W]hen higher tuitions spin off scholarships for other affluent kids intended mainly to raise rankings, the result is to doubly raise barriers to poor and middle class kids, with both higher tuition barriers and diminished aid.

…It's hard enough for colleges to come up with financial aid based on need, without a spurious ranking contest creating inducements to subsidize the already privileged.
Update on the Salary Scandal
At the University of California

The UCLA student newspaper gets it right:

Is the best way to solve the University of California's recent salary scandals really to staff it with more businesspeople?

It is, or at least it's part of the solution according to UC Board of Regents chairman Gerald Parsky. Sitting before a state Senate panel last Wednesday that was convened to hold hearings on reports that the UC has paid out excessive salaries to some top-level executives and administrators, Parsky said the UC could use more staff members with business backgrounds.

While acknowledging that experience in education is important for university officials, Parsky said, "There needs to be a restructuring of the office of the president so appropriate business-management expertise is brought to bear."

That's an interesting take, given the current make-up of the board. Of the 18 appointed regents (19 if you count the student regent), 12 are either executives, officers or founders of major businesses or organizations. Among them are Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures; Norman Pattiz, founder and chairman of media giant Westwood One; and Frederick Ruiz, co-founder of Ruiz Foods, the top seller of frozen Mexican food in the United States. The top two officers on the board, Parsky and Richard Blum, are chairmen of Aurora Capital Group and Blum Capital Partners, respectively.

Given that repertoire, we question whether the UC really needs more leaders with "business-management expertise."

It certainly wouldn't hurt the UC to have leaders who are business-savvy – though when the university system drops $205,000 a year to pay someone to do essentially nothing, as UC President Robert Dynes admits the university did for former UC Davis Vice Chancellor Celeste Rose, we wonder whether it's common sense, rather than business know-how, that is lacking.

But it's not as if UC officials are entirely devoid of either of the two. They didn't run the UC into bankruptcy out of sheer financial recklessness. They did drop the ball when it came to taking a responsible and publicly accountable approach to salaries and compensation. But that's a problem that can probably be fixed by using resources the university already has at its disposal; it doesn't necessarily require bringing on new ones.

If anything, we would argue that the Board of Regents is stacked too heavily in favor of businesspeople. When the board is mostly composed of real estate moguls and CEOs of financial firms, it creates a perception – especially among students – that they're out of touch with educational needs. The fact that the regents only meet once every two months and rarely visit campuses to mingle with students and staff only compounds the problem.

It wouldn't be entirely fair to suggest the regents – with all their business backgrounds – take on all of the UC's financial oversight.

Still, when the board is already flush with business talent, and then the chairman of the regents stands before a Senate hearing to say the UC should hire even more, we question in what direction the university is headed. It is, after all, primarily a school system, not a business.

Being fiscally responsible and accountable to the public does not require a business degree.

But, it does take time, commitment and a good memory to prevent the UC from reneging on the stringent financial oversight it is now promising. Otherwise, in 10 years, Parsky's successors could find themselves in front of even more panels of inquisitive senators.
The Other Side of the Mountain

In New York Press, via Arts and Letters Daily:


If you want to make any $$ at CUNY, be a plumber

By Steve Weinstein

A recent job posting at the City University of New York offered a position in teaching literature, rhetoric and composition. The instructor (not professor) had to publish and carry a full load of teaching, which includes grading papers and consulting with students after class. Candidates had to have a “doctorate from an accredited university” and “demonstrated excellence in teaching.” The salary started at $35,031.

Another job posting offered a position that required a bit less education: plumber. The qualified candidate had to know how to repair pipes and have five years of experience.

The salary began at $77,483.
The Etiology of the
Harvard Money Manager

Intriguing opinion piece this morning from Paul Krugman, in which he says “It’s time to face up to the fact that rising inequality [in America] is driven by the giant income gains of a tiny elite, not the modest gains of college graduates.”

Krugman rightly notes the sentimental appeal of everyone believing that a college degree will increase opportunity and income and thus undermine inequality: “[It’s] comforting,” he writes, to imagine that “it’s all about returns to education,” since it suggests that “nobody is to blame for rising inequality, that it’s just a case of supply and demand at work. And it also suggests that the way to mitigate inequality is to improve our educational system - and better education is a value to which just about every politician in America pays at least lip service.”

But Krugman also notes that “the real earnings of college graduates actually fell more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004. Over the longer stretch from 1975 to 2004 the average earnings of college graduates rose, but by less than 1 percent per year.”

In fact, all the big income gains in the country have occurred at the very highest income distribution percentiles:

[I]ncome at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that’s not a misprint.

We’re into $30 million per year Harvard money manager territory here, the world of gangrenous greed.
UD Not on Lydon Radio Show...

...tonight after all. But it sounds well worth a listen anyway.

With words like “coup d’etat” and “putsch” now routinely being used among pro and anti Summers factions on the Harvard faculty, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that at 8:15 this morning a communique was issued to the nation’s press by Professor Alan Dershowitz, who, along with a small band of students, faculty, and alumni, has fanned out to strategic locations on the Harvard campus and assumed control of some buildings.

Yet even with the escalating rhetoric from both sides in the wake of the Summers resignation, many observers expressed shock that a Harvard professor would initiate what Dershowitz, in his communique, calls a “counter-putsch” against the Harvard Corporation “and others on this campus who surrendered to the die-hard left.”

“What was he thinking?” asked Hanna Holborn Gray, former president of the University of Chicago, and until recently a member of the Harvard Corporation. “It’s distressing. The Boys of Summers [the name Dershowitz has given to his group] have taken a bad situation and made it much, much worse.”

More alarming still is Dershowitz’s claim to have secured “a good chunk” of Harvard’s $26 billion endowment. “We’re going to need food, clothing, and electricity. We’re going to need more guns. We’re going to need new recruits. We’re in it for the long haul.” He would not disclose how he was able to gain access to the funds.

Ex-President Summers has already issued a plea calling for the Boys to put down their weapons. “I can’t believe they’ve armed themselves,” Summers told a reporter. “It boggles the mind. This is arguably the darkest chapter in Harvard’s long history of commitment to the use of reason and the rule of law.”
"An indelible stain
on Harvard's reputation."

An article in today's New York Times answers pretty decisively the question its title poses:


Some Harvard watchers attribute [Shleifer's non-punishment] to Dr. Summers's influence, though he formally recused himself from the matter, and they see the entire affair, assiduously detailed by Mr. McClintick [in the Institutional Investor article], as an indelible stain on Harvard's reputation.

..."One reason I was drawn to it was you had this very small group of exceptionally brilliant people, very young people, basically trying to save Russia and then an even smaller group corrupting the enterprise," [McClintick] said. "The wheeling and dealing and the internal dynamics of the group are fascinating."

...There is a wide range of opinion in the powerful circle of Harvard watchers on just how significant Mr. McClintick's article was in galvanizing faculty members. Richard Bradley, the author of "Harvard Rules: Lawrence Summers and the Battle for the World's Most Powerful University," has written frequently about the scandal on his blog (

"Suddenly, you couldn't just say this was an arcane legal dispute in which one party had somehow fallen afoul of the law," Mr. Bradley said in an interview. "Suddenly, this was exposed as a really unattractive and deliberate pattern of behavior and cover-up that quite dramatically pointed an arrow at Larry Summers."

...Dr. Summers' recusal, said Robert D. Putnam, a former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, was a turning point.

"When the president responded in a manifestly untruthful way to questions that were asked about the Shleifer case," Mr. Putnam said, "it had a devastating effect on the views of people who were to that point uncommitted, people who, like me, were strong supporters of his agenda."

Others, however, maintain that the events detailed by Mr. McClintick were a negligible factor in Dr. Summers's departure. The report is available at

"I would bet you there weren't more than 20 or 30 people who read it," said Alan M. Dershowitz, who has taught law at Harvard for 42 years and who wrote an op-ed about the resignation for The Boston Globe.

"It seems to me it was full of leaps of logic," Mr. Dershowitz said. "Once people made up their minds they wanted to get rid of Summers, they were dragging up anything."

...Michael J. Carroll, the editor at Institutional Investor who first approached Mr. McClintick with the story, said Mr. McClintick's article, the longest published in the magazine since he began editing it in 1999, warranted close attention. "Russia was going to go the way of the West, so in come the best and brightest of Harvard, and this story shows how the best and the brightest started to do things the old Russia way," Mr. Carroll said. Mr. McClintick concurred. "If this case shows anything," he said, "it's that intelligence does not equal wisdom."

Dershowitz and his allies in the econ department (one of whom has compared the McClintick article to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion) are truly, truly making asses of themselves.

UD wonders whether Shleifer has sufficient conscience to feel guilty about having, through greed, brought down his best friend.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


The Cranky Historian corrects Brad DeLong on lazy Harvard professors.
Higher Thinking

The Board of Regents at the University of Michigan will vote this year on whether to “offer new part-time tenure opportunities and to lengthen the period from eight to 10 years in which to earn tenure.” They‘ll also consider a university committee‘s suggestion that they “allow faculty members to work part time and still work toward tenure on a prorated basis.”

This is aimed primarily at increasing the number of tenured women faculty. But it’s good for everyone.
Snapshots from Home:
Bethesda Chevy Chase High School

Having been let go from Georgetown University, Peace Studies enthusiast Colman McCarthy has resurfaced at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, where, as at Georgetown, some people would like him to leave because he is a propagandist.

The Washington Post reports in particular on the efforts of two students to close the course down or have it reconfigured to make room for a modicum of scholarly disinterestedness. The Post doesn’t mention McCarthy’s history at Georgetown, where he was, an article noted at the time, “criticized for not having tests and allowing students to grade themselves.”

Nor does the Post article say whether his high school students get tests; but BCC seems to have dealt with McCarthy’s grade aversion by giving someone else the job: “Although a staff teacher takes roll and issues grades, it is McCarthy as a volunteer, unpaid guest lecturer who does the bulk of the teaching.”

How does this work in practice? McCarthy teaches, and another teacher attends all the classes and judges the students?
How Do You Wear Your Smart?

One underreported detail of the Summers thing that UD wants to consider here is his intellectual style -- his way of wearing in public, if you will, his knowledge that he’s smart.

UD’s ancient glittering eyes have taken in a lot of professors over the years, and, just as she has, in these pages, systematized varieties of beardedness among them, she’s now ready to begin systematizing modes of “I’m smart” wearing among them.

Recall that one reiterated complaint about Summers is that he’s aggressive about being brilliant -- “always has to be the smartest guy in the room” is the meme.

This is certainly one way of wearing one’s smartness, and we’ve all seen it, starting in grade school.

This is the kid whose socially anxious, intellectually snobby parents have been wetting their pants since he was born about what a genius he is. They gotta crow. Elaborately, they share with strangers accounts of the bairn’s mystic brain.

All in earshot of the kid, who concludes he is God.

As he grows, the kid graduates from correcting the factual errors of his playmates and doing brain tricks to impress adults (“He’s only five, and he can recite the state capitols in twenty seconds in alphabetical order!?”), to ushering fellow professors into his office and telling them what it is about their discipline they don’t understand.

This kid, like Larry Summers, is not popular. Society is going to put him away in a cork-lined office in an ivory tower. Despite his gifts, his life is sad, for every human encounter is a punishing challenge to establish cerebral dominance. His affective existence, he will grasp on his deathbed, has been a Scrabble game.

The opposite extreme of self-conscious and warlike smart-wearing is embodied in the demeanor and career of beloved intellectuals like Saul Kripke and John Rawls -- global geniuses whom intimidated students expect to stride into classrooms with ego aglitter, but who walk in just like normal - albeit somewhat shy and modest - people. Think Albert Einstein. Iris Murdoch.

Who knows what vicious parenting spawned these paragons of gentleness and gentility, these people who’ve concluded that their brains are not about preening and belittling, but about serious thought about the world? Better not even try to imagine the prussian repressions visited upon these little people as they grew into big people able to intuit the feelings of those less brilliant than they…

Then there’s the My Brain Hurts! style of wearing your smart. Professors like this are about the heavy burden of intellect. Pale and thin with a pained expression on their faces, they are like early medieval monks in tortured consideration of Being. Their psychic sensitivity is notorious: Careful what you say to Professor X! She cries when she lectures on Sickness Unto Death!

The word “neurasthenic” used to be reserved for this sort of smart-wearer, with her turtlenecks (UD’s favorite thing to wear, by the way), frown-lines, and furtive smoking. (Think Joyce Carol Oates, Renata Adler, Joan Didion, Francoise Sagan.) Since to think is to suffer, cheery plump intellectuals like Murdoch and Roland Barthes excite the contempt of this smart-type.

And there’s more, there’s more. But you’re supposed to keep your posts short on these blog things. And UD has to get ready to go to Baltimore for a concert. Later.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A slightly obnoxious tone in this article…

…but the content seems right enough. It’s a list, in the New York Times, of mistakes President Summers made at Harvard. Here, for instance, is the Shleifer mistake:

Troublesome friends may need to be sacrificed. Many professors were troubled by a lawsuit involving Andrei Shleifer, an economics professor at Harvard, which alleged that he and an associate violated the terms of a federal contract involving a university program. Harvard settled the lawsuit for $26.5 million.

