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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)

Friday, March 31, 2006


The Pollyanna element is far too marked here for old UD, but she'll take her allies on the testing front where she can find them.
Only you can prevent lacrosse fires.

"[A]s painful as these times are, the test of a school is not preventing bad things from ever happening, but in addressing them in an honest and forthright way," writes Duke's president in a letter to alumni.

Which UD finds a strange sentiment.

Of course an important test of any institution is its ability to control its members' behavior so that "bad things" (an infantile formulation that recalls a platitudinous best-seller of years ago -- When Bad Things Happen to Good People -- and suggests that hellfire suddenly roared up and burned the Blue Devils, when in fact they generated their own auto-da-fe) on this remarkable scale don't happen. The slow-burning scandal behind the big bonfire at Duke is that for years (as people like UD, who follow such things, know) Duke has pretty much looked the other way while all sorts of students there behaved appallingly.

The simple heart of this, I think, is that Duke's just got one humongous booze problem. Many students there are deeply, permanently, pissed. Duke University today is less a bastion of privilege than an epicenter of alcoholism. The school needs to shut down most of its other operations for awhile and reopen as a rehab unit.
Volatile mixes
of race, class, and gender
tend to bring out the
mixed metaphors.

New York Times:

'The [Duke lacrosse] incident, straddling at once the quintessential social flashpoints of race, class and gender, has led community and university leaders to fear that the progress they have made in recent years in improving their relationship will be swept away in the storm'.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Clearly rattled at having been overtaken by Duke, perennial university-scandal frontrunner Chico State has come roaring back with a headline-grabbing approach to undergraduate depravity.

Already notorious for its homicidal hazers and fraternity-cast porno films, Chico is again in the news with its no-wait policy on alcohol poisoning.

In this latest case, a high school recruit to Chico’s baseball team who had not yet begun attending the university, let alone playing for it, was hospitalized with an overdose after a team party:

A 17-year-old student on a recruitment trip was attending a Friday party hosted by some team players. She spent five hours at Enloe Medical Center for alcohol overdose after becoming lethargic and unresponsive at the party.

…Athletic Director Anita Barker has informed the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the California Collegiate Athletic Association of the decision to immediately cancel the team's 20 remaining games, according to a university press release.

At Chico State the hooch begins hurtling down your gullet the moment you get that special call that says, “You’re admitted.”
Excerpts from an Article
By Mark Alesia in the
Indianapolis Star

‘Athletic departments at taxpayer-funded universities nationwide receive more than $1 billion in student fees and general school funds and services, according to an Indianapolis Star analysis of the 2004-05 athletic budgets of 164 of the nation's 215 biggest public schools. Without such outside funding, fewer than 10 percent of athletic departments would have been able to support themselves with ticket sales, television contracts and other revenue-generating sports sources. Most would have lost more than $5 million.

Additionally, taxpayers indirectly subsidize athletic departments because college sports are exempt from federal taxes, based on their tie to education. The exemption particularly benefits big schools, which receive up to 40 percent of their athletic revenue from donations, most of which are tax-deductible. At Indiana University, for example, donations constitute 21 percent of revenue; at Purdue, 27 percent.

Also untaxed is the massive amount of television money that fuels college sports. All told, that's hundreds of millions of untaxed dollars.

Critics find this inappropriate. They say college sports have largely become a business of mass entertainment -- such as this weekend's Final Four in Indianapolis-- that shouldn't receive an education-based tax exemption. In a time of rising tuition and stagnant state support for higher education, they say sports shouldn't be propped up by so much money generated outside athletic departments. Some students have fought sports-targeted fees, including at IU, which will discontinue the requirement for the 2006-07 school year.

"The subsidies grossly overestimate the role of intercollegiate athletics in higher education," said Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College professor and leading sports economist. "This should be something that absorbs a much smaller share of outside resources."

…The average deficit [across schools] is $5.7 million. Among the money-losers were Indiana and Purdue, and two schools in this weekend's Final Four, UCLA and George Mason.

Economists who studied The Star's findings cautioned that comparing bottom lines is difficult because of inconsistencies in what schools report. They also stressed that no accounting form is perfect.

At the same time, many thought at least some of the deficits were probably greater. They were skeptical that athletic departments fully accounted for the use of services funded by the general university, including administrative time and services.

…College sports have been tax-exempt since schools began competing in the late 1800s. The NCAA was granted the same exemption in 1956, when it was just starting to learn about the commercial potential of televised football.

Now, critics say, sports have strayed too far from their nonprofit purpose of education to qualify as a charity. They note that the NCAA pays high salaries -- Brand makes $870,000 -- and competes with for-profit pro sports leagues in areas such as television and sponsorships.

"In the case of big-time college sports, the activity itself is becoming increasingly non-educational," said University of New Haven Professor Allen Sack, a starter on Notre Dame's 1966 national champion football team. "But as long as Myles Brand can argue that the University of Michigan is under the same umbrella as (small schools such as) Wesleyan University, he can cloak the issue."

…Questions have also been raised about the general university money that finds its way to athletics. Some economists and accountants are skeptical that everything shows up on the athletic budget -- for instance, use of the university attorney and rent for buildings.

…Zimbalist, who has published 14 books, including "Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism and Conflict in Big-time College Sports," said, "I don't think there's any empirical evidence that says the overall quality of a school improves as a result of having a Division I athletic team or even a successful Division I team." '
Inside Lacrosse

An excellent source for Duke Lacrosse news, regularly updated, from people who know and love the sport.
I can’t vouch for the authenticity of this comment.
I found it on a blog.
But it sounds authentic.

'Of course, the Duke stuff is big news. I hate the lacrosse guys. When I was at Duke they were your standard lacrosse players, but I think they've gotten [. . .] worse. When we go down every year for a football game, we see them because for every football game they show up dressed in leather and all this S&M gear. It's really fucked up. The first time we were down there, a bunch of them [. . .] were bombed [and] came by our tailgate and tried to steal our beer. So I'm not shocked to see those assholes do something like this.'
I am the Chancellor’s dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

SF Chronicle:

' Before UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton moved into her university-provided house on campus last year, she demanded dozens of improvements …

...The $30,000 dog run has already been a point of controversy. UC President Robert Dynes told lawmakers last month that it was supposed to cost only $7,000, but said the project "got out of whack." '
Here, thanks to Superdestroyer... of UD's readers, is fascinating background material on the Landon School contingent among the Duke lacrosse players. No one knows to what extent, if any, the large number of Landon grads on Duke's disgraced team were involved in what happened in Durham. But a culture of cheating, cynicism, and entitlement is clearly already well-established at Landon.

Which one would expect, given the subculture the school serves. UD just wishes institutions like Landon cared enough about the character of their charges to drop their "tradition of honor" bullshit. If you're going to be an incubator of cynics, at least be that honestly.

From Washingtonian Magazine, 2003:

'If jocks rule [at Landon], the boys who play lacrosse now are kings. The game, played with netted sticks and a hard rubber ball, can be as violent as football but with fewer pads. It requires the finesse of soccer and adds the brutality of rugby.

In the last two decades, coach Robinson “Rob” Bordley has built the squad into a national powerhouse. Lacrosse Magazine named it the top team in the country in 2000 and 2001. At the time of the cheating scandal, Landon had not lost a conference game in ten years.

Landon attracts promising students who want to excel at sports. Lacrosse stars get into Princeton, Duke, and the University of Virginia. Lacrosse helps the school raise big money from alumni.

"What brings in money better than a great sports team?” says one alum and donor to the school. “It’s not that they had a great school play but that they won the big game. Right or wrong, it’s true.”

...Alumni, students, and parents interviewed for this article say cheating is not unusual at Landon. Pressure to get good grades is high; the boys know one another well and want to help out; and the faculty is not eager to catch cheaters and turn them in. Adding to the pressure are strict grading policies that make it hard to maintain high grade averages.

“I certainly had the impression there was a culture of cheating when I was there,” says film producer Castaldi. “I failed a Spanish class that others got through by cheating.”

Says Damon Bradley: “More often than cheating, we run into plagiarism from the Internet. Cheating is not something we see in large numbers by any means.”

Cheating has become enough of a problem that a businessman who sent several sons to Landon was moved to write a six-page letter to the school’s board of trustees early this year. Most of his boys had had positive experiences there, but one had been expelled for cheating. The man, a former member of Landon’s board, had investigated.

“Without exception, everyone we talked with told us that there was widespread cheating throughout Landon,” he wrote. All of his sons “over a fifteen-year period of time said that cheating was rampant in each of their classes and had gotten worse over the years.”

The board never responded to the letter; board chair Henry Dudley refused the letter writer’s request to appear before the board on the grounds that it would set a bad precedent.'

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

One thing we can already conclude…

…about the Duke story is that Southern culture does not take a hit.

Having looked at the team roster, UD must tell you that if any culture dominates, it’s UD‘s very own ‘thesdan culture (for background on ‘thesdan culture, go here). This is the affluent suburban Washington world in which UD grew up, and in which she has spent most of her adult life as well.

One of the Duke players graduated from Georgetown Prep, a tony Catholic school for boys which sits a quarter mile down the road from where I’m typing this. No fewer than six of the players come from the Landon School, another elegant private school in Bethesda. Two others graduated from Bullis -- the same sort of school, and also just a spell down the road from UD’s house. Two more players graduated from two other nearby private schools.

That’s a significant number of players to come from one small neighborhood.

Far as I can tell, none of the ‘thesdan lacrosse players attended a public school here, a fact that fits like a glove the Abercrombie stereotype of Duke, for all its dithering about diversity.

