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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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:
And now some military PowerPoint quotations:
"While you were making your slides, we would be killing you."
A final haiku, from UD:
Why are there still professors
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."
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?
The Other Side of the Mountain|
In New York Press, via Arts and Letters Daily:
THE WAGES OF ACADEMIA
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:
DID AN EXPOSE HELP SINK HARVARD'S PRESIDENT?
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.
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.
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.
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.
More Sad Faces|
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.
A journalism professor
Pointless projects and assignments. Kept commenting about the course being an outlet for her to write a book. Boo.
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
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.
The University of Utah system.
From today's New York Times:
Marc Egerson is a freshman for No. 23 Georgetown.
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.
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.
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 |
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 alternativevoices.ca.
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.
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.
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.
|The Last Prose of Summers|
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.
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.
"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: Badjocks.com 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
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.
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:
A Women’s Studies Professor:
HORRIBLE! SHE FELL ASLEEP
A Political Science Professor:
Half the class was videos.
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!
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.
WHITE DWARF |
'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.'
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
From an Interview
In the Harvard Crimson
With Professor Judith Ryan
FM: Is it tiring being the Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature?
Thursday, February 16, 2006
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.]
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.
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.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
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
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.
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.
A philosophy professor
If you accidently enroll in one of his classes, withdraw immediately and flee the country.
An art history professor:
I WENT TO HARVARD. I WENT TO HARVARD. I ALSO WENT TO INDIA. WHILE I WAS GOING TO HARVARD.
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.
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.
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 economicprincipals.com.
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.
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…|
...at 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
A remembrance of Wendy Wasserstein.
THE COURSE FORUM|
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:
And you can compare grade distributions:
View Grade Distributions
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!
Headline of the Day|
COUNTY CORONER BRINGS JOB TO LIFE IN ONLINE POSTS
(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 |
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.
In today's Daily Princetonian:
"Dear Psych 208 students: Apparently we goofed."
UD finds the “we goofed” in the professor’s email of psychological interest.
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”)?
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!|
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.
palm beach sun sentinel
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
The Collegiate Way...|
...is 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.
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.
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.”
Sometimes Prose Style|
Tells You More Than
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
FL GUV JB RLY KSES UP 2 YNG MR
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Well, it is|
the obvious question.
KNIGHT COMMISSION'S WORK,
Richmond Times Dispatch
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.
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.
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
COLONIALS FAIL TO ENTHUSE CAMPUS
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.