At a faculty meeting, Mr. Summers said he did not know enough to comment. This struck many as a disingenuous. The two men are good friends. And Mr. Summers was also seen as protective of Mr. Shleifer, once telling a dean not to allow another university to poach the economist, according to a deposition in the lawsuit.

The Harvard president might have helped himself if he had nudged his friend to go to New York University, which made a lucrative, ultimately unsuccessful bid to steal Mr. Shleifer in 2003.

Had Summers tried this, though, he’d have enraged the entire economics faculty, which loves Shleifer truly madly deeply.
Bulbous, bogus breasts

Once again, as she likes to do, UD features charming, promising prose from America’s undergraduates.

This guy’s a senior at Purdue, writing in the student newspaper.

Men are stupid. The evidence is overwhelming.

Every night after the bars close many intoxicated men can be found exercising their stupidity. Some play in the street. Others attempt to instigate as many fights as possible in an apparent display of masculinity.

There are those who would blame the alcohol, not the men. However, I believe in the reasoning of the statement, "guns don't kill people, people kill people," and I propose the theory that alcohol is merely a type of truth serum. Alcohol may intensify idiotic behavior, but it works with what was already present. Am I the only one who has noticed that the guy who always gets retarded while drunk had questionable intelligence to begin with?

At the gym male stupidity is prevalent. Many men enjoy lifting weights, but a large number are actually doing damage to their bodies. The most common problem I notice is the ABC workout: abs, bench press and curls. While I will not argue that abs are at the core of any good workout routine, many men neglect their legs. The guy with chicken legs can usually be spotted because he hides them with long pants even when the thermometer approaches triple digits.

Purdue is an engineering school, and men should realize the importance of a strong base. A well built building utilizes a sturdy foundation. The human body is no different. I can only imagine the damage to the spine that occurs when the human skeleton is forced to carry around excess torso weight without reinforced legs.

Another comical phenomenon is the guy who does too much bench press. He is easy to identify because his shoulders have rotated inward from the tension of his overdeveloped pectoral muscles. Also, instead of his thumbs pointing forward and knuckles pointing outward when his arms rest at his side, his thumbs now point inward and his knuckles point forward. He now has a rather apeish look to his upper body.

Male stupidity is also responsible for changes in the female body. I blame men for the prevalence of breast enhancement these days. Yes, it is the women who get the surgery, but it is the men who persuade them to go under the knife. Theoretically, I should not be influenced by someone else's decision to alter her body, but I am. I appreciate the female body as a work of art and enjoy looking at it. However, I cannot visit a strip club or flip through a Playboy without being bombarded by bulbous, bogus breasts.

So what if fake boobs are larger? They look alien. Following the same logic that leads men to be impressed by a fake breast, I'm willing to trade several pounds of fool's gold for one ounce of the real thing; I'm offering more for less, and more is better. The fascination with medical experiments that Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of shows the feeble nature of many male minds.

Another example of male stupidity can be found in a common place. Sometimes, between classes, I use a restroom on campus, and 99 percent of the time the stench of human excrement is overwhelming. This makes sense since it is a room devoted to defecation, but with urinal cakes and indoor plumbing the smell should be minimized. Unfortunately many men seem to not know how to flush a toilet, how sad.

With the way babies are ingrained with the belief that filling a diaper is something to be proud of, I could understand if each steaming pile of solid waste was accompanied by a note proudly taking credit for the crap. Though, I believe that a more sinister attempt to assault a stranger's olfactory sense is the actual intent.

Have we men not evolved past such tactics? Women's bathrooms have couches and smell like roses. Am I asking too much to want this for us men?

The world is facing a crisis of rampant male stupidity and needs women to help. Please, women, stop breeding with these mental midgets.
More Sad Faces
From RMP

A sociology professor

On the first day of class she spent the entire hour and twenty minutes putting everyone into groups, gave every group a "team name," and then proceeded to give everyone a piece of paper with their team name on it and said "This is your passport to learning." Enough said.

I have never been in a class that was such a waste of time. It was a joke to go to class... she just wanted to show us her power point slides. She was always late, rude to the students, and she even lost assignments from students.

The class is pointless lengthy videos, small group activities like crossword puzzles and word jumbles, and mostly INANE power point presentations filled with generalizations, stereotypes and big buzzwords. ARG.

A journalism professor

Pointless projects and assignments. Kept commenting about the course being an outlet for her to write a book. Boo.

She made it clear that she was only teaching our class so she would have a basis for writing her book. I left the course with a sour taste in my mouth.

A journalism professor:

I didn't read a single piece of information she asked us to read. I fell asleep during class discussions when I wasn't doodling. I skipped frequently. I got an A-.
While most of our best universities…

…like Harvard, feature remarkably autonomous units, our weaker universities often feature not only autocratic presidents, but government interference. The University of Hawaii's accreditation, for instance, could be put at risk because of micromanagement by state legislators:

Lawmakers’ meddling at UH cited

Accreditors say legislative interference
endangers the integrity of the university

The accrediting body for the University of Hawaii expressed concern over what it sees as possible "micromanagement" by state lawmakers over their attempt to transfer a Hawaiian-language faculty member from UH-Manoa to UH-West Oahu.

In a Feb. 6 letter to interim UH President David McClain, a Western Association of Schools and Colleges panel noted that while relations with the Legislature and the governor appear to be improving, "detailed actions of this type would appear to represent micromanagement and violate the integrity of the university."

…[Two state lawmakers had a] provision inserted into last year's budget that transferred funds for a Hawaiian-language position from UH-Manoa to UH-West Oahu.

Hm, let’s see… yes, we'll move this position from campus a to campus b…

When asked to comment on the controversy, one of the meddlers remarked: "They [the university and the regents] are not the beginning and the end when it comes to ideas to improve the university."

This guy should take UD’s T.S. Eliot course:

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow.


Another example:

The University of Utah system.
Admissions standards,
Georgetown University

From today's New York Times:

Marc Egerson is a freshman for No. 23 Georgetown.

Don Haman, Egerson's coach at Glasgow High School in Delaware, said Egerson earned a core-course G.P.A. under 2.0, scored in the 600's on his combined SAT and never graduated from Glasgow before going to Lutheran [a prep school for athletes].

"I wonder about it myself," Mr. Haman said of Egerson's acceptance to Georgetown. "But I can't say anything if he gets the score and gets into school."

Even Milton Friedman says it:

‘We have learned about the importance of private property and the rule of law as a basis for economic freedom. Just after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, I used to be asked a lot: "What do these ex-communist states have to do in order to become market economies?" And I used to say: "You can describe that in three words: privatize, privatize, privatize." But, I was wrong. That wasn't enough. The example of Russia shows that. Russia privatized but in a way that created private monopolies - private centralized economic controls that replaced government's centralized controls. It turns out that the rule of law is probably more basic than privatization. Privatization is meaningless if you don't have the rule of law.’

But a high-ranking Harvard economist in Russia ignored the rule of law, eagerly joining the lawless culture there to enrich himself, in direct violation of his enormous US AID contract. Andrei Shleifer and Harvard were found guilty of such serious misbehavior and negligence that Shleifer, who remains a member, in excellent standing, of Harvard’s economics department, had to pay two million, and Harvard 44 million, to the government and to attorneys.

None of this is in dispute; yet members of Harvard’s economics department describe reporters and scholars who’ve drawn from the legal record and written about it as purveyors of hate comparable to the authors of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They’ve said none of it matters because Shleifer’s on his way to a Nobel Prize, and the Nobel committee doesn’t care about what he did in Russia.

Only losers care about the rule of law. Winners know that markets are about what you can get out of them for yourself and your friends.

John Tierney and others can rail against Harvard’s liberal arts “faculty club,” full of “delicate psyches,” “complacent” “paleoliberals” “insulated from reality” and “interested in their own welfare” -- but even if some of this characterization is true (and there’s more stereotype in it than truth), UD would rather affiliate herself with this lot than with the creepy amoral economics faculty club, still out there defending their massively defrauding colleague, and using incendiary language against the voices of moral reason and the rule of law.

Friday, February 24, 2006

UD Has Added...

...SLAVES OF ACADEME to her blogroll. Because it's scrappy.
From a Harvard Crimson interview...

...with Richard Bradley, author of Harvard Rules, and blogger at Shots in the Dark:

It’s a fascinating story—it’s historic, it’s dramatic. I’m not sure it quite reaches the level of tragic, but there are tragic elements in it. Above all—and this will get lost in the left versus right sniping you’ll see in the next few weeks—it’s an important story. Ultimately a lot of the issues with Larry were about personality. At the same time, the underlying argument was about what kind of place a university ought to be. Not just any university, but the university I’ve argued is the most important in the world.

…I do get frustrated by ... caricatures of the Faculty, which are ubiquitous. They’re something the Faculty should be concerned about. There’s an odd willingness to believe that the faculty consists of knee-jerk left-wing Sixties-holdover radical crackpots. It’s obviously an unfair caricature of the Faculty. …The caricatures of the Faculty are about anti-intellectualism in the U.S.
More Shleifer,
More Male Hysteria

From the Harvard Crimson today:

'Coming the same month that Summers angered many professors by forcing William C. Kirby’s resignation as dean of the Faculty, the Institutional Investor article [about the Shleifer affair] added still more fuel to the Faculty’s uproar.

“Bill’s resignation was the most important thing behind it,” said Coolidge Professor of History David Blackbourn, referring to Summers’ ouster. But, he added, “Larry’s ...[denying knowledge and involvement in answer] to the question about Andrei Shleifer also really antagonized people.”

…Glimp Professor of Economics Edward L. Glaeser said last week that the Institutional Investor article “is a potent piece of hate creation—not quite ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ but it’s in that camp.”'

Thursday, February 23, 2006

To My Fan Base:
UD Media Sightings

UD’s so overexposed lately in print and on the radio that her life skills/ public relations manager has admonished her about it. “You’re getting overexposed,” he said to her just this morning, as UD gazed at the Wednesday Washington Post Express (a shorter version of the paper, read mainly by commuters), which quoted her on the subject of student emails. “After this latest radio interview, I want you to cool it for awhile.”

The interview is on Boston public radio, and the program is Open Source with Christopher Lydon. UD will be one of three or four people (including Andrew Hacker) interviewed about the current state of American universities -- a subject prompted by the Summers resignation.

This Monday night, 7 - 8.

...this morning's Inside Higher Education for this article, in which UD tells Harvard what to do next.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Course
Formerly Known
As “Physics”

Denis Rancourt, a physics professor at the University of Ottawa, wants to lecture on the world and its evil corporate masters. Recently, he took one of his physics courses and renamed it Activism Course: Understanding Power and its Contexts. He also “allowed students the latitude to decide on topics to be discussed in class.” And he “opened the course to both undergraduate and graduate students and encouraged members of the public as well as ‘campus activists and socially-minded students’ to attend.”

Instead of publicizing the revised course on the university's website, Mr. Rancourt posted a description on an independently run website called

The description said students in the course "may learn some science (risk analysis, nuclear technology, ozone chemistry, greenhouse effect, etc.) and see how science is often misused to maintain the status quo rather than help elucidate the situation. Mostly, though, we will try to 'understand power,' so that we have a clear picture of what progressive citizens are up against."

Mr. Rancourt has defended his actions by saying curriculum changes are normal and professors rarely restrict themselves to what is contained in official course descriptions.

But his colleagues say the course was revised so drastically it no longer had anything to do with physics.

One of his students, on Rate My Professors, agrees, complaining that Rancourt “spent three full (90 minute) classes abling [babbling? rambling? UD doesn’t speak Canadian] about his world philosophy.” A lot of his colleagues are pissed, too, and although they let him finish out the semester, they’ve asked him to stop the bait and switch. He has written angry letters to administrators and filed lawsuits.
Powerpoint, Notes --
Where Would We
Be Without Them?

More from RMP:

A Political Science Professor:

Oh my god. I have been to two colleges over a four year span and this guy was the WORST prof I ever had. He forgets what his lecture is about, and reads his own powerpoint slides. Plus, his TAs do all the work and he is totally unhelpful. Got an A, but what a waste.

Look out for the powerpoint lectures.

He has to read his own power points - is a total bore - an academic stuck in his own head.

A Psych Professor:

Very unhelpful. Her teaching style is simply powerpoint everyday of class. However, she does not have good public speaking skills. Therefore, I made my way through the class by counting how many times she said 'um'...

A Psych Professor:

The one day she forgot her notes, she canceled class.
A friend sends...