The clubbiness of the Duke lacrosse roster sheds some light on the now-notorious code of silence the players have all followed in the wake of the allegations. A lot of these guys have been bonded for years. They go way way back. They all went to the same five or six Duke feeder schools.

It’s a very parochial team, that is… and by extension, perhaps, a very parochial university, many people in it having come from one or another of the world’s small pinnacles of privilege and entitlement.

It’s disturbing to discover that a group of American winners, young men profoundly admired and cherished and advantaged, and carefully educated at the best schools, might in fact be absolute savages. Or be willing to collude in savagery. It suggests that what one might reasonably fear about some powerful privileged people might be true: That they regard themselves as a different and better breed altogether, and that they have contempt for what they consider the lower orders -- people who exist to be ignored, mocked, or made use of. Think Tom Buchanan, in The Great Gatsby.

Everything we’ve heard about the Duke story so far -- a story that still lacks corroboration -- resonates with this possibility.
Lest we forget...

...that Duke is a great school full of serious students, here's a comment about the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre from one of his students, on Rate My Professors:

'Professor MacIntyre was [the] most challenging, most engaging, and most interesting professor of my entire college career. It's the only B+ I was ever proud of. I'm proud to say he taught me.'
Duke Lacrosse

Details here. If this woman is telling the truth, it’s beyond bad.
Nicely written, from the heart.

The Duke Chronicle:

'Although I graduated from Duke in May, I am currently at UNC Law, still living in Durham and still missing the Gothic Wonderland.

This past Saturday night, days after the lacrosse story appeared in newspapers, I was at Charlie's having a drink with my local softball team when about 20 lacrosse players arrived. Some were my close friends at Duke. Some are absolutely amazing athletes that shouldn't be tainted by the unfortunate and extremely sad events of this month. Most should not be guilty by association.

Nevertheless, they ordered round after round of shots, at times slamming the glasses down on tables and cheering "Duke Lacrosse!" At this point, the bar started buzzing. Comments were flying all over from "How does Duke not have these guys under lockdown?" to "Do they realize what unremorseful drunk snobs they look like?" to "I hate Duke students and this is exactly why."

One of the men on my team, a cop, leaned over to me and said, "See A, B and C? They are police officers." Ten minutes later, one of the other guys on my team, a photographer for a Raleigh newspaper, leaned over and said, "See X,Y and Z? They are reporters." The players had no idea who was intensely analyzing them, nor did they really seem to care. While I drank a Corona, watching them get plastered and stumbling, yelling about Duke lacrosse, the rest of the bar looked on with derision and repulsion.

Needless to say, it was hard to stomach how their actions conveyed a sense that the severity of the situation is lost on them. Regardless of guilt, there is a degree of gravity that is not met by simply closing facebook profiles to the public. This is not about hazing or underage drinking or even cheating. And this cannot be contained inside the proverbial Duke bubble or under a blanket of silence. This is real life trouble that has far greater consequences than their demeanor portrayed. Especially because the only person more easily hated than a Duke student is an arrogant and obnoxious Duke student.'
The Revolutionary
Students of Paris

David Rennie, Opinion, Telegraph:

'I listened to the news from France, and sighed over the latest outbreak of self-destructive, irrational protest playing out on the streets of Paris.

[T]ake a look at the placards, listen to the shouted slogans. This is a reactionary revolution, demanding not change, but its opposite. The students want to turn back the clock to the France of their parents, and grandparents - to some golden age, when jobs were for life and the state took care of all ills. This is militant, car-burning nostalgia.

…Reading the Belgian press yesterday morning - I could not read the French newspapers, because they were on strike - I came across an opinion piece by one Céline Moreau, "youth co-ordinator" of the FGTB, a trade union.

Her piece picked up the great buzz-word of the current French protests, "précarité" -which means something like bleak uncertainty, and carries a sense of horror at life outside the state's swaddling embrace.

Ms Moreau heaped scorn on the trial work contract that is at the heart of the French protests. This contract, she wrote, sprinkling her text with exclamation marks, allows an employer to hire a young worker for a trial period of two years, and allows them to be fired without explanation!

How could one plan any life decisions in such a world, she asked. "How could anyone contemplate major life changes - moving into their own home, having a child, asking for a loan - if they were in such a total state of uncertainty?"

I have shocking news for Ms Moreau. Millions of young Americans wake up each morning, knowing they can be fired without reason. Those same Americans will move halfway across the country, without blinking, for a better job, a bigger house, even better weather. Tellingly, "precarious" Americans are more prepared to have children than Europeans.'
Keeping an Eye
On the Bassoonist

From Scott Jaschik's article
About Duke Lacrosse in today's
Inside Higher Education:

'Paul H. Haagen, a professor of law and head of Duke’s Academic Council… said that he believes Duke is doing all it can to help the police investigations — while not doing things that could result in students being denied due process… But Haagen, whose academic specialty is sports law, said, “one of the realities here is that there is substantial public distrust of the ability of higher education to regulate its affairs related to athletes.”

…Some observers have suggested that this incident shows that colleges that have long played close attention to the athletes on their “showcase teams” — most often high visibility sports like basketball and football — need to extend that scrutiny more broadly. Haagen, who played lacrosse as an undergraduate at Haverford College, has mixed feelings about such an approach.

Basketball players, he said, “are on a shorter leash” than other students. But if closer monitoring is needed, he said, what does that say about the students?

“I get really uneasy when we have special rules for athletes,” he said. “We’re not monitoring the orchestra. If these kinds of things are part of the culture, if watching for this needs to be part of the way we are operating, then we have to think real seriously about why we are doing this.” '
What UD’s Missing
By Not Watching TV

New York Times, Arts Section:

'The trouble with the WB series "The Bedford Diaries" isn't the sex, it's the curriculum.

The courses at Bedford, a fictional college campus in New York City, include an elective seminar titled "Sexual Behavior and the Human Condition" (video diaries, not Havelock Ellis) and a survey course, "Urban Public Health" (Valtrex, not Venetian canals). The only hint of a Western canon in the premiere is a course that mentions 17th-century Spanish portraiture. (At least it's the Prado, not Prada.)

But basically, "The Bedford Diaries" is Harold Bloom's nightmare...

…All of [the main characters] enroll in the hottest course on campus, the seminar on sexuality taught by Prof. Jake Macklin (Matthew Modine), who calls his classroom a forum for "revelation and personal exploration." In each episode, at least one of the students makes an intimate video confession as part of the class work. Professor Macklin also makes a video diary about his own sex life…'

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


'In the past three years, about a third of the members of the Duke lacrosse team, under investigation in a reported gang rape have been charged with misdemeanors stemming from drunken and disruptive behavior, court records show.

Of the team's 47 members, 15 faced charges including underage alcohol possession, having open containers of alcohol, loud noise and public urination.

Most of those charges were resolved in deals with prosecutors that allowed the players to escape criminal convictions.'

the broomstick’s new

'On Monday, details continued to emerge in the March 13 incident in which a woman who was hired as an exotic dancer for a lacrosse team party said she was held down, beaten, strangled, raped and sodomized. When the woman and another dancer began their routines, the woman said, one of the men watching held up a broomstick and threatened to sexually assault the women, according to court documents released Monday.

The women were told that the men at the party were members of the baseball or track teams, apparently to hide their identities, according to a document that was used to obtain a judge's order requiring each member of the team to submit to a DNA test. After the broomstick threat, the women left but were followed out by a man who persuaded them to return, the document says. That's when, the woman said, three men pushed her into a bathroom and began the assault, which she said lasted for 30 minutes. She lost four fingernails as she scratched at one of the men who was strangling her, according to the document.

After the attack, police found four red polished fingernails in the house in addition to her makeup bag, cell phone and identification, the newly released document says.

A Duke spokesman said that the team captains have denied criminal wrongdoing.

"In direct conversations with the captains, there was absolute denial of the criminal allegations," John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in an interview.

Burness said that Duke is not investigating the incident because university officials do not want to interfere with police.'

you gotta feel sorry for the neighbors

'That led to campus protests for the past three days, including a Saturday night candlelight vigil and a group of about 100 people banging pots and pans Sunday morning outside the home where the dancer said she was raped. One carried a sign that read, "All rapes deserve outrage."

Students kept up the demonstrations with a Monday protest in front of the campus administration building.

"It happens to too many people and it's time to say something about it," student Nina Ehrlich said after speaking at the rally.'

bullies… and cowards

'On Monday, protests were on Duke's campus rather than at the house, one of 15 properties Duke bought in February in an effort to reach out to neighbors who have complained of rowdy parties at houses rented by students. Burness said the lacrosse captains who lived at the house have asked the university to relieve them of their lease.

"My speculation is that the house is such a target they're concerned about their security and safety," Burness said.'

winston salem journal
Requiem for Eldorado

From the OC Register (UD thanks Simon, a reader):

[For background, scroll down to "Bear With Me..."]

‘[University of Southern California professor Barry] Landreth, 36, was arrested and charged in a $1.5 million Ponzi scheme that promised investors profits of up to 190 percent within 45 days. He made phony claims that his firm, Webster Realty Investors Inc., had real estate projects in Las Vegas and Chicago, according to the federal charges filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.

Landreth and the firm, which operated out of his home, had no interest in those properties and instead he used the investors' money to pay off a few disgruntled clients. He also used the money to buy luxury cars and show horses, the FBI said. The horses alone were valued at $500,000.

"This case is particularly egregious in that Mr. Landreth is alleged to have enriched himself by convincing others, including his former students, to invest in his scheme," said J. Stephen Tidwell, assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles.

……University officials, in a prepared statement, said Landreth was a part-time lecturer and was placed on administrative leave this semester.

University spokesman James Grant said he could not give any more details about Landreth's relation with the university. [Why didn't he mention that Landreth is also a USC grad?]