... this editorial, in this morning’s Washington Post:

UNIVERSITIES EXIST to pose tough questions, promote critical thinking, and generally challenge complacency and prejudice. When he became president of Harvard five years ago, Lawrence H. Summers determined that the university was not living up to this mission: It was infected by its own complacencies and prejudices, and he did not shrink from saying so. This outspokenness won Mr. Summers support across the university: A new online poll conducted by the Harvard Crimson found that 57 percent of undergraduates supported him -- only 19 percent thought he should resign -- and the deans of several faculties praised his leadership. But Mr. Summers alienated a vocal portion of the Arts and Sciences faculty, which pressed last year for a vote of no confidence in him and recently forced a second such vote on to the schedule for next week. Yesterday Mr. Summers preempted that second vote by announcing that he would step down in the summer. Because of the prestige of Harvard, his defeat may demoralize reformers at other universities.

Mr. Summers fought several well-publicized battles with Harvard's establishment. He refused to rubber-stamp appointees chosen by the faculties, blocking candidates who seemed insufficiently distinguished and pressing for diversity in political outlook. This prompted complaints that he was acting like a corporate chief executive -- as though there were something wrong with that. Next, Mr. Summers had the temerity to suggest that Cornel West, a professor of Afro-American studies, produce less performance art and more scholarship. This plea for academics to do academic work was construed as racist. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Summers criticized Harvard's hostility to the U.S. armed forces and called attention to the cultural gap between elite coastal campuses and mainstream American values. The fact that these commonsensical positions alienated people at Harvard speaks volumes about the cultural gap that troubled Mr. Summers.

Perhaps most explosively, Mr. Summers raised the possibility that the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering faculties might reflect innate gender differences in ability. His claim was not that women were less intelligent on average, but rather that fewer women than men might be outstandingly bad or outstandingly good at math, with the result that the pool of math geniuses from which universities recruit is disproportionately male. "I would far prefer to believe something else, because it would be easier to address what is surely a serious social problem if something else were true," he noted. But he was immediately branded a sexist.

Mr. Summers can be undiplomatic, as he acknowledged in his resignation letter. But university professors, of all people, should not require mollycoddling; they should be willing to embrace leaders who ask hard questions about how well they are doing their jobs. The tragedy is that the majority at Harvard seems to have known that. But, in university politics as elsewhere, loud and unreasonable minorities can trump good sense.

Couple of things to note here. The editorial is very short. That’s because it overlooks some things.

I agree with it on the women and science thing - he said nothing objectionable, and shouldn't have been hounded about it. But on West - West is an actual intellectual, or was for enough years that I've learned a lot reading some of his essays in philosophy, etc. I think Summers misplayed that one. West has done some trivial things lately, but he has a solid history of scholarship.

As to Summers changing business as usual: The editorial says nothing about the fact that Summers allowed the yearly salaries and other compensation of Harvard's money managers to rise as high as $30 million for each of them until alumni outrage forced him to stop doing that. That wasn’t shaking things up. That was Harvard arrogance and entitlement as of old.

And Summers, the Post editorial fails to point out, allowed his crony in the economics department, Andrei Shleifer, to go without any institutional punishment at all, even though his illegal money dealings in Russia forced Harvard to pay the largest legal decision against it in its history ($44 million) to the federal government, and also screwed up Harvard's relationship with the government and generated terrible publicity. Instead of punishing Shleifer, the university, under Summers, gave him a named chair. Again, hardly anti-establishment.

Summers may have spoken of reform and shaking things up, but because of his management style he actually, in five years, accomplished little. Yes, Harvard undergrads whose families make less than $40,000 a year can now attend the university admission-free. But note that yearly income. Harvard, with its $25 billion plus endowment, can afford to pay virtually everyone's full tuition into the distant future. Why set the income figure so ridiculously low?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Shleifer Affair

From the Chronicle of Higher Education piece announcing the Summers resignation:

"The key fact pushing the pace of events this week, according to the professor, is that today is the last day the agenda can be changed for a meeting, scheduled for next Tuesday, of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. At the meeting, faculty members had planned to vote on a motion of no confidence in Mr. Summers's leadership. The faculty, which includes Harvard's undergraduate and graduate divisions and is the largest academic unit on the campus, passed a similar no-confidence measure last March.

Next Tuesday's meeting could have proved exceptionally embarrassing to Harvard and to the Harvard Corporation, its seven-member governing board, the professor said, because of other items on the agenda.

Chief among them was to be a motion to censure Mr. Summers for his role in what has become known as the "Shleifer Affair," the professor said. Andrei Shleifer, a prominent Harvard economist and personal friend of Mr. Summers, was a defendant in a lawsuit alleging that he and a former staff member had defrauded the U.S. government through a program intended to help Russia make the transition to a market economy.

Harvard defended Mr. Shleifer throughout the litigation and last August agreed to settle the case by paying a $26.5-million penalty. Mr. Shleifer has never been disciplined by Harvard, and in fact was awarded a new chair during the litigation, said the professor who spoke to The Chronicle. As a result, Mr. Shleifer's relationship with Mr. Summers has drawn increasing criticism. The professor said the combination of the penalty and legal fees had cost Harvard $44-million."
The Last Prose of Summers
Male Hysteria

"This is a power grab by a group of hard-left radicals who hate Summers because of his politics," Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz said last night prior to publication of the Journal story. "If they succeed, this place will be very unhealthy with political correctness cops running around telling people what they can say."
Sometimes, when she reads her beloved…

New York Times, UD wonders: Was this piece necessary?

It’s usually a “lifestyle” (evil word) piece… usually a piece focusing a laser-like beam upon some beyond-trivial element of a yuppie’s day… like… the emails UD gets from her students!

And you know, UD doesn’t shock easily, but she was shocked by this:

A few professors said they had rules for e-mail and told their students how quickly they would respond, how messages should be drafted and what types of messages they would answer.

Meg Worley, an assistant professor of English at Pomona College in California, said she told students that they must say thank you after receiving a professor's response to an e-mail message.

"One of the rules that I teach my students is, the less powerful person always has to write back," Professor Worley said.

The first part of this is just the standard weird thing of a lot of Americans, who insist on formalizing everything -- rules for this and rules for that. It’s almost always a mistake -- a recipe for aggravation. But it’s the second part of this that gets me. You must say: Thank you! Miss Manners meets Monty Python!

Not to mention that the whole point of the article is that the student, with his or her hectoring, demanding emails, is now the more powerful person…

But even more -- UD’s experience of students’ emails is not at all like that described of professors generally in the article, who indignantly and incredulously report getting emails like this one:

"Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I'm a freshman, I'm not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!"

Well, hell, she said thank you… And is this really so awful? It’s a freshman, asking for a small spot of advice. I’d just answer it, wouldn’t you? Rather than, like this professor, refusing to, and saving it for the day a New York Times reporter asks you about your most outrageous student email?

The article then goes on to list phenomena like constant in-school faculty evaluations and Rate My Professors and student Facebook groups, and the way tenure and promotion ride on some of this… so that, among other things, faculty feel pressure to respond to the “barrage” of student emails they receive.

For what it’s worth, UD’s student email has never seemed anything like a barrage -- though it’s true that she doesn’t teach big lecture courses. Nor has it ever been rude or demanding in the ways the article describes as routine.
Another CEO
With Fake Degrees
Bites the Dust

Monday, February 20, 2006

Intriguing plagiarism case developing…

…in South Africa. There’s nowhere near enough information available to decide on the legitimacy of the charge, but here’s the story so far:

'Two publishers are considering legal action against the poet who has accused Antjie Krog of plagiarism and the award-winning poet and writer is to seek a right to reply in a coming edition of the journal that carried the claims.

In a scathing article in the latest issue of a local literary journal, New Contrast, Stephen Watson, head of Cape Town University's English department, accused Krog of "lifting the entire conception" of her 2004 book on Bushmen poetry, published by Kwela, from an anthology he published in 1991.

Krog's the stars say 'tsau' and Watson's Return of the Moon: Versions of the /Xam are based on the translations of /Xam Bushmen poetry by 19th-century linguists Lucy Lloyd and Wilhelm Bleek.

Watson also claimed some paragraphs on the concept of myth in Krog's award-winning book Country of My Skull , published by Random House in 1998, had been plagiarised from British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes's essay Myth and Education.

Eve Gray, the publishers' adviser on copyright and publishing law, said Kwela and Random House had sought legal advice.

"I can't say whether they'll sue, but they... are tentatively considering taking action," she said.

On Sunday, Krog said that the suggestion of plagiarism was absurd.

She had not seen or read Hughes's piece before writing Country of My Skull, she said.

Also, Hughes had referred to the Greek and Christian influences on the Western mind, while she had referred to the apartheid indoctrination that led to the black man's being perceived as a "k....r", enabling the white man to kill what was considered non-human.

Watson maintained these paragraphs by "lazy" Krog had placed her in the ranks of plagiarists with Darrel-Bristow Bovey and Pamela Jooste.

Random House's managing director, Stephen Johnson, said Watson's claims had been examined and rejected.

"We cannot tell whether he is confused or deliberately disingenuous," he said.

"We are dismayed that this lapse should have provoked an altogether unreasonable, venomous and academically shallow diatribe in response."

In an equally strongly worded response, Krog described Watson's criticisms as "vituperative" and "libellous".

Her use of Bushmen folklore was comparable with "Walt Disney accusing one of plagiarism for making poems out of stories of the Brothers Grimm", she said. Poets like Eugene Marais, Jack Cope and Uys Krige, whose works she had read since childhood, had also made references to Bleek's work.

Replying to the accusation that JD Lewis-Williams's words were also lifted, she said: "What... can have caused Watson to overlook the explicit acknowledgment in the introduction as well as on the colophon page?"

Gray said the 19th-century materials were out of copyright and firmly in the public domain. The poems had been attributed to the San authors.'

"Ever since Oklahoma State was founded...educational excellence has been a low priority, and this whole business just puts an exclamation point behind it."

The head of Oklahoma State University's Faculty Council, on ol' T. Boone.

In today's Chronicle of Higher Education.


ps: on OSU’s Latest Sports News:

Eddie Sutton's BAC Reportedly a Whopping .220%! When the long time coach for Oklahoma State was arrested for drunk driving last week after an accident it sounds like he might have been doing some real drinking! According to test performed after Eddie Sutton's sports utility vehicle swerved across four lanes of traffic, slammed into the back of another car, then crashed into a tree, his official blood alcohol content was .22% . . . nearly three times the legal limit for DUI. If you refer to the chart at the bottom of our BAC Rankings page, that would mean--assuming Sutton weighs around 200 lbs-- that he likely consumed 12 drinks in the hour before he got behind the wheel. His rate puts him just under the current level to make the rankings (.23%) but we may make an exception for the coach.
The UDean Book of the Dead

[Based upon extensive
RMP sourcework]

Professor X enters the classroom ten minutes late, hair askew. Sweating. Laptops, lasers, and highlighters spill out of X’s arms as X proceeds from the classroom door to the podium.

X does not acknowledge the students. In a classroom that seats fifty, there are ten. This is the third class of the semester, and despite daily roll taking and frequent pop quizzes forty enrollees have dropped or decided not to attend.

Three students are asleep; five are internet gambling. Two stare at Professor X from the very back row. They appear to be in a rage.

Another ten minutes elapses as Professor X silently fumbles with Power Point and other forms of technology.

Professor X interrupts the fumbling and leaves the room. After another ten minutes, X returns, carrying a cup of coffee, a cell phone, and a bottle of pills.

More technology fumbling. Occasional muttering of “shit,” and nervous playing with pill bottle.

Power Point mission accomplished. Professor X now takes roll.

X finishes roll. Forty minutes have elapsed.

Professor X speaks.

“I see your classmates have already begun, uh, uh, what’s the word… skipping. I don’t know what’s happened to this, uh, uh, university. It used to have admissions standards. The new president‘s just interested in warm bodies that, uh, uh, pay tuition.”

Professor X does not look at the class. Gazes bitterly out of the classroom windows. “What is it, a million degrees below zero out there? Why are you here? Why am I here?”

Professor X continues gazing, silently, for five minutes. Cell phone rings. “Mm? Yeah?… Yeah?…Yeah?…Yeah?…Yeah?…Yeah?…”

Fifty minutes have elapsed as Professor X snaps the phone shut.

Head down, Professor X now reads what is written on the first Power Point image. X reads the second, third, fourth, and fifth Power Point images. Constantly checks wrist watch.

Ten minutes before the end of class time, Professor X dismisses the class.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Today’s RMP Readings

A Physics Professor:

The Romanian accent is amusing, as is the fact that he drinks coffee out of a measuring cup and has an icon labeled “Sexy Buddy” on his computer.

A German Professor:

I learned NO German, and I think my English skills atrophied as well.

An English Professor:

What a prick. A lawsuit waiting to happen.

An English Professor:

Disorganized and hostile. Likes to blame the students for the poor communication in class. Talks way over our heads - or does she? She's full of post-whatever theory and drops a lot of names, but she is NEVER understood.

A Women’s Studies Professor:


I had this professor for a couple awful classes. I'm sure she is smart, but being late to every class and actually falling asleep during student presentations is unacceptable.

A Political Science Professor:

Half the class was videos.

I went to one class with this teacher, and dropped it immediately and took another class instead. SO glad I did... I knew it was bad when we watched a video the entire first class period!