Agents seized the luxury car and several show horses, along with brokerage and bank accounts alleged to be the proceeds of the fraud.

Landreth remained in custody Friday after a federal magistrate judge set bail at $500,000.

James Riddet, an attorney who represented Landreth at Friday's hearing, said he was "flabbergasted" at the bail amount because the government had only asked for $50,000.

Riddet said his client has no previous record, substantial roots in the community, and is married to a professor at Cal State Fullerton.’


Home Page, Treena L. Gillespie, Ph.D.
Cal State Fullerton:

“When not completely immersed in teaching or research, I'm usually at the barn with my horses. (My oldest, Eldorado, is pictured above.)”
Via Mark Bauerlein in The Valve... article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, with UD's parenthetical comments.

'…[A] new and unmistakably skeptical view of the ivory tower has emerged. With it have come increasing calls for a way to hold colleges and universities accountable for the quality of education delivered to more than 17 million students.

The most controversial method - one being seriously considered by a Bush Administration commission - is standardized testing.

It is already getting a trial run with small groups of students at more than 100 institutions nationwide, including Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. [Good. I hope they publicize the results. They’ll be interesting.] Given to college freshmen and seniors, the essay-based exam is supposed to measure critical thinking and communications skills. [How about “ability to write” rather than the odious “comm…” I can’t even type it.]

Even that limited experimentation alarms many academics, who contend that the wildly diverse programs and missions of nearly 4,000 institutions of higher learning - from the Ivies to community colleges - make standardized testing worthless. [Monstrous merde. An educated person is an educated person. Everyone knows what acquisitions educated people have. Sure, someone from Princeton might have more culture than someone from Penn State; but we know when both have attained a level of thought, reason, speech, and writing that allows us to call them educated.]

"Every university is different. That's the great strength of our system," said Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University. "There's no national test that Penn State students could take that's going to help us educate them better or make us more accountable." [What a remarkably irresponsible thing to say.]

That argument has not swayed policymakers and business leaders worried that university systems in Asia and Europe are closing in fast, notably in engineering and science.

"Underlying all this is a growing suspicion that American higher education may not be as good as it ought to be, or as it thinks it is," said Robert Zemsky, a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Zemsky is one of 19 members on the federal commission that will make recommendations this fall on the "future of higher education" to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

The panel, which held a public comment session in Seattle last month and a second one last week in Boston, put testing at the top of its agenda soon after it was created last September. The chairman, Houston investment manager Charles Miller, is a leading proponent of standardized collegiate exams.

"The pressures for accountability are everywhere," Miller, a former Bush-appointed leader of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, said in a recent interview. "Evidence of the need to improve student learning is pretty clear."

He offered a litany of examples: "softening curricula," "grade inflation," and insufficient literacy skills in half of all four-year college graduates, as detailed in a study funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts released in January. Meanwhile, annual tuition hikes are outpacing inflation. [They’re charging us more to make our kids stupider.]

To his critic's ears, Miller's case for collegiate testing has a familiar ring. They say similar arguments were used to turn the No Child Left Behind program into a federal fiat, mandating extensive testing in secondary and elementary grades. Miller, in fact, helped design a K-12 testing system in Texas for then-Gov. Bush that became the model for the federal program.

Miller dismissed the comparison. The states, not Washington, should take the lead on collegiate testing by requiring it at public universities, he said. Once the big state systems prove its value, he predicted, testing will be swept by market demand into private schools.

Also, unlike No Child Left Behind, federal funding would not be tied to test results, he said.

Money, however, is undeniably part of the issue. When the commission was formed, Spellings noted that the federal government provides a third of all higher-education funding and has a right to "maximize" its investment.

"We're missing valuable information on how the system works today," she said, "and what can be improved."

That baffles some ivory tower habitues who see higher education as too preoccupied with self-examination and ranking.

"There is no enterprise in America that I know of that assesses itself so carefully and so frequently," said Penn State's Spanier, calling it "both a science and an obsession."

He cited the arduous reviews that faculty members endure to make tenure, the accreditation process, the student-satisfaction surveys, and the monitoring of graduates' efforts to get jobs. [These have nothing to do with the quality of education universities and colleges provide. And very few faculty members fail to get tenure at most American universities, making those arduous reviews beside the point.]

Better known to the public are the college comparisons made by popular publications such as U.S. News & World Report. Those rankings are based on such factors as faculty-to-student ratios, SAT scores, and alumni giving. But they say little, if anything, about how well students are learning in the classroom. [Exactly.]

Can standardized testing fill in the blanks?

That's what Lehigh University wanted to find out when it administered a standardized exam known as the Collegiate Learning Assessment for the first time last fall to about 100 randomly selected freshmen, according to Carl Moses, deputy provost for academic affairs.

Lehigh is the only Pennsylvania school to acknowledge experimenting with the assessment; none in New Jersey is known to be trying it. Most of the pilot schools are in states where college testing has become a prominent policy debate, such as Texas, New York and California.

The exam is made up of two 90-minute writing exercises. In one, students are given an opinionated statement and asked to compose an essay supporting or disputing it. The second is a real-life "performance task," such as producing a memo from newspaper clips and documents.

The test was developed by two think tanks, the Rand Corporation and the Council for Aid to Education. They employ graduate students to grade the task portion, but a software program called "e-rater" scores the essays. The same program is used to assess writing samples in the entrance exams for both business and graduate schools.

At Lehigh, it's too early to know whether the test has value, Moses said.

Skeptics wonder whether any test can accurately determine how much of student performance is the result of the classroom experience. That question leads to others: What about students who transfer? Or those who won't take seriously an exam with no bearing on grades or graduation? [Let’s not wring our hands about these things, shall we? Let’s just give the test a go.]

On the horizon, many academics see testing leading to homogenization of college curricula, akin to the teaching-to-the-test effect that No Child Left Behind is accused of having on secondary and elementary education.

"If we wanted a standardized curriculum for higher education," Spanier said, "we might as well move to China or Russia, where there's a ministry of education prescribing what we do." [I love this bit. Whenever someone suggests that our students take a test, it‘s next stop Stalingrad.]

Yet even among testing's critics are some who suggest that the academy helped bring the unwanted scrutiny on itself.

"I wish it was not necessary to have this debate," said Temple University president David Adamany, known for imposing new academic rigor on the school. "But I don't believe most universities have done a very good job identifying measures of student performance and monitoring to make sure performance is strong."

The solution is not standardized testing, many academics say, but assessments that gauge each student's mastery of a discipline. For instance, a "capstone" course, or a senior-year research paper, or a portfolio of work covering a college career. [‘Fraid not.]

Trudy Banta, a professor of higher education at Indiana University and an assessment expert, said that such assignments - combined with satisfaction surveys and scores on graduate and professional school exams - are better indicators of student achievement.

"We all love simple, easy answers," she said. "But this isn't a simple, easy issue." [Actually, yes it is. Figuring out whether a person has gained college-level knowledge and ability is really quite straightforward.] '
"The political power that college sports exercises is unbelievable. Football is a religion in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Alabama. And basketball is a religion in North Carolina and Kentucky."

LA Times:

'Is the NCAA an illegal cartel that brazenly uses its power to generate immense wealth for member institutions, even as it shortchanges the amateur athletes it has sworn to protect?

A handful of disgruntled former athletes say it is in a pair of antitrust lawsuits that provide a troubling backdrop for the NCAA during its men's basketball tournament, which will spin off the lion's share of the NCAA's $521.1-million annual budget and generate an estimated $500 million in network advertising revenue.
The lawsuits filed by former football and basketball players at big-time athletic programs would reshape regulations that form the foundation of the NCAA effort to halt what President Myles Brand has described as a "slide toward professional athletics and the sports entertainment industry."

The lawsuits are seen as longshots by some antitrust experts because judges in the past have been hesitant to second-guess the NCAA on matters that directly involve student athletes. But "if the courts were to open this door, it would potentially unravel the NCAA's core mission," said Gary Roberts, director of the Tulane University Sports Law program and a Tulane representative to the NCAA.

Critics of the NCAA, which consists of 1,250 member institutions with more than 350,000 athletes, argue that amateur athletics at the top of the collegiate pyramid are in danger of being overtaken by an "arms race" fueled by television revenue, the largesse of wealthy donors and the demand among partisan fans for national championships. NCAA supporters counter that strict rules like those being challenged are necessary for the NCAA to fulfill its mandate to govern athletic competition "in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner."

One of the lawsuits, filed by former walk-on football players in a federal court in Washington state, challenges an NCAA cap on the number of grants-in-aid that big-time college football programs can offer to athletes. The other suit, filed in Los Angeles by former football and basketball players, argues that the grants awarded to athletes fail to cover the full cost of attending college.

The class-action lawsuits seek to represent thousands of athletes who have played, or are playing, sports at big universities. Because antitrust law allows for damages to be tripled, the Los Angeles suit alone could cost the NCAA as much as $345 million.

The NCAA argues that the contested rules are needed to "maintain a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports." But the lawsuits underscore the fact that collegiate sports have turned into a big business.

"What it comes down to is that the coach is making money, the schools are making money but the players are severely restricted," said Daniel E. Lazaroff, director of Loyola University's Sports Law Institute. "What the plaintiffs are arguing is that caps aren't reasonably necessary, that they're really an artificial attempt at cost-containment."

Ironically, former athletes who filed the suit in Los Angeles count Brand as a supporter. The NCAA president has said he favors bigger grants that could help athletes cover gas money, phone bills and other expenses. But the NCAA's member institutions that set the rules Brand is paid to enforce say otherwise.