A Journalism Professor:

His lectures are VERY boring - mostly just him showing you websites and videos.

A Psych Professor:

She really should have never put up that place to **** anonymously on [the web] if she was going to get offended!

A Psych Professor:

Once I fell asleep and had a bad bad dream.

A Physics Professor:

His lectures consist solely of PowerPoint presentations. PowerPoint is terrible when complex math is involved. Also, he packs 90 minutes worth of material onto a 50 minute test. Down with PowerPoint!

Physics shouldn't be about memorization, which this class is. Powerpoint to teach physics is ridiculous.
Harvard Grad,

As I write, the President of Harvard, Larry Summers, is teetering on the brink of dismissal after having at long last maneuvered the popular Dean that he originally selected in 2002, William Kirby, out of office. For about two years I and a number of my classmates from the turbulent year 1969--none of whom, significantly, work in corporate America--have been campaigning against another aspect of Summers' Administration--his defense of the bonuses paid to the money managers of Harvard's endowment, bonuses which have reached $30 million for each of two managers for one year, and which are based on performance benchmarks which some other professionals regard as ridiculously easy to beat.

President Summers, who as an economist and former Secretary of the Treasury has shown no second thoughts about the direction of our economy, has refused to reply directly to any of several letters we have sent him, although at our 44th reunion he informed us that he felt we were deeply misguided and explained that this is what top-level talent costs. We have recently been encouraged that the man responsible for Yale's endowment, David Swenson, who comes from a family of academics and works for a paltry $1.1 million a year, has courageously criticized his Harvard counterparts. But we have been almost unanimously criticized by our classmates in the financial community who see nothing wrong with such compensation, and the business press has usually treated us very condescendingly, when it has mentioned our campaign at all.

Speaking for myself, we have only been suggesting, as so much of western history seems to me to prove, that untrammeled greed is not, in fact, a social good...

'Revelations that a University of Delaware research assistant and physics instructor is a leader in the regional white supremacy movement did not change his standing at the university, an institution that values free speech.

Huber plays lead guitar for the white power metal band Teardown…

Last month, Huber, along with a Pennsylvania-based racist group called the Keystone State Skinheads, held a rock concert in Middletown, Pa., that drew more than a hundred skinheads and neo-Nazis. It was one of a series of "hatecore" concerts promoted by Final Stand Records.

Two days after the concert, Huber was back on UD's Newark campus teaching an introductory physics course to more than 100 students.

…A student in the class said Huber wore long-sleeves while teaching to conceal his tattoos and never talked about race or politics. Huber warned the class that he listened to "hardcore" music, so if they heard it during office hours they shouldn't be shocked.

Huber isn't teaching this semester, but he continues to study, has an office on campus and conducts research paid for by NASA.'
La France

A French writer complains that interior minister Nicholas Sarkozy has pulped her book - a thinly veiled work of fiction - because it discloses embarrassing details of his marital life:

“Never mind what is in the book, what about the fact that a minister of state succeeded in banning a book. The same minister who, a few weeks later, when asked about the row over the Prophet Mohammed cartoons, said he preferred that people's feeling[s] were hurt to imposing censorship. He said this in front of a group of journalists and not one of them said, 'Hang on a minute, what about [my] book?'"

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Getting Down to the Wire

The New York Times is now reporting that the Harvard Corporation is canvassing the faculty on whether they think Summers should stay or go.

Among the considerations board members are weighing is how much Harvard would be further damaged if the discord between the president and many faculty members is allowed to continue, and also what the long-term consequences may be if the board asks for Dr. Summer's resignation, appearing to cave in to the faculty.

A “a second no-confidence vote on Dr. Summers [scheduled for February 28] would be,” says one professor, “a serious embarrassment for Harvard.”
Rate My Professors: More Gems

A Psych Professor

Whenever I stepped into class I felt I was entering Toon Town, directed by the biggest Loon. I always left with tweety birds flying over my head, in a real daze, wondering what the heck I was doing there. Makes an excellent abnormal case study, but the teaching is about as coherent as Elmer Fudd.

A Literature Professor

A little dense. A little worthless. You know. Very Santa Cruz.

I believe she overemphasized the prevalence of phallic symbols in the literature.

A Psych Professor

She had us teach the class - one student presenting a chapter of the book each class. It felt as though she wasn't even there.

A Psych Professor

He’s very confused with the technology most of the time. There are four laptops in front of him and a good ten minutes of every class is devoted to figuring out the Power Points.

Sitting in his class right now. All he does is read from the Power Points that’s available online. Why am I even here? This guy has twenty minutes to convince me to come to his next lecture. So far, it doesn’t look very good.

A Philosophy Professor:

I spent class time watching Family Guy and the Simpsons on my friend's IPOD.

A journalism professor

Narrow-minded windbag in a love affair with Marx.

Not good, just really not good. Man, really, really not good. I mean, wow.

A fine arts professor

Have you ever had a teacher come into the room, lie on the middle of the floor, and not say a word, much less acknowledge the class, for over ten minutes?

Another cowtown shallowpate with a big ego.

Takes liberty with his own political agenda during class time, under ruse of “creating forum to share.“ Inappropriate use of (student-funded) class time. Typical non-teaching art-ed environment.
$18 Million Is Half
of What they Earned
Before Jack Meyer Left

A letter to the Harvard Crimson:

To the editors:

Your editorial “Running all the way to the Bank” (Feb. 10), in which you defend Harvard’s compensation of its investment managers, reveals not just your misplaced priorities, but also your total lack of understanding of the investment management business. Just yesterday, you published an article in which Dave Swenson, Yale’s chief investment officer, roundly criticized Harvard’s compensation plan as excessive and dangerous to the fabric of the University (“Yale’s Chief Investor Says HMC Overpays,” news, Feb. 9). Yale’s endowment has significantly outperformed Harvard’s; according to your own statistics, Yale’s fund has outperformed Harvard’s by 1.2 percent annually for the last twenty years. Swenson is well-paid; he earns around $1 million each year. But compared to Harvard’s managers he is a virtual pauper.

The Crimson argues that Harvard has to pay its managers as much as $18 million per year in order to achieve decent investment results. Why, then, can Yale achieve superior results with far lower compensation? Surely, Swenson could earn far more money if he left Yale. Similarly, Larry Summers could earn far more money if he left Harvard for the private sector, but Harvard does not, and should not, pay him tens of millions of dollars to retain his services.

Furthermore, the statement that Harvard pays its managers “approximately under 10 percent” of the market value for their services is patently absurd. Even with today’s enormous salaries for investment management, very, very few investors manage to earn more than $18 million per year. The idea that an in-house manager of a $2 billion bond fund would be paid at least $180 million annually for even exceptional returns is totally out of proportion to the reality of Wall Street compensation. Even $18 million would be an exceptionally high rate of compensation for that work.

Harvard is a not-for-profit educational institution. Surely it understands that people who choose to work at a university should earn less than their counterparts at for-profit corporations. Harvard should follow Yale’s lead. If Dave Swenson earns $1 million each year for the truly superior work he does, Harvard should be truly ashamed of paying any in-house manager eighteen times what Swenson makes.

David B. Orr
New York
The Corporation

Harvard's “silent and secretive Corporation,” won’t say whether it “still has confidence in the president.” One member tells the Crimson: “When the Corporation wants to communicate with The Crimson about that topic, it will.”
This Just In

Yet another university discovers that bigtime athletics fucks everything up.

Balancing the budget would be a big accomplishment for [the head of sports at University of Hawaii], who has wrangled with deficits every year since becoming athletic director in 2002. The worst year was 2003 when the deficit hit $2.4 million.

The department has operated with a deficit the past four years — three years under Frazier — and has accumulated a $5 million deficit during that time, according to auditors. The department still needs to pay off a $1 million loan from the Manoa chancellor's office.

...This is the second year of the department's five-year plan to eliminate the deficit through increasing ticket prices, private gifts through its fundraising arm, 'Ahahui Koa 'Anuenue, and corporate sponsorships.

Cash flow remains a "top concern" for the department, which does not have sufficient cash reserves to cover operating expenses, according to the audit.

"To fund recent losses, the department has been forced to adopt deficit spending policies, including the use of advance ticket sales, loans from the university and working capital advances," the audit said.

The department still owes Aloha Stadium $341,000 in rent for the 2005 Warriors football season, according to Debbie Ishihara, the stadium's administrative services officer.

…Last February, UH took back from football fans 660 seats in the Aloha Stadium loge area and repackaged them. The seats are now sold at the face value of the ticket plus an additional premium, which was as high as $15,000 in 2005 and could go as high as $20,000 by 2007.

…[T]he department lowered 2005 UH football revenue projections from $4.6 million to $4 million following a subpar season in home attendance. This past season, UH football — the engine that drives the multisport train that is UH athletics — averaged 28,136 fans per home game, the smallest average in coach June Jones' seven years.

"I think everyone knows we did not have the financial windfall we thought we could get in football," Frazier said. "We've gone back and reflected on that already."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Babysitting the Big Guys

'The fact that the university pays eight to 12 students to make sure athletes attend class is pathetic and should frustrate the student body on multiple levels.

The worst part of the entire program is its existence in the first place. Scholarship athletes are given an extraordinary gift -- a free education, some of the best housing the university has to offer and all the glory that comes with being a Division I athlete. It should not be a strain for an athlete to be responsible enough to check him or herself.'

The University of Maryland Diamondback
“Harvard’s top lawyer wrote this week…

… to Institutional Investor magazine,” reports this morning’s Harvard Crimson, “protesting its portrayal of University President Lawrence H. Summers’ role in the fate of a close colleague implicated in a U.S. government lawsuit."

The Crimson piece continues:

An article in the magazine’s January issue suggested that Summers’ friendship with Jones Professor of Economics Andrei Shleifer protected the professor—who led a controversial Harvard project to advise Russia in the 1990s—from consequences at Harvard.

Seized [on?] by some Faculty members to criticize Summers, the article, “How Harvard Lost Russia,” details the activities of the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) in assisting the Russian government to privatize its economy.

The project, funded by the State Department, drew charges from the U.S. government that Shleifer violated conflict-of-interest policies by personally investing in Russia while running the program.

The article suggests that Summers shielded Shleifer from disciplinary action by the University, which paid $26.5 million to settle the lawsuit.

But in a brief letter dated Feb. 14, Vice President and General Counsel Robert W. Iuliano ’83 says the article does not make clear that Summers recused himself from the University’s decisions about the suit “from the outset of his presidency at Harvard.”

The letter also says Summers did not participate in “judgements regarding whether, when or how Harvard should review the conduct of employees involved in the HIID project.”

Shleifer, who was found liable by a federal court in 2004 for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, paid $2 million to settle his part in the suit.

The article’s author, investigative journalist David McClintick ’62, said yesterday that his article “speaks for itself.”

McClintick’s offered the right response. Read the article. And read
Summers’s amazing protestations of ignorance of an affair involving one of his closest friends -- a protégé -- when speaking recently to a group of Harvard faculty. Given the circumstances, and given the institutional outcomes - before and during his presidency - Summers’s recusal comes across as an empty formality.
Reasonable Accommodation

A bill making its way through the Arizona legislature would, reports Inside Higher Ed, “require public colleges to provide students with ‘alternative coursework’ if a student finds the assigned material ‘personally offensive,’ which is defined as something that ‘conflicts with the student’s beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.’”

This reminds UD of the Christina Axson-Flynn story at the University of Utah, which is well worth a read if you aren’t familiar with it.

In the Arizona case, a student at a community college (and the student’s mother) objected to reading Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm
because it includes a wife-swapping scene. They have demanded an alternative reading assignment for that student. (The professor at issue, William Mullaney, gets one Rate My Professors comment: “Cool guy, cool course.”)

UD proposes Finding the Hero in Your Husband: Surrendering the Way God Intended, which shows a woman how to maintain her partner's fidelity by “encourag[ing] her husband to develop his leadership role in the marriage,” and by avoiding “unhealthy domination and control.”
Collegiate Humor

From an Interview
In the Harvard Crimson
With Professor Judith Ryan

FM: Is it tiring being the Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature?

JR: It’s exceedingly tiring. In fact, when I was first given that title, I thought it must be a joke. But the first question I asked was, “Is there any special way to pronounce ‘Weary?’ Is it perhaps pronounced ‘Way-AR-ee?’” I was trying to get out from under that name, but I think the dean at that time proposed me for that position because he knew I could take a joke.

FM: Have other professors ever asked for your title?

JR: Oh no, that would be the least desirable title to have. Please note that Professor Engell is the Gurney Professor. That’s just a more severe case of incapacitation.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Academic Hierarchies

Now that the merde has decisively hit the ventilateur for Harvard’s president, all sorts of perfectly ordinary higher level administrative statements and actions of his are being brought to the newspapers and presented as more shocking evidence of incompetence.