NCAA defenders view the lawsuit as a "pay-for-play" bid by greedy athletes, but Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Ithaca College, disagrees. "The idea of a free ride is a myth," she said. "That's why I find this case so compelling. It's not just an individual athlete or a couple of dissatisfied athletes who are just in it for the money. They're arguing … from a perspective of fundamental fairness."

The other lawsuit, filed in 2004 by former walk-on football players at a handful of universities, portrays the NCAA as an illegal cartel that arbitrarily limits the number of grants. The former athletes moved a step closer to a trial last year when a judge refused the NCAA's request to have the lawsuit tossed out.

Though it is jarring, it isn't uncommon for such phrases as "illegal cartel," "price-fixing" and "collusion" to be used in conjunction with the NCAA. Athletes have frequently challenged the NCAA's strict amateurism rules, but the organization's business practices also have come under attack.

In 1984, the NCAA lost a landmark antitrust case that was sparked by a lucrative television broadcast rights contract. A few years later, the association paid more than $50 million to assistant coaches who sued over an NCAA salary cap. Last year, the NCAA settled an antitrust case by paying $56.5 million to acquire the competing National Invitation Tournament. The NCAA also has been sued over policies governing what tournaments teams can enter and what summer training camps athletes can attend.

It was the 1984 lawsuit that opened the door for subsequent antitrust challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court that determined the NCAA had acted as a "classic cartel" when it crafted a broadcast rights deal that forced television networks to pay a premium. The contract also limited the number of television appearances by popular teams.

The NCAA had defended the plan — which redistributed television revenue to all members — as necessary to protect live attendance. But two big universities that wanted a bigger slice of the financial pie successfully sued the NCAA on antitrust grounds.

After the Supreme Court ruling, television rights fees fell by 50% as newly powerful athletic conferences negotiated their own broadcast agreements. "We knew that the marketplace would change dramatically if the courts allowed us to negotiate directly with the individual schools and conferences," said Neal Pilson, who was with CBS Sports in the early 1980s.

Though few could have predicted the dramatic growth in demand for college sports and the resulting rush of television revenue, former college and professional football player Byron "Whizzer" White, one of two Supreme Court justices who sided with the NCAA, saw danger signs.

In a minority opinion, White described the television deal as necessary if the NCAA were to keep big schools from "taking advantage of their success by expanding their programs, improving the quality of the product they offer, and increasing their sports revenues." Absent tough NCAA regulations, White wrote, "no single institution could confidently enforce its own standards [of amateurism] since it could not trust its competitors to do the same."

Fortunately for the NCAA, the 1984 Supreme Court opinion also confirmed that many of the rules that the NCAA was using to protect amateur athletics passed legal muster. And, in subsequent antitrust cases that directly involved student-athletes, judges have tended to side with the NCAA; one even referred to the "paternalistic" nature of the NCAA's duties.

NCAA General Counsel Elsa Kircher Cole says she is confident the two latest antitrust suits will fail because federal judges are hesitant to substitute their judgment for the collective wisdom of NCAA member institutions. Others, including Lazaroff, aren't so sure: "I don't see this as a slam-dunk either way."

Should the grant-in-aid rules be found in violation of antitrust law, some observers suspect that public pressure would force Washington, D.C., to move to protect the status quo. Brad Humphries, an economist at the University of Illinois, says that irate fans would lobby legislators to "step in and do for collegiate sports what it did for baseball" by granting the NCAA an antitrust exemption.

Roberts agrees that irate fans would rebel: "The political power that college sports exercises is unbelievable. Football is a religion in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Alabama. And basketball is a religion in North Carolina and Kentucky." '

Monday, March 27, 2006

Valuable exchange going on…

… at TPM Café, from which Andrew Sullivan has drawn these two comments:

“Suppose that intellectuals of the left were thinking more clearly about the American nation as (a) a whole and (b) a work in progress? Suppose that ideas about actual American potential proved more appealing on the putatively left-wing campus than sticking up, in code and despair (albeit with flourishes), for all kinds of exotic indeterminacies, theological neo-Marxisms, and third-worldist romantic fancies?" - Todd Gitlin.

"There can be no doubt that the left in general, but the campus variety in particular, is profoundly pessimistic and dour in its attitude towards this country. It seems to be built in to the DNA of campus leftist activism to be as over-the-top as possible in describing America as a den of corruption and injustice. It is the luxury of students who by and large have never known what true corruption and injustice look like but who are attracted to the romance of revolutionary thinking." - TPM Cafe commenter.
Camille Paglia…

…will be giving a talk at GW this Friday, March 31, at 7:00 pm. Location: 1957 E Street, Room 113. It’s free and open to the public.

In preparation for this event, I’ve been reading her stuff (some of it kindly provided by Kevan Duve, a GW honors student who‘s involved in putting the event together). I love her memories of some of the gay men who’ve been important in her life:

After AIDS was identified and had claimed hundreds of lives in New York and San Francisco, Bruce went through a period of severe anxiety, in which the slightest symptom seemed a harbinger of death. He was scrupulous about practicing safe sex with hustlers, not so much to protect himself from them as vice versa. He applied a ritualistic standard of cleanliness to his sexual encounters. In all moral dilemmas or debates he explicitly invoked the standards of “the ethical Jew,” here above all. As the years passed, he showed no signs of illness and remains healthy today. But I will never forget a daffy exchange in 1984 as I drove him from Manhattan to Syracuse for our twentieth high-school reunion, the first time we had seen our WASP sirens and tyrants since graduation. Somewhere between Albany and Utica on the Thruway, I tried to distract him from his obsessive examination of his dry skin patches and minutely swollen armpit glands. Listening to the radio, I vaguely asked him, apropos of nothing, “Did Pat Benatar have a nose job?” He peevishly shot back, “Does she have a face? They don’t operate on mice.”

But of course it’s her stuff on universities that most people know about, and she’ll be talking about universities at GW. If you’re around, you should come.
Duke Bears Lacrosse

“[I]n all my years associated with the game, I have never witnessed a story that has had such an impact on a program, as well as the landscape of a Division 1 season. The Blue Devils were on everyone's list to contend for the National Championship. It will be difficult to play under these circumstances, that is when/if they take the field again this season. The legal system will clear this picture in the immediate future and answer everyone's questions. Regardless, it is a sad time for the fastest growing sport in the country.”

In The Valve,
Mark Bauerlein writes:

'Here are some papers that were delivered at the annual CCCC (Conference on College Composition and Communication). With so many college students graduating without the ability to compose a coherent paragraph, one might assume the focus of the convention would fall upon writing skills and rhetorical structures. But for a fair portion of the entries, we get something else.

One paper is entitled “‘Register Your Penis’: Using Critical Discourse Analysis to Uncover Gender Conflict,” and the description runs, “As part of a larger thesis, this paper focuses on the “Penis Registry,” an activity introduced by CSU, Chico’s Women’s Center in support of Take Back the Night (TBTN), a nationwide university event . . .”

Here’s another one, showing us that there is no topic to which the race isue may not be applied: “Race, Rhetoric and the Digital Divide: From Digital Writing to Blogging.” And this: “Classroom and Race Issues for Building Community,” and this: “alternative Rhetorics: Postcolonial, Race, Womanist.”

And what would a general humanities conference be without something on the Middle East, as in: “Rhetoric and the Question of Palestine,” with a description containing the requisite sneer quotes--"The continuing saga of violence and bitterness known as the ‘Israel-Palestine conflict’ is less a matter of contested land than it is a matter of contested reality, framed in rhetorics that lead to radically different moral conclusions.”

And, to display hipness, we need some pop culture stuff, if only to show our appreciation of its subversive potential. Here is “Disturbing the Peace: Hip Hop as Theory, Politics, and Pedagogy,” and also “Rhetorics of Reception: Three Cases from Popular Culture” (two of them being the films Barbershop and Million Dollar Baby).

And, finally, for the political slant, there is a panel on “Towards A Progressive Politic in High School English Classrooms in Chicago.” Can one imagine a session at CCCC that begins “Towards a Conservative Politic”? '


This is ed school stuff, kicked upstairs to freshman comp. It was kind of Bauerlein not to subject us to the real guts of the scandal -- the paragraphs that come after these titles.
Getting his Ass
Out of There

LA Times:

USC President Steven B. Sample has resigned his relatively new seat on the board of the J. Paul Getty Trust, citing conflicting duties.

In a three-sentence resignation letter dated Feb. 28, Sample said his responsibilities to USC "make it impossible for me to continue" as a Getty trustee. His resignation was effective immediately, and he declined to comment Tuesday.

Sample joined the Getty board in September 2004. Trustees typically serve four-year terms. A series of controversies in recent months — including a continuing probe by the state attorney general and the resignation of the trust's President Barry Munitz on Feb. 10 — have made being a Getty trustee a thornier job.

Since Munitz's departure, veteran Getty administrator Deborah Marrow has served as interim president.

Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig said the trust's board "will be having discussions" about the search for a new president at its next meeting in May, "but they've not yet begun that process."


Morning Edition has background and an update, available a little later today, here. It’s basically another Benjamin Ladner story -- wild, wild looting of a non-profit’s money because of a board of trustees full of corporate types who wouldn’t see the behavior as a problem even if they were looking -- only this story involves much, much more money than the American University one.

And why does UD care? Because the Getty is an important research institution on which professors and universities depend.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Blogroll Update

UD's added Signifying Nothing, a sharp, smart academic blog, to her list.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A La Pelouse, Citoyens!

(Via Butterflies and Wheels, excerpts from Russell Jacoby’s review, in The Nation, of an English professor’s new book.)