UD’s come to the conclusion that Summers should go -- I mean, he has to, because the institution’s increasingly unable to function -- but she’s unable to get indignant about this sort of bean-spilling, from a Boston Globe interview with a disaffected ex-dean (via Shots in the Dark):

“President Summers asked me, didn't I agree that, in general, economists are smarter than political scientists, and political scientists are smarter than sociologists?" Ellison said. ''To which I laughed nervously and didn't reply."

The way to respond to this sort of absolutely typical academic sally is to laugh. Not nervously. Just laugh.

The hierarchy Summers sketches, after all, seems about right.
UD’s found herself wondering...

...about this analogy -- drawn by Thomas H. Benton, a pseudonymous columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education, who writes about life as an Assistant Professor of English:

No, the book-plus standard for tenure will continue [Benton has just noted the MLA‘s formal position paper arguing against the mindless bookolatry of humanities departments], perhaps sustained by the use of ever-larger subsidies, weaker editing, and smaller print runs, until the publication of most books -- excluding the flagship productions -- with a university press will become of little more significance than having photocopies of your college memoir spiral-bound at Kinko's. [No, not this analogy. The next one.]

…I [having himself, he notes, begun non-university press forms of publishing] no longer feel beholden to the petty rivalries and resentments that characterize academic life. It's like being born again. [No, not this analogy either. The next one.] Imagine it for yourself: There are people out there -- possibly millions of them -- who are willing to pay for the pleasure of reading your work. Those people could give your ideas, expressed in a single mainstream book, the impact of a lifetime of scholarly writing. You can also earn the posthumous respect of Samuel Johnson, as well the relatives who warned you that professors tend to be paupers. Poverty and obscurity, as the world sees them, are not necessarily signifiers of academic virtue.

My experience as a writer in the last year is something like that moment in the 2004 film, The Village [this analogy], when a blind teenage girl named Ivy ventures through the terrifying woods that enclose her 19th-century farming community to obtain medicine to save her dying fiancé, Lucius. Eventually, after escaping from a member of her village disguised as a forest monster -- the one she had been warned about all her life -- Ivy reaches a stone wall and climbs it. On the other side, is the modern world: It is the "real world," from which the elders of her community long ago fled to build a utopia that, in time, became a den of resentments, rivalries, and secrets as bitter as the life from which they had escaped.

After Ivy returned with the medicine, I wonder if she and her husband stayed in the village. Or did Ivy tell Lucius of her discovery, and they went away together to live in the 21st century with all its freedoms and conveniences? Perhaps she kept her secret or passed it along to only a few kindred spirits whom she recognized, the way teachers often do with their students.

Once you realize there's a world outside the academic village, almost any future seems possible.

Is academia really that weirdly unreal and starkly self-enclosed? With my older set of analogies, I found myself, reading Benton, thinking about that ancient Patrick McGoohan series, The Prisoner…

If Benton’s right that despite having logic and the MLA against it the university press monograph mania of the academy will remain, then maybe he’s also right that certain segments of academia represent not principled ivory towers, but angry little snuggeries.
Readings from Rate My Professors
[which looks to be a regular UD feature]

An Anthropology professor:

Like the opposite of haiku - most words used, least expressed.

A Sociology Professor:

He is there only to sell his latest book, which of course is mandatory.

Extremely boring text - which he wrote.
A Nice Site

Life as a graduate student/pub crawler in New York City. Worth it for the Death Watches alone.
UD's Good Friend Phil...

...won't tell her where he found this, so no link -- but it points up the difficulty of fashioning a one-size-fits-all university exit exam:

...When she's not posing in red carpet wear, Ashley, who's currently a sophomore at New York University, has decidedly less glamorous tasks on her hands, including homework.

Mary-Kate, on the other hand, is taking a leave of absence from her studies, in part to recover from a painful breakup with ex-boyfriend Stavros Niarchos, who's now dating Paris Hilton.

"I miss him and I love him, and I don't speak with him anymore," Mary-Kate told W magazine in an interview published in December. "It's a hurtful and painful subject."

Once her healing process is complete, Mary-Kate reportedly plans to return to school and complete her studies, either at NYU or a West Coast university, though she has unusual curriculum requirements.

"I need to be able to go to yoga and work out and just read scripts and go on auditions, because that's what makes me happy...Like, papers don't really make me happy."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Be Afraid.
Be Very Afraid.

Let UD begin by stating that she’s proud she went to the University of Chicago. Her attitude toward the place is not - like Ben Stein’s toward Yale - fellatial (she’ll never be able to thank Andrew Sullivan enough for this felicity), but she’s proud.

Nonetheless, this is the second time she’s had to deal with the fact that the U of C’s current and outgoing president writes badly. Reasons badly.

As you know, plenty of sensible people are talking about the importance of beginning to measure what college students gain intellectually once they’ve graduated from a four-year school. Today’s Inside Higher Ed has a lengthy and thoughtful piece about this, which quotes one of UD’s heroes, Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (he always seems to say smart and true things about universities): “It has now been demonstrated that it is possible to measure what students learn, and we can no longer rest our case on the argument that it’s impossible.”

The U of C’s president’s take on this, which appears in the latest Chicago alumni magazine, is titled Attack by “Accountability,” and those juvenile scare quotes already tell you a good deal. Subtitle: President Don M. Randel Sounds the Alarm. Cue sirens! They want to test our students!

A short essay that begins with a quotation from Voltaire about fanaticism and ends with words like “shocked,” “fear,” “tragic,” and “dangerous,” is more appropriately about jihadists than standardized exams, but this is the rhetorical temperature Randel establishes and maintains for his argument that university students shouldn’t be tested.

After some throat clearing about the intelligent design controversy and insufficient government funding for universities, Randel refers to “the demonstrable success of higher education.” He must not have seen the latest studies of literacy rates among college graduates.

We then get more sneering quotation marks around “outcomes” and, again, “accountability.” UD’s no fan of jargon either, but bad outcomes are bad outcomes.

“Alumni of Chicago ought to be shocked” -- why do some writers think it’s smart to advise their readers to be shocked, rather than to arouse their shock? -- "at the idea that any standardized examination could capture much about the most important aspects of their education [the commission, according to IHE, isn’t inclined toward a one-size-fits-all exam; and no one claims to be capturing more than basic higher educational attainment information]. Of course, even the University of Chicago must strive to be better [blahblah], and the nation’s vast higher education landscape is surely uneven [but you and I don’t have to care]. But I fear that we see the signs of an assault on higher education by people who distrust the life of the mind [the retired university presidents who make up the commission are stupidheads] and who will gladly exploit the national suspicion of precisely the best in education [No one on the commission gives a shit about the University of Chicago and the other “bests.” They know U of C’s doing a fine job. Randel’s rather like the stinky cheese man -- Catch me if you can! I’m the stinky cheese man!]. This prospect is tragic in intellectual terms [Penultimate sentence. Not a dry eye in the house.]. But in practical and economic terms, it is simply dangerous."

No it’s not.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Richard Cheynlace

Going to the Birddes

Tell me not (Lynne) I am unkinde,
That to the Gunnerie
Of chaste birds and quiet pines
On private Texan fields, I flie.

True, an ancient Lawyere now I chase,
The first Foe drawing nigh;
And with a violent Burst emplace
Rough pellets in his Eye.

Yet this misfireance is such
As you too shall adore:
I could not love you (Deare) so much
Loved I not Birdshott more.

UD began this Inside Higher Ed article, about a meeting of university administrators, feeling encouraged:

Tomás D. Morales, provost of California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, also spoke to his fellow administrators about accountability. He said he understood the concern of many that “testing has been the central conversation” of the Education Department’s commission. But he said that — like it or not — higher education needs to move toward a “culture of evidence” about what students actually learn in college.

But then another administrator shut things down by executing a CLASSIC Going Cosmic maneuver.

Going Cosmic, as UD has explained to you on a number of occasions, is this rhetorical thing academics love to do: When they’re talking about a small pragmatic activity that ought to be done, they immediately shut down any possibility of actually taking up that activity by describing it as so profoundly caught up with larger phenomena that one couldn’t possibly do the small thing before one first accounted for the history of the universe as we know it. Watch and learn:

…Alan Jones, vice president and dean of the faculty at Pitzer College, agreed that demands have grown dramatically over the past five years — both from accreditors and the government — for “objective and demonstrable learning outcomes.”

Jones said that colleges need to respond to those demands, but that they need to do so in ways that preserve their values — something he said that may not always be easy. For instance, with regard to measuring what student learning goes on in college, he cited Heisenberg’s view that the very act of observing and recording can change what is being observed and recorded.

We’d like to give our students exit exams, but those fucking particles keep hopping around...

The Harvard Crimson, voice of the Harvard student body, is discouragingly evasive and pompous on the Shleifer/Summers controversy. Can twenty-year-olds have written this sentence?

The Shleifer affair is indeed a serious matter, but Faculty members’ propriety in bringing it to the scene now is questionable.

Indeed a serious matter…propriety…questionable. This is your father’s Oldsmobile.

But put that aside. Even more doddering is the editorial’s illogic:

The lawsuit was filed in 2000 and settled in 2004. It has been covered comprehensively by this newspaper and in other sources for the duration. True, a recent Institutional Investor article on Summers’ role in the incident does raise concerns about his handling of the events, but the facts of the situation remain at best unclear and are not deserving of a renewed firestorm.

Um, 2004 wasn’t very long ago, and this complex, costly, and destructive case remains a matter of analysis and dispute. Far from comprehensive, press coverage of the largest legal settlement in Harvard’s history has been so sketchy as to have raised serious questions among some observers as to why.

And it’s just because “the facts of the situation remain…unclear” that they need investigation and response. For while we don’t know everything, we know that a high-profile Harvard faculty member guilty of moral turpitude and reckless institutional damage has gone scot-free.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Our Neighbors
to the South

Students in the University of North Carolina system are trying to prepare themselves for “tuition and fee increases for the 16-campus system of between 8 percent and 20 percent,” but they draw the line at athletic fees:

Daneen Furr, the student body treasurer at UNC-Chapel Hill, said students "overwhelmingly oppose" a $50 increase in the university's athletic fee, especially because the fee increased $100 last year. She also said the athletics department has new sources of revenue, including an advertising contract with Wachovia worth $9 million over eight years.

I mean they’d like to draw the line, but they aren’t going to be able to. They’ll have to cough it up.

Meanwhile, at Florida Atlantic University, things are shitty with their hotshot sports teams:

A year after vowing to get its sports program out of the red, Florida Atlantic University is hustling to head off another shortfall -- despite meeting or even blowing past many financial expectations.

Unexpected expenses [Don’t let your eye blow past that “unexpected.” Only idiots don’t prepare for contingencies, and this sports program - like many others - made big promises and didn’t prepare for contingencies.] and lagging corporate sponsorships [FAU has done all it can to prostitute itself to corporations, but apparently it wasn‘t enough.] could put athletics about $300,000 behind on roughly $13 million in spending for the academic year, FAU leaders said Wednesday. But they stressed that they aim to catch up before the academic year ends in June.

They're planning a full-court press on corporate deals. If that doesn't work, they say they can break even by deferring some expenses to the next budget year.

"We're working feverishly to try to close the gap and to make sure we balance at the end of the year," said FAU athletics director Craig Angelos. "... There's no other option."

To FAU, even scrambling for $300,000 feels something like a victory. At this time last year, the university was looking at a $1.7 million deficit, on top of millions more in debts.

Intercollegiate sports have bled red ink since FAU launched a football team in 2001. To make up the difference, athletics ultimately borrowed about $3.7 million from donations, student rents, cafeteria profits and other parts of the university. [Note the list. UD especially likes “other parts of the university.” I wonder what those might be.]

FAU leaders pledged last year to stop that. They hammered out a sports spending plan that breaks even and starts repaying the debts. It includes increasing fund raising, ticket sales [Sales don‘t go up unless you have a long winning streak - another contingency!], corporate sponsorship and other income. But it depends heavily on a sorely contested 17 percent boost in the student sports fee. At $13.75 per credit, it's now higher than any other Florida public university. [Hm, that pesky sports fee again. Students really don’t seem to like how high it is.]

About halfway through the budget year, ticket sales have surged. Attendance at men's basketball games has more than doubled since last year, and single-game football ticket sales nearly tripled, according to figures released Wednesday. Support from collegiate sports groups has brought in $107,000 more than expected. And the sports-fee hike has provided a roughly $1.1 million lifeline.

But corporate sponsorships -- current and projected -- are only 60 percent of the way to a $282,000 goal.

And expenses have ticked up. FAU had to spend an unforeseen $100,000 replacing a videocamera and coaches' headsets, Angelos said. [More unexpected expenses! Who could have foreseen that a videocam and a headset would break? It’s just these acts of God that keep the academic program at FAU down.] When hurricanes [Hurricanes? Florida?] grounded the company that usually flies FAU's football team to games, last-minute airline tickets and charters added another $175,000 or more in expenses, though the university hopes to recoup some of that, he said.

Still, sports finances this year represent "a giant leap forward," trustee Norman Tripp said. "There's a lot of hard work to do, but (sports administrators) are up to the task."