Brother From Another Planet

[The author] claims the high political ground, but he cannot formulate a single coherent sentence about politics as seen from there. He tosses off phrases about "intersectionality" and "the praxis potential of antinormativity," but politics hardly enters this political book

…[The author] admonishes Cornel West for "his low estimation of black cultural life." West cannot fathom the genius of ex-Geto Boy Willie D.'s rap single "Fuck Rodney King." West hears nihilism, but [the author] registers "rigorous" political thinking and an aesthetic "worthy" of Rimbaud...

[The author writes:] “[T]he only acceptable political notion of the universal -- and therefore of the organizational imperative--is that of the empty signifier, not a present, given, or essential fullness waiting for troops but an impossible ideal whose very emptiness and lack create a pluralized, difference-based competition on the part of various particularisms in a democratic social-symbolic field to assume the position of the universal organization.”

...[Describing a rally in which he took part on the famous “Lawn” of the University of Virginia, where he teaches, the author] approaches the Lawn as if it were the Tsar's Winter Palace and he Lenin in the October Revolution. [He] and his allies, 150 strong, brush past the mounted police. "Juiced," they rush the maw of state power…. "We were not stopped.... As we took to the Lawn.... We were a movement now, and we couldn't lose." Their march lasts all of five minutes--but [the author] has lost interest, and tells us nothing more. Presumably another conference beckons.

So closes The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual, an almost flawless exemplar of tenured vacuity and mock radicalism.

An Article in Slate Magazine:

Cinderella's Dirty Secret
College basketball's little guys are
just as corrupt as the powerhouses.

By Jacob Leibenluft

The big story of this year's NCAA Tournament has been the rise of the "little guys." Small-fry programs like Bradley, George Mason, and Wichita State have knocked off traditional powers like Kansas and North Carolina. Not only have these upset victories been fun to watch, we're also told that they represent the triumph of virtue in college sports.

"The better the little guys play, the better it is for the tournament and college basketball," wrote the Washington Post's John Feinstein. "We've long since lost our belief in the myth of the 'amateur student-athlete,' " explained's Tim Keown. "But once a year, Northwestern State hits a 3 at the buzzer and we believe again. We root for Bradley and George Mason because they're good stories, and because they seem a bit purer than the bulk of the field." The Chicago Sun-Times' Greg Couch even argued that Bradley's victory brought about the "return of innocence" to the sports world.

Let's take a closer look at Bradley University, that great restorer of innocence. Patrick O'Bryant, the Braves' 7-foot-tall NBA prospect, was suspended for eight games earlier this year for accepting money for work he never did. Three other Bradley players were found to have accepted excessive payments. (The school claimed the players didn't realize they were receiving too much money.) After the Braves' second-best player, Marcellus Sommerville, transferred from the University of Iowa in 2003, his father told the Peoria Journal-Star that Bradley coaches engaged in illegal tampering, encouraging Sommerville to switch schools while he was still enrolled at Iowa. Starting point guard Daniel Ruffin was forced to sit out his freshman year when the NCAA refused to accept his test scores.

At least Bradley graduates 73 percent of its players—a figure many of its fellow Cinderellas can't come close to matching. The plucky Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers, who dominated Oklahoma in the first round, have a graduation rate of 28 percent. Bradley's Missouri Valley Conference rivals at Wichita State (50 percent) and Northern Iowa (30 percent) don't fare much better. Only two schools in this year's tournament failed to graduate any black players that enrolled as freshmen between 1995 and 1998 (the most recent period for which data is available): Northern Iowa and Nevada, both mid-majors. By contrast, four schools managed to graduate 100 percent of their players in that same period. Three of them are the basketball factories Illinois, Florida, and Villanova; the other is the Patriot League's Bucknell, which only started awarding basketball scholarships three years ago.

Much of the little guys' appeal comes from the fact that the players don't turn pro after their sophomore year and the coaches don't get paid big bucks. But that has less to do with morals than opportunity. Mid-major players don't emerge fully formed from a magical peach-basket-laden gym in rural Indiana, ready to hoop it up and hit the books with equal enthusiasm. They come from the same shady prep schools and junior colleges as the major-conference studs—they're just not quite good enough to get recruited by the top-tier teams. (Sometimes they even come from the major-conference schools. Wichita State has players who once suited up for Illinois and Marquette.) And there's no more mercenary figure in sports than the mid-major coach. Every year, a small-time coach or three—Kent State's Stan Heath, Nevada's Trent Johnson, Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Bruce Pearl, the Tulsa coach du jour—happily parlays a tournament run into an opportunity with a big fish.

What separates the mid-majors from college basketball royalty isn't scholar-athlete purity. It's two more tangible things: history and money. Mostly money. What happens when a mid-major gets flush with dough? It morphs into Gonzaga, a school that quickly and eagerly adopted the same skewed priorities as its big-time brethren. Constant hype on ESPN? Check. A recruiting scandal in the recent past? Check. A coach that gets paid more than twice as much as the university president? Check.

If Duke and UConn are the Yankees and Red Sox of college basketball, then Bradley and Wichita State are the NCAA's Royals and Tigers. They have less money and less talent than the sport's bluebloods, but that doesn't make them any more honest. Upsets make the NCAA Tournament great because they're unexpected. Just stop telling me that Cinderella's heart is pure.
Bear with me.
Big news day.

Professor Barry Landreth, on the faculty of the University Southern California, teaches Fundamentals of Real Estate Development.

For Landreth, real estate development really is fundamental: You draw your unwitting students into a scheme that involves getting their parents to give you hundreds of thousands of dollars which you say you’re investing in real estate but which you put in your personal account to pay for a $73,000 Cadillac Escalade, a stable of show horses, and a house in Coto de Caza, a luxury gated community. (“Coto de Caza,” or “Preserve of the Hunt,” describes both Landreth’s neighborhood and his classroom.)

Here’s Barry.

He’s the one in the middle.

Here’s the bare bones Reuters take on the story:

A business professor at the University of Southern California was arrested on Friday by the FBI on charges of swindling students and others in a real estate fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Barry Landreth, who had taught real estate finance and development at the university, stole at least $1.5 million in the first 10 months of 2005, telling students and other investors he would buy land in Chicago and Las Vegas and then sell it for large profits, an FBI affidavit said.

Instead, he transferred all the money into his personal account without buying the land, the FBI said.

Landreth was arrested at his home, where he kept a stable of show horses.

The university said in a statement Landreth had worked part-time at the school. Most recently, he taught a course in the Marshall School of Business and was currently on administrative leave.

The LA Times has those lifestyle details, plus the fact that Landreth is a USC grad. He “has been placed on administrative leave, said James Grant, a USC spokesman.”

The brilliance of this scheme (before it went awry) was Landreth landing an academic job and being perceived as a professor. People think professors are more moral than other people. I’m not sure why. Classics departments may produce more paragons than the population at large. Beware the business schools.
Nothing new here.
But the reference
To “Hoop Dreams”
At the End is Nice.

From Newsday:

When will these [March Madness] players attend class? Will they be studying physics on the bench during timeouts? Will they be arguing about the Protestant Reformation while practicing layups? I don't think so. Doesn't it bother anyone - their parents, their professors, university officials - that they are missing nearly a month of school?

…I work out daily and avidly follow the New York professional teams. As a teacher, I encourage my students to play something - anything.

But I don't support college teams. The whole environment seems unseemly to me. It would be nice if players practiced for a couple of hours after classes and had a weekly Friday night game. But that world disappeared long ago, if it ever existed.

Today's "amateur" college game forbids players from collecting endorsements, but it allows coaches to serve as hosts on television shows, incorporate their clinics and moonlight for companies such as Nike, which pays a handful of big-name coaches between $120,000 and $200,000 yearly to distribute free shoes to their players. And what happens to the players?

Many of the players weren't "college material" when they were admitted. And not only were they admitted, but many were given scholarships (blocking out deserving students who actually wanted an education). Only a tiny percentage make it to the pros. And the others? I shudder to think.

In the wonderful documentary "Hoop Dreams," which followed the lives of two basketball players during their school years, there was a particular scene that drew great laughter from the movie audience. One of the high school players, a sad, inarticulate, lost young man, was asked what he wanted to major in at college. Head down, he mumbles, "Communications."
Once Again,
In This Latest Case,
All the Familiar Marks
Of High-Flying Plagiarism

From the Independent, with UD’s parenthetical commentary.

[A] former British fashion journalist [is] accused of borrowing, embroidering and even inventing details and incorporating them into the proposal for a hotly-sought memoir.

Women's Wear Daily online claims details included in a proposal by former Times' fashion correspondent Emily Davies, are not true. The article even asks whether the industry has its "own James Frey" in the making - a reference to the best-selling writer who admitted portions of his memoir were invented. [And since the sort of person you are and the sort of thing you do when you produce bigtime plagiarism rarely varies, the industry does indeed appear to have its own James Frey.]

The article claims several incidents, including Ms Davies's having dinner with designer Donna Karan in Tokyo and attending a party for Jennifer Lopez at Donatella Versace's Italian villa, either did not happen or are inaccurately portrayed.

It also claims a meeting with three fashion industry employees in New York - including an employee of American Vogue - did not take place. Ms Davies' apparently quotes Vogue staffer Alexandra Kotur advising her how to obtain a glamorous job. "I have no idea what each day will bring," Ms Davies quotes her as saying. "One day I could be in someone's home on a photo shoot, the next night I'm talking to Minnie Driver." The article quotes a Vogue spokesperson as saying the conversation never took place and says the quote appeared to have been taken from a 1998 New York Times article.