Meanwhile, FAU is considering a deal with outside developers to build an "athletic village": a domed stadium rimmed by student housing, shops and parking garages. The developers would pay for the project, in exchange for income from student and shop rents and as many as 200 stadium events a year. [You read that right, folks. Two hundred events a year!]

The university hasn't committed to the plan. But trustees got a look Wednesday at conceptual sketches of a tree-lined arena neighborhood on the western edge of FAU's Boca Raton campus. A potential timetable envisions adding the 40,000-seat stadium, housing for 2,100 students, a fitness center, 3,000 parking spaces and 65,000 square feet of retail space by fall 2009.

"It's an exciting thing, to think that we might be able to do this," Tripp said.

Still, FAU and the team of developers, led by veteran stadium builder KUD International, say they need to nail down key financial and other aspects of the plan [What? You don’t want to take on yet more debt? Surely you’ve accounted for all contingencies.] before even deciding whether to carry it out. FAU trustees on Wednesday raised a few of the many as-yet-unanswered questions, such as what the developers would charge students for the housing and how stadium events would affect educational goings-on. [Educational goings-on. Cute phrase.]

"When we're looking at having an event every other day, having such a facility in such close proximity to the academic core of our campus has the potential to have a significant impact on the rest of the campus," trustee and faculty leader Roy Levow said. [What are you trying to say, Roy? You got a problem with a university where the only action’s in the athletic village/ shopping mall?]

Saturday, February 11, 2006

More Jewels from Rate My Professors

A film professor:

How can such a smart guy believe in astrology? Believes in a lot of other crackpot nonsense. Totally unclear. Don't know why this was a film course. Spent bulk of time reading a poem.

[N]o syllabus, readings or screening list and it seemed like we just watched whatever [he] felt like showing that day.

Was way more into astrology than writing. I wish I had my tuition back, because my MFA is not worth the paper it is printed on.

A philosophy professor

If you accidently enroll in one of his classes, withdraw immediately and flee the country.

An art history professor:


Lose the laser.

Treats you like an idiot very boring and plays with her damn laser too much.

An English professor:

Sat on his arse & had group presentations teach class last 5 wks of qtr.

An English professor:

A vegan rant masquerading as a social issues animal rights course.

A math professor:

After apologizing for being behind in the material and promising a great lecture, after rambling off topic, and after he hung up the cell phone and went back to his off topic ramble, I raised my hand and asked him, “Would you please get to the point?”
What It Looks Like
When a Harvard Professor
Is On a Nobel Prize Winning

UD recalls being confused, after Harvard settled a very expensive and embarrassing lawsuit brought against it by the federal government for a faculty’s member’s illegal conflict of interest activities in Russia (background here -- it's the first post), that the miscreant not only remained in Harvard’s economics department, but retained his named chair status.

This man single-handedly cost Harvard dearly, in money and in reputation. Yet not only did the university step right up and pay the almost twenty seven million dollars (about half the yearly salary of one Harvard money manager) the government demanded, it also imposed, far as UD could tell, absolutely no punishment on the guy.

Yes, it confused old UD. “I guess tenure really does mean never having to say you’re sorry,” she concluded at the time, and let it drop.

But now Harvard’s faculty has picked it up again. A recent magazine article about the scandal, full of gory details, has many wondering if the university’s president had anything to do with the remarkable impunity this particular professor has enjoyed.

‘Tawdry Shleifer Affair’ Stokes Faculty Anger Toward Summers, runs the headline in the Crimson.

Six months after the University paid $26.5 million to settle a government lawsuit implicating Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer, controversy over the case has erupted anew and fed the Faculty’s current uprising against Shleifer’s close friend, University President Lawrence H. Summers.

“I’ve been a member of this Faculty for over 45 years, and I am no longer easily shocked,” is how Frederick H. Abernathy, the McKay professor of mechanical engineering, began his biting comments about the Shleifer case at Tuesday’s fiery Faculty meeting.

But, Abernathy continued, “I was deeply shocked and disappointed by the actions of this University” in the Shleifer affair, which was detailed in a lengthy magazine article that jolted many professors out of their reading period slumber last month.

Shleifer, the Jones professor of economics, was found liable by a federal court in 2004 for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government while leading a Harvard economic reform program in Russia as it transitioned to capitalism in the 1990s. Shleifer settled the case for $2 million.

The article, in the January issue of Institutional Investor magazine, suggests that Shleifer’s relationship with Summers shielded the professor from the consequences of the scandal while at Harvard.

There’s a nicely revealing detail about academic culture in the Crimson piece:

One of Shleifer’s colleagues, Professor of Economics David I. Laibson, yesterday expressed his department’s support for one of its stars.

“By any measure, he is on a Nobel Prize winning trajectory,” Laibson wrote in an e-mail.

Here’s a guy who was found guilty of defrauding the US government. Bigtime. His colleagues are salivating at the thought of his proximity to a Nobel Prize and could give a shit about his criminal activity. They’re confident the Nobel committee feels the same.


UPDATE: [Now that UD has read the II article.]

Already a book is forthcoming about the Shleifer case and other events which have made Harvard, as the book’s title has it, a place of Excellence Without a Soul. (Subtitle: How a Great University Forgot Education.)

But UD sees movie possibilities too, assuming the account of the scandal in Institutional Investor is correct.

For instance, the following sequence would work well as farce: An honest staffer in Russia, Holly Nielsen, started talking about the malfeasance to the authorities. “Shleifer ordered that she be fired. Nielsen informed [Jeffrey] Sachs [back at Harvard, running the larger program of which the Russian project was a part], who countermanded the order. Shleifer reinstated it. …She informed Sachs, who again reinstated Nielson. [Shleifer had] security guards …bar her from the offices…”

And this would make a good visual: “A faculty member asked [a dean] why Harvard should defend a professor who had been found liable for conspiring to commit fraud. … [A]nother professor asked [the same dean] why Harvard should pay a settlement of $26.5 million and legal fees estimated at between $10 million and $15 million for legal violations by a single professor and his employee, about which it was unaware. On both occasions [the dean] is said to have turned red in the face and cut off discussion.”


UPDATE II: Valuable background at
Scientist Clones Colleague’s Downfall

From The New York Times:

Dr. Gerald P. Schatten, a biologist at the University of Pittsburgh who was involved with Dr. Hwang Woo Suk and his discredited claim to have cloned human cells, was accused yesterday of "research misbehavior" by an investigative panel appointed by the university.

The panel found that Dr. Schatten did not learn of Dr. Hwang's fabrications until December, seven months after the article with his claim to have developed embryonic stem cells from 11 patients was published in Science.

The misbehavior, in the panel's view, lay in the fact that Dr. Schatten let himself be listed as senior co-author, even though he had performed none of the experiments, but "shirked" the responsibilities of verifying the data, "a serious failure that facilitated the publication of falsified experiments in Science.."

…Dr. Schatten entered into the relationship with Dr. Hwang "not only to help a colleague whom he admired," the panel said, but also to gain some "reputational enhancement." [Great phrase, reputational enhancement. New one on me. Faint echoes of penile enhancement.] He nominated Dr. Hwang for foreign membership in the National Academy of Sciences and a Nobel Prize. [Why not go all the way…]

Friday, February 10, 2006

Is This the Best Use
of Senator Grassley's Time?

UD is second to no one in her anti-Ladnerianism (see her extensive coverage of the recent American University scandal) but things are getting silly when a United States Senator starts sniffing after $20,000 in questionable university payments to the disgraced former president of AU, and when the Washington Post decides this piddling amount of money calls for the following headline: SENATOR WANTS ANSWERS FROM AU.

Isn't Grassley supposed to think about, say, defense appropriation? Ladner's out of the picture, going quietly mad at his island getaway ("Ladner, reached yesterday at his home on Gibson Island in Maryland, said, "Thanks very much for calling" and hung up."); the ongoing congressional investigation of corrupt non-profits should be able to come up with more substantial stuff than this.
Quite a bit of hooha… Inside Higher Ed about whether and when a bunch of academics can kick back for a bit of a chat at Bellagio.

Via Ralph Luker.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Beautifully written.

A remembrance of Wendy Wasserstein.

Here’s a neat feature of the University of Virginia’s local version of Rate My Professors -- a venture they call The Course Forum. You can put your professor in a shopping basket:

Compare Classes

It is easy to compare classes with the Comparison Basket. Just click "Add to Basket" to add individual classes or "Add All to Basket" to add all teachers of the same class to your comparison basket. You can keep an unlimited number of classes in your Comparison Basket, which you can access from the main menu toolbar, for as long as you would like.

And you can compare grade distributions:

View Grade Distributions

You can view grade distributions for most classes from the Fall of 2004 and the Spring of 2005 just by clicking the class wherever you see it on this site. If no reviews have been written for a class, simply click the graph icon next to the class listing to see the grades.

As similar course forums appear at universities across the country, UD expects professors to be asked to provide a personal icon by which students can quickly recognize them. UD's got dibs on this one!

[Thanks, R.]
Headline of the Day


(The coroner's blog, reports the Chicago Trib, “features serious topics with lighthearted asides.” The idea of blogging "had been brewing since [the coroner] campaigned for office in 2004 and was constantly peppered with questions by people unfamiliar with his work…”)
Meanwhile, at
Georgetown University’s
School of Foreign Service:

From today’s Georgetown Voice:

Students on [a Georgetown University School of Foreign Service] Facebook group [complained about a] professor’s … thick French accent.

“Students in the SFS are astonishingly unwilling to listen to foreign accents,” remarked [Economics professor Arik] Levinson. “And you can quote me on that.”

In today's Daily Princetonian:

"Dear Psych 208 students: Apparently we goofed."

So began psychology professor Barry Jacobs' email to students Tuesday, one day after he inadvertently disclosed every student's midterm, precept and final grades to the entire class.

…[T]his was not the first time professor Jacobs had made a mistake during the course. "About a quarter of our final exam was completely discounted because the professor accidentally wrote the answers next to the questions," [a student] said. "It was completely unfair."

UD finds the “we goofed” in the professor’s email of psychological interest.
Question #1,
National Standardized
Exit Exam for American
Colleges and Universities:

Please read the following statement carefully:

"What we oppose is a single, national, high-stakes, one-size-fits-all, uber-outcome exam. The notion of a single exam implies there are national standards, and that implies a national curriculum. Then we are on the way to a centralized Prussian education system."

(David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges)

Trace the logic of this statement, and then analyze its rhetoric. In particular, how does the writer move from Point A (national higher education standards in the United States) to Point B (Prussia)? What is the rhetorical effect of the writer’s allusion to Hitler’s Germany (“uber-outcome”)?
Disturbing Rumors

From an article attacking Rate My Professors, in The Sheaf, the University of Saskatchewan student newspaper:

There are rumours of profs obsessively checking their ratings and changing their class lectures or attitudes towards their students as a result.

And this is… a bad thing?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hey! You can be a professor of lobbying!
Who knew?

From a longish Fox News piece about proposed lobbying reforms:

Julius Hobson, an adjunct associate professor of lobbying at George Washington University, said each chamber of Congress could pass bills that differ on a number of measures, such as the value of gifts allowed, what type of travel is allowed and whether to force further restrictions on so-called 527s political action groups, named for the section of tax code that governs them. 527s have been criticized because they do not face the same spending and contribution restrictions as other political organizations.
"He's only a bit player,"

...says an observer about George C. Deutsch, a "presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist [because he said non-standard stuff about global warming and all] and told a Web designer to add the word 'theory' at every mention of the Big Bang," as the New York Times reports this morning. Deutsch is only a bit player in the "broader issue of political control of scientific information."

And that's true. But for a bit player Deutsch has gotten -- had gotten -- remarkably far in life. How many 24-year-old presidential appointees do you know? A Bush campaign worker, he landed an important job in public affairs at NASA and was beginning to have an outsize influence on science policy in this country.

But he has had to resign because he lied on his resume. He attended Texas A&M but didn't graduate. He said on his resume that he graduated.

Despite her disgust with his efforts to control the flow of information, UD has a certain admiration for this young man in a hurry. He didn't need to graduate, and he knew it. He was too busy getting somewhere. His only mistake was lying about it.

Thanks to David for the link.
e is the beef of engineering.

'Centuries before becoming shopworn shorthand for countless electronic fads, e meant something. It meant about 2.7, to be inexact.

The little letter actually stands for an infinitely long number, the outcome of an endless equation. It looms large in physics, engineering, statistics and finance.

It even inspired the target for search-engine giant Google's first stock sale: $2,718,281,828.

And so it figures that Florida Atlantic University mechanical engineering professor Isaac Elishakoff and his "Analytical Methods" students sang the number's praises Tuesday -- the seventh day of February, or 2.7. Or, to them, "e day."

The tongue-in-cheek results ranged from sonnet to Seuss ("a true mystery! / Greater than two, but not equal to three!"). There was mathematical rap ("e / that number-one playa") and classic-rock rewrite. Apparently, one is actually not the loneliest number.

E does, arguably, lead something of a wistful existence, overshadowed as it is by its celebrity cousin pi. But e is no less a factor in modern life. It pops up in calculations of compound interest and population growth, among other things, and claims its own fan base among math connoisseurs.

"E is the beef of engineering," says Elishakoff, an authority on the effects of vibration. "All other numbers, we can say, are dessert."

Except, perhaps, on Tuesday, when his students took in e-shaped cookies with their customary diet of varsity-level calculus.

"We learned all this hard math, and now we're just playing around with it," said junior Glen Cabezas.'

palm beach sun sentinel

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Collegiate Way... an intriguing blog, dedicated to the proposition that decentralized residential colleges within large universities ought to be revived or established at many American schools. I've added it to UD's blogroll.
Touchy, touchy.

More than a few stories lately about incompetent professors being removed from the classroom. In the age of Facebook, it’s easy for students to mobilize when things are really bad.

As at the University of Louisville, where a highly irritable psych instructor scared the bejaysus out of her group.

On the first day of the semester she “lost her composure” when a student asked her about the final exam, and “snapped at him.” The student quotes her: “She said ‘You just have to take it and that’s it and this conversation is over!’”

After that incident, [the student] said some students felt uncomfortable asking [the professor] any questions, but he felt it was his right as a student to question his professor. When he raised his hand during a lecture with a question about the material being discussed, he said [the professor] called on him, but then reprimanded him for interrupting her.

“I feel that other people were afraid to ask questions. When I raised my hand people would actually say to me, ‘Put your hand down, it’s not worth it...”

He took his concerns to [the professor], but … when they met she told him that he shouldn’t raise his hand during class. …

[The professor] read her lectures verbatim from hand-held notes, and … it was difficult to hear or understand what she was saying. …

Students… started an electronic forum for complaints about the professor and dedicated a Facebook group to their grievances. One student sent an e-mail to the entire class, urging them to take their complaints to [the department chair]…

After the department chair observed a class and had a discussion with the instructor, she was replaced.

One student in the class sums it up: “[T]here was so much tension between her and the students that I didn’t feel like I could concentrate.”
TOO Creepy.
Sometimes Prose Style
Tells You More Than
Prose Content.

Here's a newspaper editor/reviewer explaining how he fell for the Nasdijj hoax:

His prose style, a graceful staccato that packed an aphoristic punch, was vivid and fresh. But -- and it hurts to say this now -- it was the book's searing honesty that set it apart. "Nasdijj" went to very dark places before bleeding on the page, though now it is clear he was shedding crocodile tears. "The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams" became a finalist for the PEN Award for best first nonfiction. I hailed it as a masterpiece.

Searing honesty, dark places, crocodile tears, hailed it as a masterpiece... This is prose that packs a platitudinous punch and justifies the suspicion that the author went for the Nasdijj thing because he can't distinguish between good and bad writing.

via aldaily

Monday, February 06, 2006

Speaking of choice remarks…

…here are some more, from a recent legal conference at the University of Colorado:

…Some scholars at CU's Rothgerber Conference, [like] University of San Diego law professor Lawrence Alan Alexander, [argued] …that “crude propagandizing increasingly passes as teaching,” and that the “degree of political homogeneity in academia is mind boggling.”

He said that while academic disciplines like math and philosophy had remained free of a “herd mentality” of viewpoints, others, like history and ethnic studies, have become political battlegrounds. Several state legislatures have recently introduced bills seeking to ensure a diversity of viewpoints at colleges and universities.

…[Robert Nagel, CU's Rothgerber Professor of Constitutional Law] argued that a little outside intervention isn't necessarily bad, as when Gov. Bill Owens' condemned [Ward] Churchill and called for an investigation.

“The unwillingness of university faculties to take seriously the educational value of intellectual diversity on faculties, the well-documented, deeply entrenched commitment to left-wing orthodoxy in many departments, a real threat to intellectual values, and outside intervention may reinvigorate those values,” Nagel said in a prepared speech.

“More generally, reflexive resistance to outside influence as a threat to academic freedom may itself be a threat to academic values,” Nagel added.

Fred Schauer, First Amendment professor at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, chimed in, and said the word of a bunch of professors should be taken with a “grain of salt.”

“Academics talking about academic freedom isn't unlike reporters talking about reporter's privilege, priests talking about the Trinity or Texans talking about oil,” he said.
Finding Powerpoint putrid…

…as she does, UD is pleased to discover, on trolling the sad blue faces at Rate My Professors, a strong correlation between teaching with Powerpoint and getting bad ratings.

Teaching by entertaining the little ones with videos brings out even more venom. Here are some choice remarks for one philosophy professor:

Who the hell pops in The Matrix and leaves the class, with no discussion as to its implications before or after? Very strange, I feel self-taught and a bit cheated.

Are your parents paying 40k for you to watch Star Trek?

When she comes in unprepared, pops in a Star Trek video.

If you think a philosophy class should perhaps include some of the great thinkers in history, look elsewhere.
News of the Weird

Talk about slightly differing accounts!

'Yale history professor Paul Kennedy is facing five charges, including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, for his involvement in a car accident that injured a School of Music student last Thursday.

Kennedy ... is facing charges of operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, illegal operation of a motor vehicle while under suspension, illegal operation of a motor vehicle without insurance, following too closely, and operating an unregistered motor vehicle.

[The student was] transported to the emergency room at Yale-New Haven Hospital following the accident, but suffered only minor cuts and bruises.

...Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said she stands behind the statement she issued Sunday, in which she denied that alcohol played a role in the accident.

"[Kennedy] was tested for alcohol and in the test that they gave him no alcohol was detected," she said.

Klasky also denied allegations that Kennedy was driving with a suspended license, saying that his license is current and valid.'

Though that does leave illegal operation of a motor vehicle without insurance, following too closely, and operating an unregistered motor vehicle....
It don’t mean a thing
If it ain’t got that swing

' At a charity golf outing last summer, the University of Maryland's campus pro was paired with two avid golfers: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and first lady Kendel S. Ehrlich.

Their encounter at basketball coach Gary Williams's event would lead to a $1.5 million project tucked into the budget for the university.

Nonetheless, Ehrlich delayed spending for a year on one of the campus's top priorities: replacing a pair of leaky, 50-year-old science buildings where laboratories lack reliable power and temperature control for research.

Campus boosters -- already concerned that the governor's budget shortchanged College Park by giving more to other state universities -- questioned the decision to pay for a golf course repair that university officials hadn't thought to ask for.

"The golf course is a wonderful place, but the priority ought to go to what's important to the economic development of the state," said James C. Rosapepe, a member of the Board of Regents appointed by Ehrlich's Democratic predecessor. "Our recommendation was science, and the decision was made to go with golf." '

washington post

Sunday, February 05, 2006



'Jeb wants to hang with Myron.

When you come to Tallahassee again, let's hook up with each other, the Guv suggested.

It was something of a miracle that Myron Rolle even noticed Gov. Bush's text message, given that his cellphone was being inundated with scores of fawning missives every day, most of them from the 83 different universities recruiting his services.

Myron, you might suppose, is a highly regarded professor. No, you wouldn't suppose that at all. Not if you live in Florida, a state that pays state university football coaches 10 times the salary paid to a governor.

Not if you live in Florida and witnessed the signing-day announcements last week by local high school football stars, delivered as a high drama TV with kids offering cruel head fakes toward the losing universities before naming the grand winner.

The governor's new homeboy, of course, is a senior at a New Jersey high school. Myron's reported to be a very good student, but, more important to Gov. Bush, Florida State University and thousands of whacked-out Seminole fans, he's considered one of the best high school football players in the nation.

Naturally, the Guv wants to hook up.


The news that a governor had joined the unseemly solicitation of high school athletes came out during testimony last month before the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, when Rolle added his experiences to testimony describing mad, sleazy, expensive, out-of-control recruiting tactics.

The commission has been charting the corrupt morality of recruiting since 1989, charting how coaches and boosters ply schoolboys with flattery, lies, hookers, fake transcripts and cash money. But a governor joining the jock-sniffing sycophants was something new. It was almost startling. Almost but not quite.

…David Ridpath, professor of sports administration at Mississippi State University and director of the Drake Group, which seeks to replace corruption in college athletics with academic integrity, was stunned to learn that a governor had leaped into the recruiting muck. Bush, he told me, was using his prestige to reinforce that grand illusion foisted on young athletes: What they do on a playing field transcends academics and the other mundane pursuits that occupy lesser mortals. (The Guv knows that he won't garner much publicity by sending text messages to New Jersey's merit scholars.)


The Drake Group, among other reforms, just happens to be pushing the NCAA to legislate limits on text- message recruiting. The rules limit coaches and their minions to one phone call a week but, the NAACP failed to anticipate the gaping loophole offered by cellphone technology. The governing body for college sports has no limit on texts.

Ridpath said high school athletes receive from 40 to 50 texts a day from coaches, who prove more faithful (unless a kid blows out a knee) than their girlfriends.

The University of Florida's success on signing day last week -- ESPN declared the Gators their official 2006 national champs of recruiting -- was credited in part to the coaching staff's celebrated proficiency with Blackberrys. They mastered that strange new language of single-letter abbreviations and clipped phrases scrolling down a cellphone screen.

But the Gators, who also coveted Myron Rolle, could hardly compete with a text message suggesting that the defensive back, between games of course, could hang out with the Guv. ''Doesn't a governor have anything better to do?'' Ridpath wondered.

"You wonder what's next," Ridpath said. "A message from the governor's brother?"

U want stop by Wite Hus next time in DC?'
Sophie’s World

UD has already expressed her surprise that Tulane University has decided to wipe out its venerable and excellent women’s college, Newcomb. Now there’s a petition drive to save Newcomb. UD will follow the story.
The Ratings War

The excellent blog acta-online calls Rate My Professors “notoriously unreliable, unregulated, and often gratuitously cruel,” and plenty of observers agree.

Plenty of observers also agree with acta-online that the subsequent invention of the Rate Your Students site merely ups the vindictive ante between students and their professors. And thus the whole thing is alarming, etc.

UD begs to dinner. (When UD’s spawn was very small, she once said she begged to dinner instead of begged to differ. UD and her husband so liked the usage that they adopted it.) As some sort of libertarian, UD of course has no problem with the existence of phenomena such as RMP and RYS; but, more than that, she suspects that RMP (she hasn’t had a chance to look with any care at RYS) is a good thing.

RMP satisfies Aristotle’s requirements for art: it both pleases and instructs. It is extremely funny, and, in an admittedly narrow sense, it tells you things that are true.

UD was struck, for instance, by the uncanny insight into character some of the commenters possess. Watching a professor in a classroom over the course of fourteen weeks grants access in an odd but intense way to that person’s being. While you’ll never know them well, you’ll know them (if you look carefully and have some insight) in some valuable ways: Are they pretentious? Anxious about what people think of them? At ease in their own skin? Depressives? Resentment-harborers? Lacking any sense of humor?

Yes, plenty of RMP commenters satisfy themselves with He sucks. But a lot also think with some seriousness about why certain professors seemed to them to fail in the classroom.

Official course evaluation forms are, in UD’s experience, pretty insipid; they tend to yield nothing or platitudes. RMP on the other hand sometimes yields sharp and thoughtful observations.

And if you read a lot of the blue frowning faces that designate low scores, you conclude (UD concludes) that bad teachers are bad in a limited number of ways. Here they are:

1.) They don’t speak English. Or they speak such bad and/or heavily accented English that they cannot be understood.

2.) They are punitive ideologues.

3.) Because they are pursuing a more satisfying career somewhere else and only teach because they have to, they miss a lot of classes, lard things up with guest speakers, and show movies.

4.) They are boring human beings and inept public speakers.

That’s pretty much it, and we pretty much already knew this, but RMP confirms it again and again. I think that’s a useful service and should probably be taken seriously by universities that yield a striking number of these sorts of comments for their faculty.

UD doubts that high RMP scores (in the 4 - 5 range) are all that useful for assessment. But when twenty or so students write to RMP and give a professor an overall rating of 1.1, that means a lot.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Buy Danish

UD has, for instance, ordered one of these,
from Alfi, a Danish design company.
What Can You Do With An Indian
When He Stops Being an Indian?

'The national literary organization that gave the former Chapel Hill writer known as Nasdijj a $1,000 minority author award says it is looking into revelations that his American Indian memoirs are fake.

The PEN American Center awarded Nasdijj, revealed last week to be a Caucasian named Timothy P. Barrus, one of five minority author awards in 2004 for "The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping." He was also a finalist for PEN's award to first-time memoirists for his debut book, "The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams," in 2001.

Stacy Leigh of PEN said Friday that the organization's board will review the Nasdijj entries. Earlier in the week, PEN issued a statement saying that if accurate, the disclosure makes both works ineligible.

"PEN deplores the misrepresentation apparently perpetrated in these two cases and regrets the recognition accorded these books by PEN's literary awards process," the statement said.'

Thanks to Fred, a reader.

[And can you think of a more bogus title than The Blood Runs Like A River Through My Dreams? It's as if the writer were doing all he could to tip off anyone with a jot of literary sensibility that he was full of shit.]