Ms Davies's precis is not just any old book proposal. Last December Simon and Schuster and Random House's Ebury Press jointly paid a reported $900,000 (£520,000) for the rights to the proposal, provisionally entitled How to Wear Black: Adventures on Fashion's Front Line and described as "an all-access pass to the world of fashion". [As with Frey, mucho bucks involved. In return, publishers are expecting hot stuff. Plagiarizers oblige by turning the flame up way high.] The publishers hoped the memoir would follow in the successful steps of recent "frock-lit" hits such as The Devil Wears Prada by Anna Wintour's former assistant. [That one seems to have been legit.]

The article says this is not the first time allegations of using others writer's material have been directed at Ms Davies. [Plagiarizers are almost always serial plagiarizers from way back -- like what’s his name, that little New York Times blogger who just quit because of plagiarism. He’d been plagiarizing for years.] In 2004 the Financial Times complained she had used excerpts from a shopping column by Susie Boyt so as to make it appear she had interviewed the writer.

Ms Davies was sacked last year after an investigation into her expenses' claims. [Plagiarists tend to be comprehensively scummy.] She sued for false dismissal then dropped the case. The Times is pursuing legal costs.

In a statement Ms Davies said: "Women's Wear Daily [has] made extremely serious allegations about me as a journalist. The allegations are that I have plagiarised other peoples' work. There is not a shred of truth to these allegations." [Blahblah.]

Her boyfriend, Jonathan Gornall [next she’ll have her mum write in her defense] told The Independent Ms Davies' accepted she had erred in sourcing some quotes to herself but said it was "entirely innocent". He insisted she had attended the Lopez's party - saying she was not on the guest list but had gate-crashed "as any journalist would".

He insisted, also, that Ms Davies did have dinner with Ms Karan, though not necessarily in Japan and that she never suggested it had been a one-on-one occasion. "Every single point raised [by] WWD is either plain wrong or a deliberate misrepresentation of the truth. Clearly, there must be something else going on here. This is going to be a great book that someone from somewhere doesn't want us to read." [Fashionista conspiracy! If this book gets out it’ll blow the bustier off the fashion industry!]


Correction: Craig Newmark, of Newmark's Door, points out that the ill-fated little blogger I mentioned above was at the Washington Post, not the New York Times.
Well-heeled Wit

Once again, the witty winos of Duke University have uttered memorable words. UD readers may recall drunk and disorderly students there a few semesters ago announcing this, when law enforcers interrupted them at their fun: “Hey, everyone, as soon as you get out of high school, you can become a Durham police officer.”

Now some members of the Duke lacrosse team are reported to have said to an African American woman -- an exotic dancer they hired and then (according to pending charges) raped and almost strangled: “Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt.”

The athletics director at Duke also has a way with words. Of the lacrosse team incident, he comments: "This is not the kind of thing that represents Duke University in any way that is positive.”
Student Editorialists
at Chapel Hill Bundle it
All into One Sentence

'Partly in response to a massive outcry against student fee hikes that will keep Tar Heels living on Ramen Noodles to further fatten the Department of Athletics, the BOT is looking into better ways to run the fee process.'

UD's old friend Janine Wedel was arguably the first to expose the profound corruption of Harvard's Andrei Shleifer, and UD has been waiting for Janine to weigh in on the story as it develops.

She's now done so, in today's Boston Globe, in a beautifully written, devastating opinion piece. Repeatedly and correctly calling Shleifer a "player," a "peripatetic" character who was able to take advantage of "relationships between governments and contractors that are too tenuous, flexible, and ambiguous to be genuinely monitored," she captures more powerfully than anyone else so far has the sordid nature of his role:

Shleifer [...] played sometimes indistinct and overlapping roles as he lobbied in favor of his projects and advised both the United States and Russia while making investments for his own personal gain, all the while presenting himself as independent analyst and author. The endowment funds of both Harvard and Yale gained access to valuable investments through networks inhabited by Shleifer and/or his currency-trading wife. His investments in Russia, which he does not deny, included securities, equities, oil and aluminum companies, real estate, and mutual funds -- many of the same areas in which he was being paid to provide impartial advice.

The opening paragraphs of Wedel's Globe piece are the most devastating of all. They place Shleifer's Russian games in a broader, much more destructive, context:

[T]he strange saga of Harvard's involvement in US aid to Russia in the 1990s is more than a scandal about Summers and Harvard. The case illustrates the overall failure of the US accountability system.... [It illustrates] the web of interconnections that enabled Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer, a friend of then Treasury official Lawrence Summers, and a close-knit group of Russians and Americans to largely shape US economic aid policy and Russian economic "reforms" while managing virtually the entire nearly $400 million US flagship economic aid project. Summers helped Shleifer and Harvard gain noncompetitive government awards through arrangements that were highly unusual in foreign aid contracting at the time, according to US officials.

This maze of networks guaranteed the Harvard players their success in the 1990s. It also enfeebled the multiple investigations of their activities during the same period. Although the US Justice Department filed suit in 2000 (following a three-year investigation), alleging that Shleifer and Harvard had conspired to defraud the US government, the case came to a head only last summer with a negotiated settlement that required the university to pay $26.5 million in fines and Shleifer to pay $2 million. And despite being versed in Summers's entanglements, in 2001, the Harvard Corporation, with sole authority to hire and fire the Harvard president, appointed him the university's president....The Harvard case points to the failure of modern democracy to adapt its monitoring and accountability systems to a new breed of players exemplified by Shleifer.

Wedel concludes: "While Shleifer must pay a settlement and legal fees, it is too late for the Russian people, who, instead of wise guidance, got corruption and a system wide open to looting."

Notice that Harvard's gigantic endowment fund made out like a bandit because of Shleifer's corruption. It's bad enough that a university just sits there with $26 billion and growing. It's far worse that it gained significant elements of it through self-serving that makes Czar Nicholas look benign by comparison.

Friday, March 24, 2006

40 THOU for 40 PERCENT?

Okay, tuition at U. Penn is actually around $33 thou, but 40 makes for better alliteration. Today's Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

Tenure-track faculty members teach only 40 percent of classes in the University of Pennsylvania's School of Arts and Sciences, according to a report by a graduate-student union at Penn that has been fighting for university recognition. Lecturers on short-term contracts teach almost the same amount, the report says.

As a result, the group argues, students at Penn are not getting the education they are paying for.

Yes, the grad students are trying to make a point; but their numbers are probably right, or close to right. And scandalous.

Via Cold Spring Shops who quotes Chris at Signifying Nothing:

"Confidential to parents: drop the 40 large per annum on a liberal arts college education for your kids instead."
'Excusez moi, mais
tous les Français
doivent crapper
en même temps.'

"PRESIDENT CHIRAC stormed out of the first session of a European Union summit dominated by a row over French nationalism because a fellow Frenchman insisted on speaking English.

President Chirac and three of his ministers walked out of the room when Ernest-Antoine Seillière, the leader of the European business lobby UNICE, punctured Gallic pride by insisting on speaking the language of Shakespeare rather than that of Molière.

When M Seillière, who is an English-educated steel baron, started a presentation to all 25 EU leaders, President Chirac interrupted to ask why he was speaking in English. M Seillière explained: “I’m going to speak in English because that is the language of business.”

Without saying another word, President Chirac, who lived in the US as a student and speaks fluent English, walked out, followed by his Foreign, Finance and Europe ministers, leaving the 24 other European leaders stunned. They returned only after M Seilière had finished speaking.

The meeting was furnished with full interpretation services, and anyone in the room could speak or listen in any of the 20 official EU languages. Embarrassed French diplomats tried to explain away the walk-out, saying that their ministers all needed a toilet break at the same time.

In the absence of his President, M Seillière gave warning about the dangers of the “economic nationalism” being pursued by the French Government. The summit, aimed at restoring confidence in the future of the EU, has been overshadowed by a row over the tide of protectionism sweeping the continent, with Tony Blair and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, cautioning about the danger of raising barriers to foreign competition.

President Chirac, who recently denounced British food as the worst in the world after Finnish, has led an increasingly eccentric campaign to try to turn back the growing dominance of English in the EU and across the world. French and English are equal official languages in the EU, but the enlargement of the Union has entrenched the dominance of English.

Jacques Delors, the former President of the European Commission, used to ban journalists from posing questions in English in the press room.

When President Chirac had a one-to-one dinner last year with President Bush, he insisted on speaking his mother tongue the whole time, even though the US President could understand him only through an interpreter.

At one UN summit where there was no translation, President Chirac pretended not to understand questions in English and demanded that Tony Blair, who speaks French, act as his interpreter.

President Chirac has announced plans to start a French version of CNN to promote culture. He was furious when its managers disclosed that most of the output would be in English because otherwise few would understand it."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Baseball at
Washington State University:
Most Inspirational

From the Seattle Times:

Depending on where you look, Washington State University head baseball coach Donnie Marbut claims to have a master's degree, a teaching certificate or both.

In reality, he has neither.

He's lauded in official team biographies as a university baseball MVP, most inspirational player and all-conference infielder.

None of that is true either.

And there are other issues in Marbut's past that raise questions, a Seattle Times investigation has found.

[Before we get into the details: UD does wonder when the bullshit about university sports and character building is going to end. Many universities have given themselves over to liars, crooks, and conmen like Marbut. The only thing special about this case is that the university knows and acknowledges what he is but remains steadfast in its love for him.]

At Edmonds Community College, where Marbut coached until 2003, he used the school's facilities for his own gain, and witnesses say he took cash from groups that used the college fields. In another instance, he submitted a phony invoice to get Edmonds to pay for protein powder for players — a purchase the college had warned him was improper.

Marbut denied any financial improprieties. Of the false academic and athletic claims, he said some were errors by others, some he didn't notice and others were his own honest mistakes. [How were these “honest”? “mistakes”? This is how a seasoned petty crook talks.]

“I never was one to read a bio. ... I never thought I was important. Now any time anybody quotes me or says anything about me or writes anything about me, I'll do a better job of watching it," he said. [Huh?]

Marbut, who led Edmonds Community College to a league championship before joining the struggling Cougars as an assistant coach in 2003, has inflated his academic and athletic accomplishments for years.

The Times found he has listed the false academic claims on handwritten job applications and on typed résumés, and he's allowed the misleading athletic accomplishments to be repeated for years in team media guides and on the Cougar Web site.

Officials at Edmonds Community College said that, despite a recent state audit criticizing athletic-department finances under Marbut, they didn't know about the phony invoice, improper payments or false academic claims.

"During Donnie's tenure, none of this came up. If it had, we would have dealt with it harshly," said Edmonds Community College President Jack Oharah. [You didn’t notice a state audit?]

…Yet in Pullman, administrators say Marbut's $77,000-a-year job is safe.

"A couple of these things are errors in judgment by a person who has a lot of potential but who was young and ambitious and didn't really think things through," said Marcia Saneholtz, WSU's senior associate athletic director. "He will continue to be our baseball coach." [All WSU students can now expect the same understanding from the school when they lie and cheat.]

When Marbut became WSU's head baseball coach in May 2004, he was given a mandate to rebuild a baseball program that had dominated its division a decade earlier, but had finished last in the Pac-10 the previous five years.

Although the team finished last again in 2005 with a 21-37 record, Marbut managed to recruit a dozen top prospects for this year's team. [Wait for the inevitable article about how corruptly he managed this feat.] This year, the Cougars are off to their best start since 1994, with an 18-6 record and conference play starting Saturday.

Audit released

Last September, the state released its audit of the Edmonds Community College athletic program, covering the years Marbut was a coach and athletic director. The audit faulted the athletic department for poor recordkeeping and financial oversight. And it concluded that Marbut had profited by using college facilities to run a private baseball camp, a violation of state law.

The office forwarded Marbut's name to the State Executive Ethics Board for investigation in December. The board has not yet decided whether to review the case, said director Susan Harris.

After the audit, The Times obtained Marbut's personnel files from Edmonds and WSU. Those and other documents revealed the numerous false claims about his achievements.
Nine different records wrongly state that Marbut earned a teaching certificate, a master's degree or a graduate degree from St. Martin's College in Lacey, Thurston County.

In five of the records, the errors appear on forms or résumés that he himself filled out or created. Three are handwritten job applications he submitted at Edmonds Community College, in June and September 1999 and November 2001. One is a résumé he submitted to WSU in 2003. And one is a biographical data sheet he filled out for the university's Human Resources Department.

Marbut, 32, acknowledged that he never earned a teaching certificate or any other graduate degree. He points out that his coaching jobs have required only a bachelor's degree, which he does have.

…He said his WSU boss, assistant athletic director Saneholtz, told him it wasn't a problem.

Saneholtz said she did not recall that conversation. [Compassionate… and forgetful.]

At Edmonds, Marbut said, his supervisor, associate dean Nicola Smith, knew he didn't have the teaching certificate but told him to write it down anyway when he applied to be athletic director.

Smith responded: "I would not be in a position to tell someone to falsify a job application." [But it looks as though I did anyway.]

MVP claims

The misrepresentations don't end with Marbut's academic accomplishments.

WSU and Edmonds team biographies assert Marbut was chosen most valuable player on the Portland State baseball team in 1996 and most inspirational in 1997. Both bios also claim Marbut was named an all-Pac-10 North division infielder in 1996.

Two of those awards, the MVP and infielder honors, actually belong to a man Marbut hired last year to be his volunteer assistant coach: Matt Dorey, who played second base for PSU in 1996. The most inspirational player in '97 was third-baseman Darren Case, according to PSU records.

…Marbut blamed the WSU errors on the college Sports Information Office.

WSU Sports Information Director Rod Commons said mistakes in media guides do occur, but he couldn't explain how the Marbut errors happened or why they weren't fixed.

Ilsa Gramer, a former graduate student who was responsible for sports information for the WSU baseball program, said coaches must sign off on the media guide before it goes to the publisher. Marbut's biography appeared for two years without being corrected, Gramer said.

Marbut had no explanation for the Edmonds inaccuracies.

[It’s a long article. I’ll spare you the details on the protein supplements he tried to peddle and his off the books field rentals and other, er, personal enrichment activities.]

While WSU administrators stand by Marbut, they acknowledge the coach's past has followed him to Pullman.

As the state ethics board considers taking up Marbut's case, Saneholtz, the assistant athletic director, said the controversy may impact WSU's ability to recruit players.

"We are concerned about all the hearsay and innuendo that has been generated in the baseball community that could be unfairly damaging to our baseball program," she said.


From the Oklahoma State University Newspaper:

40 Percent of Campus Master Plan
Going to 2 Percent of Students

Although student athletes make up about 2 percent of OSU’s student population, 38.2 percent of the money allocated for the five-year Campus Master Plan will go to the athletic village, the sports complex for athletes’ use.

Gary Shutt, director of communications, said although a slightly larger amount of money is going toward athletics than academics in the five-year plan, donors are simply giving their money where they see it’s needed.

“We’re having to play catch-up,” Shutt said. “Our athletic facilities are way below those of other Big 12 schools. Fortunately, we’ve had donors who’ve stepped up.”

…“Athletics are for all students, and when students go to games, it’s part of their OSU experience,” Shutt said. “While they may not actually be running on the track, they are still participating in athletics.”

…Allison Hechtner, elementary education freshman, said she thinks it is sad that donations to academics are sometimes overlooked in favor of athletic donations.

“I think the mission of the university has been distorted,” Hechtner said. “Instead of being based on academics, it’s now based on athletics and entertainment.”

O….klahoma! Every night my honey lamb and I
Have a heart to heart
And read pie charts
From our favorite universi-ti! [Eee-haw!]

O….klahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains!
We can’t write or add
But we don’t get mad
Cause the thing we care about is games! [Chorus: Games! Games!]

We know we belong to the team!
To the team we give all of our green!
So when they say… Hey!
You’re throwing funds away! [Hey!]
We’re only saying
You’re lookin’ fine Oklahoma!
Oklahoma! O.K.!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

UD Makes a Poem
Out of a Newspaper


By Ian James, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

(03-21) 16:40 PST CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) --

An international audit concluded there are tens of thousands of dead voters listed on Venezuela's voter rolls, but the country's top electoral official said Tuesday that those errors are being fixed and do not amount to significant flaws.

The audit confirmed the voter registry is sound despite critics' claims of gross irregularities, electoral council president Jorge Rodriguez said.

Critics expressed doubts about the auditors' independence and accused the electoral council of siding with President Hugo Chavez, who is seeking re-election in December.

"With the Venezuelan voter registry just as it is now, the upcoming elections could be held," Rodriguez said as he announced the audit's results. He said it found inaccurate records accounted for less than 2 percent of the total.

That included an estimated 54,900 dead voters on the rolls, and about 39,400 others whose deaths have yet to be confirmed but are listed as being older than 100. Rodriguez said both are significant problems but constitute a tiny fraction of some 15 million registered voters.

"There cannot be dead people in the voter registry," he said. "The inconsistencies that were found, no matter how small, will be addressed."

Electoral workers are constantly updating the voter registry and have already eliminated old records for 400,000 dead people in recent years to prevent any possible fraud, Rodriguez said.

Auditors from the Costa Rica-based Electoral Consulting and Promotion Center analyzed samples of thousands of voters last year to reach their conclusions, officials said. The center is part of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights and functions as an association of electoral agencies in Latin America.

"The opposition has serious doubts" about the audit, said Roberto Ansuini, a former electoral official who opposes Chavez and has researched flaws in the voter lists. "When we have the report, we can make our observations."

Officials said the auditors' report will be released later this week.

The audit did not directly address a case raised by Ansuini in which 1,921 people by the name Gonzalez were listed with an identical birth date, all in the one western state.

Carlos Quintero, director of the voter registry office, said officials checked electronic records against paper archives, and found errors in some 900 of those cases. He said officials believe the wrong birth date was entered in many cases when the data was transferred from paper files to computers years ago.

Rodriguez said the electoral council would post the voter registry on the Internet starting Tuesday to dispel any suspicions.


Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look upon the rolls
There is always another one walking beside you:
Gonzalez, dead voter of Venezuela,
Death yet to be confirmed, hooded,
I do not know whether a man or a woman —

But who is that on the other side of you?
What is that sound in the electoral council
Murmur of auditor’s lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes, older than 100, swarming
Over endless registries, stumbling along the same western state
Ringed by one birth date only?

What is the city over the mountains
Counts and recounts and bursts in the violet air
Falling numbers Caracas Valencia Petare Turmero Maracay
The Electronic Picket Fence

From USA Today, with commentary by UD.
[via Inside Higher Ed]:


MEMPHIS (AP) — A group of University of Memphis law students are passing a petition against a professor who banned laptop computers from her classroom because she considers them a distraction in lectures.

On March 6, Professor June Entman warned her first-year law students by e-mail to bring pens and paper to take notes in class.

"My main concern was they were focusing on trying to transcribe every word that was I saying, rather than thinking and analyzing," Entman said Monday. [Sounds right. And raises the question of why anyone would attend such a class anyway. Just speak your lectures into a machine and let the students put it on their iPods.] "The computers interfere with making eye contact. You've got this picket fence between you and the students." [UD’s not sure about the picket fence image. After all, picket fences are something you lean against and talk over, whereas the screen of a laptop presents a professor with a black wall instead of a student’s face, and makes talking -- even eye contact, as this professor rightly notes -- very difficult.]