Friday, February 03, 2006

Molly Bloom’s
Rate My Professors

Yes because they never did a thing like that before as ask my students to rate me 1 to 5 on the internet and comment too and o the pepper the chili pepper for all the world to see bold as you like why did they make us like that up in front of the classroom sitting ducks and students o yes students think they know it all Mrs Riordan gets a chili pepper don’t make me laugh that old bitch and Mina Purefoy she’s as hot as a witch’s tit I’ve got more chili pepper in my little finger than that nit’s got in her whole body it’s just a personality contest anyone can write in it’s only dummies getting back at you for giving them a C O I’m not going to think myself into the glooms about it but O that awful deepdown torment and O that pepper that red pepper yes and all the hot professors with their chili peppers as a girl I was a chili pepper of the mountain yes when I put the pepper in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red pepper yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to rate me again yes and then he asked me what rating would I like yes to say yes my chili pepper and I drew him down to me so he could see my teaching technique yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
Revolving Door

In this sensible essay that appeared a number of years ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a veteran university administrator noted that “the overwhelming majority of the campus -- with the exception of the relatively few activists among the faculty and student populations -- do not care about or take notice of corporate headquarters, known as the university administration,” and that “[e]ven when I began my faculty career, the administration was largely off my radar.” This is also UD’s experience.

But the writer mentions a recent trend in university administration so grossly obvious that even oblivious UD has noticed it: The “rapid turnover in deans, vice presidents, and presidents.”

You’re not kidding! She might be wrong, but it seems to UD that the deans at her own university have come and gone with such frequency in the last ten years or so as to make the head spin.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Local Election
Where You Have to
Choose Which Candidate's
Lies About Their Education
You Prefer

From The Desert Sun:

For the second time in as many weeks, a Rancho Mirage City Council candidate is being questioned for exaggerating her academic credentials.

Claudette R. Pais, 64, one of four candidates seeking a four-year term on the City Council in April, took several extension courses at UCLA but never graduated from the university. But she did not make that clear when she applied for a position on the city Planning Commission in 2002. Her application reads: "UCLA; graduate, extension courses."

Pais' opponents are scrutinizing her academic credentials one week after Mayor Alan Seman, 81, admitted in an interview with The Desert Sun that he had lied about his academic credentials by claiming on his resume that he had degrees from New York University and Northwestern University.

Pais says she has not misrepresented her education.

When I asked her Wednesday whether she graduated from UCLA, she said, "Well, extension courses, Cindy. It was business management. Property management. I'm not sure of the title. I took that and public speaking. I graduated from the extension courses. I didn't get a diploma. You take these extension courses and you fulfill whatever it is - the three months or two months - and then when you finish you are considered you graduate from that course. That's what that means to me. I didn't get a diploma. I didn't wear the black cap or anything. "

On her application, Pais also lists: "University of Toronto: major languages, Italian, French and Italian."

She now says she took only a "class" in French.

"Did you attend the University of Toronto?"


"Did not?"

"Oh, well I took some languages. I took Italian."

"Anything else?"

"No. Just Italian."

"Do you know when?"

"I think in the late '50s. That's the only time I attended that. "

Pais omitted any references to her secondary educational experience in her official campaign statement that is submitted to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters, which is inserted in the voter guide for distribution to voters.

Pais and Seman are in contention for one of the four seats; Dana Hobart and Ron Meepos, both incumbents, are also vying for the spots.

Pais says her opponents are nitpicking by questioning her Planning Commission application.

"This is awful what they are trying to do but I've gotta have thick skin. If they want to nitpick, they better find something really good."

In an interview Monday, Pais told me she completed the 12th grade at Don Bosco Academy, "a convent run by Assumption nuns" in Timmins, Ontario, about 500 miles north of Toronto. By Wednesday, she said she had only finished 10th grade.
Well, it is
the obvious question.


As a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, Michael F. Adams deals in ideas and ideals.

As president of the University of Georgia, Adams must contend with other facets of college athletics: avid boosters and the vagaries of the marketplace.

The Knight Commission and the real world of college sports are not mutually exclusive, but they do not necessarily co-exist peacefully either.

On Wednesday, Adams and the University of Georgia announced that Bulldogs football coach Mark Richt had been awarded a new contract.

Richt's deal is worth a reported $16 million over eight years, with incentives that could add $400,000 more to his reward

…In three or four years, coaches elsewhere undoubtedly will have contracts worth $3 million per year. Georgia will have to redo this deal to bring Richt's salary in line with those or face the prospect of losing him to Texas or Southern Cal or Michigan or whatever school has taken leave of its senses.

…If the Knight Commission wants to see athletics take on some semblance of sanity, the first step would be to recommend that institutions take a reasonable approach to the contracts granted to coaches.

College football and basketball programs are engaged in an ever-escalating economic battle over coaches, often at the expense of the athletes.

Colleges are adamant that offering financial rewards to players above a scholarship is beyond their means. Yet Georgia found an extra $500,000 per year for Richt and will give his assistants salary increases, as well. Virginia Tech and Virginia had no problem finding more money for Frank Beamer, Al Groh and their assistants.

Richt's contract also is eight times as long as the contract given to any college athlete. Athletic scholarships are renewable on an annual basis.

Most schools honor scholarships for five seasons. But that is not required.

Ideally, the Knight Commission would address that issue. But as Adams and every Knight Commission member knows, the difference between the ideal college athletic world and the actual college athletic world can be vast.

Richmond Times Dispatch
Plain Dealing

Advocates of tighter college admission and academic standards should "be careful what you wish for," because sports teams at Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati are filled with dummies, said State Rep. Tom Brinkman.

Both schools would have to disband teams if Ohio adopted tighter college admission standards, he told a campus forum Monday at Miami University.

The universities don't agree. A spokesman for the University of Cincinnati described Brinkman's comments as "off base" remarks that perpetuate the "dumb jock" myth.

…Brinkman said both schools would have to disband their teams if the state moved to emphasize academics.

"Well, there goes the Ohio State football team," he said. "And the U.C. basketball team."

Cleveland Plain Dealer
21 Teachers,

From The Red and the Black, the University of Georgia student newspaper:

[Coach Mark] Richt’s [2.4 million dollar] contract is now worth about 21 teachers a year, without incentives.

…[W]ith all the talk of academic rigor and the possibility of a tuition raise, what message does this send about academic priority on campus?

As a sports fan, I’m used to coaches getting paid millions. As a University student, I can’t swallow the new request for academic rigor with the disparity in salaries. This University must recruit faculty like the Athletic Association recruits coaches.

I know the University and the Athletic Association are two different entities which operate with two different budgets. However, it doesn’t seem to me, with a $16 million salary being distributed to a football coach over the next eight years, that we’re drumming up a lot of donations for academic rigor.

Glenn Orman, Sports Writer, University of Georgia
The Ladner situation at American University...

...was nasty. But he was one bad apple. Look at how much more you can accomplish when people really work together.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Washington Times Deplores
GW's Failure to Enthuse

Matthew Cella

George Washington University students are celebrating the return of their men's basketball team to the Top 10 rankings after a 50-year hiatus -- but you would never know it if you looked on campus.

Hardly a T-shirt advertising the Colonials' logo was sported, a banner draped or a bumper sticker stuck anywhere on campus in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood in Northwest yesterday.

Nothing, despite the Colonials' 16-1 record and an upcoming nationally televised game against Xavier University tomorrow night. Yet, the team's home game against Richmond Sunday is sold out.

"People come here for political science or international relations. They are more concerned about the State of the Union than they are about a basketball game," says Philipp Havenstein, a 20-year-old junior from Detroit who is majoring in political science.

Nevertheless, he says he is an avid fan of the Colonials.

…Parker Bollinger, a 22-year-old senior who grew up in Alexandria, also describes himself as a fan.

He says it is "amazing" that the Colonials has had so much success at a school known more for its academics than for its athletics. But, he says the drawback is that it doesn't get as much support as teams at other schools.

"When you go to the games, it is a good time in the stands, but it's hard to get any of my friends to go," he says.

David Bonett, a 19-year-old freshman from Frederick, Md., brushes aside the notion that the student body is indifferent to the team.

"On game days, you see every other person in Colonial Army T-shirts," he said, referring to a booster club for fans.

In the campus bookstore, a collection of sweatshirts, T-shirts and jerseys advertising the basketball program is prominently displayed to take advantage of the Colonials' successful season.

"There's been more interest in the basketball merchandise," said Patricia Lee, director of the campus bookstore. "This year we even added more to it."

For yesterday at least, there was more of it to be seen on the shelves than on the students.
What If They Gave A University
And Nobody Came?

With professors guaranteeing a grade of B to students willing to drop their courses (Mr. UD dubs this a freebee), with students forsaking lectures for downloaded iPod content, and with already well-established traditions of class skipping, it’s time to ask whether universities have had it.

Demoralized professors who don’t really want to show up for class - who want to stay home and read Rate Your Students - and restless students enrolled for the sake of games and a credential, do not make humanities halls hum. On the contrary, they generate the glacial silence you hear as you walk along peeling classroom corridors on your way to the football stadium’s luxury boxes.

Peer in those classrooms and you’ll find not people but equipment: computers, VCRs, Powerpoint paraphernalia, overhead projectors left over from the last century, little mechanical boxes at every seat where students can key in comments. If there’s a class in session, it’s liable to be taking place in a darkened room where students watch movies.

Do you know how hard it is to find a podium these days? UD likes to lean against a podium while teaching, but this modest wooden element has been replaced by a high black platform, on top of which stands an immovable Powerpoint-ready computer. The idea that a professor would lead a discussion from notes she’s written on pieces of paper, and that she wouldn’t want to be hidden from the class behind a screen, seems to have had its day.

The professor hidden behind the screen, the professor as Powerpoint pawn, is, UD figures, a transitional step between the face to face discourse of yesteryear and the echoing air that awaits the academy as everyone repairs to bedroom or dorm room with their personal equipment.

Try as she might, UD can’t think her way around this unfolding tale without concluding that the crucial character in it is the American university or college professor. If your job is to stand up and pronounce information to a large audience able to get it online or in books, you’re about to be replaced by for-profit information providers. If you can inspire students with the sight of your brain and personality engaging in real time with the depth of the things you know, you might be able to hold on to your job. If your lecture plus discussion course is about letting students blab, you’re endangered. If you can maintain a significant exchange, you might be okay.

The only person who can make a case for the university is the professor. Once the professor opts out, it’s the football coach all the way.
With the Knight Commission Meeting Behind Us,
It’s Back to the Real World

From the Ledger-Enquirer:

Georgia officials absolutely did the right thing in giving football coach Mark Richt a contract extension and pay bump that will bring him a minimum of $2 million per season. College football is about capitalism after all, no matter what the NCAA and the well-intentioned folks with the Knight Foundation Commission say.

When major Division I athletic departments operate on $50 million budgets, when bowl games provide guarantees of up to $14 million, when TV networks keep upping the ante for broadcast rights, when the Louisiana-Monroes of the world can receive $400,000 for taking a beating, it's senseless to talk about bringing them back to a simpler, more fiscally responsible era.

That horse bolted out of the barn like Seabiscuit years ago. There's no way to grab it by the reins and bring it back.

So university presidents who enjoy the fruits of successful football programs have but one choice when it comes to the men who coach them.

Pay now in the form of a $2 million contract.

Pay later in the form of alumni discontent if the hotshot coach bolts for a better paying job.

Georgia president Michael Adams is well-aware of these dynamics, and not just because of all the angry mail he received over the dismissal of popular athletic director Vince Dooley. He's a member of the Knight Foundation Commission, a watchdog group of sorts that annually harrumphs about high coaching salaries and low graduation rates. At his core, however, he's a realist.

If he didn't show Richt the money and soon, then it was very possible the beloved coach would show up as a head coach in either Tallahassee or Coral Gables before too long.

"I think (Richt's raise) is prudent despite the numbers," Adams said Wednesday. "We want to compete at the highest level."

Sports agents always talk about getting fair market value for their clients. It's a phrase that conjures up images of the overly moussed Drew Rosenhaus doing his oily used-car salesman act with Terrell Owens.

But if Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis can command $3-4 million in his first college season, then Richt belongs in this new, higher tax bracket.

…If Tennessee folks really think Phil Fulmer should get $2.05 million per season, then Richt also ought to have a decimal point and a little extra because he's 4-1 against the Vols. Heck, first-year Florida coach Urban Meyer agreed to a $2 million before he beat Georgia last October. Of course, beating Georgia became boilerplate language as far back as Steve Spurrier's last contract revision.

Although it's unsettling to see a $2 million coach (Meyer) whose crowning achievement to date was a win in the Outback Bowl, it was interesting to look at the track records of some of the other multi-millionaires pictured on the front of Thursday's sports section. USC's Pete Carroll won an undisputed national championship and shared another with LSU. Texas' Mack Brown took it home this year, while his longtime nemesis, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, had been there and won that. Fulmer captured the national title in 1998...