The move didn't sit well with the students, who have begun collecting signatures against the move and tried to file a complaint with the American Bar Association. The complaint, based on an ABA rule for technology at law schools, was dismissed. [Because the complaint is bogus. Why? Keep reading.]

"Our major concern is the snowball effect," said law school student Jennifer Bellott. "If you open the door for one professor, you open the door for every other professor to do the same thing." [This comment allows us to peek at the latent truth about all that fantastic in-class technology. If all right thinking people embrace it, why is this student afraid of a snowball effect among professors?]

"If we continue without laptops, I'm out of here. I'm gone; I won't be able to keep up," said student Cory Winsett, who said his hand-written notes are incomplete and less organized. [Someone should send Winsett’s comment to law firms looking to hire Memphis grads. Here’s a winner! Can’t even take hand-written notes in graduate school!]

Law School Dean James Smoot said the decision was up to the professor [That‘s why the complaint was bogus. The decision is up to the professor.], but the conflict has caused faculty to consider technology issues as the school prepares to move to a more advanced downtown facility in coming years.


Bottom line here, far as UD’s concerned: If you need your umbilical cord that much, take someone else’s class.
Can this really be true?

And can you really think me masochistic enough to go?

Embattled Professor Ward Churchill has agreed to engage bestselling author and sought after speaker David Horowitz in a series of formal debates organized by Young America's Foundation and Students for Academic Freedom. The series of debates will kick off at George Washington University in Washington D.C. on April 6 in the Continental Ballroom.

Even though it’s taking place inches from her office, UD hereby invites someone else to attend.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Overheard at GWU on
The First Day Back
From Spring Break

Standing in line at Starbucks. Two women:

I swear I was drunk seven days straight.


In an elevator. A woman talking into a cell phone.

How's your day so far? What? What?... I'm in an elevator.... No, not an oven, an elevator. I'm in an elevator. How's your day been? ... An oven? No, an elevator.

Today's Rocky Mountain News,with UD's commentary.

Wieman, who plans to leave in Jan., says school stresses sports

By Jim Erickson, Rocky Mountain News
March 21, 2006

BOULDER - Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carl Wieman announced Monday that he is leaving the University of Colorado and blasted the school, saying it stresses athletics over academics. [Oh well. Nobel Prize-winning physicists are a dime a dozen; whereas first-rate football coaches..]

Wieman will leave CU in January for the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he will head a $10.6 million science education project.

He will retain a 20 percent appointment at CU to lead the Science Education Project there, funded with $5 million during the next five years.

Wieman, 54, said at a news conference that the Canadian funding offer was the main reason for his departure from CU after 22 years.

But afterward, he said CU regents' and administrators' preoccupation with athletics contributed to his decision.

"If you want to have any sort of large-scale education initiative, where you're really focusing on education, you need people at the highest levels to put thought and attention into it," he said.

"If our Board of Regents spent half the time on discussions of how to improve the education for students that they do on athletics, it would be a very different university," Wieman said. [You're not supposed to say this so baldly. How rude.]

The recent CU football recruiting controversy was a major distraction that diverted attention from the classroom, Wieman said.

"My personal view is that there's a considerable overemphasis (on athletics) that takes time and attention away from what we could be doing to improve education."

It's not the first time Wieman has criticized CU athletics.

In a February 2004 opinion piece in the Daily Camera in Boulder, he described the university as "an academic appendage to the football program." [The "appendage" thing is not a new formulation -- lots of people use it. But you can see why. It's rather wonderful.]

CU President Hank Brown was unavailable for comment Monday. [Darning Coach's socks.]

But Board of Regents Chairman Paul Schauer said the university's football program has received a lot of the board's attention recently "because it's an area that was creating some issues for the university that needed to be dealt with in a very thorough and complete manner." [Note use of passive voice -- athletics was creating some issues. No. We, the Board of Regents, created a mess we're trying to clean up. Takes mucho time and money.]

But that doesn't mean academic excellence is a low priority, he said.

"If we were overemphasizing athletics, we would have had a basketball team in the Final Four, and we might have had a higher-ranked football team," Schauer said Monday. [Trustees not chosen for logic skills.]

CU Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano [famous for his remarkably obtuse comments on Ward Churchill] also rejected Wieman's assertions.

"Our role and mission is to provide a top-notch education for both our undergraduate and graduate students," he said. "Athletics is an auxiliary." [If only saying it made it so.]

Wieman shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics for creating a new form of matter, called a Bose-Einstein condensate, predicted by Albert Einstein.

Eric Cornell, Wieman's partner in the 1995 discovery, continues to work at JILA, a research collaboration between CU and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder.

Wieman said that about 15 years ago, he realized that university educators were doing "a pretty miserable job" at teaching basic science to undergraduates. When he won the Nobel Prize, he decided to use his celebrity and influence to help change that.

He contributed $250,000 of his Nobel Prize award to a CU physics education initiative. [Good guy.] While on sabbatical last year, he sought state and federal support, along with private funding and grants, to pursue his vision for improved teaching techniques.

All 34 of his funding requests were rejected, he said Monday. At that point, he contacted several universities, directly and through intermediaries, to see if there was interest in his project. The University of British Columbia was one of the schools.

The Vancouver school offered Wieman's program $10.6 million over five years. Schauer said CU "couldn't be competitive" with that offer. [Too busy competing for dribblers.]

The Colorado and British Columbia schools will collaborate in the cross-border science-education effort.

Computers will play an expanded role in the science classroom, and instructors will use teaching practices based on solid research into how students learn science. Explicit learning goals will be established for each course, along with reliable ways to measure how well students attain those goals.

Wieman said he will close his atomic physics laboratory to concentrate full-time on education. He said he couldn't find a way to pursue his educational mission while maintaining a top-flight lab.

"Forefront science is a tough game," Wieman said. "Rather than be a third-rate physics researcher, I just figured it made more sense to put my full effort into (science education)."

Before accepting the Canadian offer, Wieman said he reviewed Vancouver-area newspaper coverage of the University of British Columbia during the past two years.

"It's just a different climate in terms of seeing the university as an important resource, an important element of a healthy economy - seeing it as something where the university is first and foremost an institution for providing the best education possible for children in the state."

He noted that while the Vancouver university has a football team, the head coach gets paid "about the same as a starting assistant professor." [My mouth dropped open at this one. Can it really be true?]

The remark was an apparent reference to former CU football coach Gary Barnett, who was awarded a $3 million settlement after being fired in December.

Barnett was dismissed in the wake of three embarrassing losses that came after two years of damaging headlines brought on by federal lawsuits.

The lawsuits were filed by three women who alleged they were sexually assaulted either at or after a December 2001 party attended by football players and recruits.

This isn’t the first time that eminent faculty at CU have dissed the place.

Remember Joyce Lebra? I quote from an earlier UD post:

When University of Colorado Professor Emeritus Joyce Lebra, a distinguished teacher and historian, turned down the university's bestowal upon her of its prestigious "University Medal" a couple of weeks ago, citing the scandal of the university's football program [, March 18 04], people were pissed.

Especially by the old girl's salty language in her rejection letter: she would never take a prize from a place with such a "gross distortion of priorities," where the rapist football squad makes the institution an "embarrassment." Lebra, who has written many books about Asia, went on to write that "The focus and priority on football has undermined the atmosphere of this university, which by definition should be dedicated to academic endeavor at the highest level."

One of Colorado's rejected Regents got all the way up on her high horse and by way of response to Lebra employed the third person. "One is disappointed," she said, as if she were Queen Victoria.

I salute Professor Lebra for her principled protest. Disdain at the highest and most public levels is one of the only ways of rousing university personnel. Of course the would-be awarders in this case cannot be expected to welcome her harsh reminder that they are not academic aristocrats but servants to scum. Lebra has made herself few friends among the Ragin' Regents of Football U. But she's old and laureled and can afford to alienate everyone. Good for her.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Here’s a marvelous opinion piece in today’s LA Times (thanks, Ralph, for the link), complete with UD’s commentary.

How Harvard could share the wealth
By Peter Hong
Peter Hong is a Times staff writer.

HARVARD University has an endowment of about $26 billion, which exceeds the gross domestic product of more than 100 nations and is greater than all the physical assets of McDonald's Corp. [Veteran UD readers are way tired of this statistic. But it’s such a great statistic!] It is the richest university in the country; in fact, a few years ago, the Boston Globe reported that Harvard's endowment was greater than that of any nonprofit institution in the world except the Catholic Church. [Gevalt.]

So why then does Harvard have one of the lowest percentages of low-income students of any Ivy League college? And why does it charge an exorbitant $41,675 a year in tuition and fees to undergraduates — a number not much less than the U.S. median household income of $44,389?

Because it can, of course. [Well, hold on. There are other, subtler reasons why universities that don’t have to charge anything charge huge tuition and fees. These reasons have to do with markets and psyches. People - I mean Americans - tend not to value things that are free. Hell, people tend not to value things that are inexpensive. Reasonably priced. Luxury goods have to be expensive because they’re luxury goods. If they’re not expensive they’re not luxury goods. If Harvard’s free, its immense prestige and immense worldly value get shot all to hell. Not only can Harvard not be free - it cannot be reasonably priced.] But does it have to? [Absolutely not. It doesn’t have to charge anything. Hong is right. But see earlier comment.]

Here's a radical suggestion for Derek Bok, who is being brought back as president of the university after Lawrence H. Summers resigns in June: Why not make Harvard free?

That's right. Bok — who has been a lucid critic of the corrupting influence of big money on universities — can, with a single gesture of unassailable virtue, light a fire under the increasingly decadent realm of elite colleges, instantly restoring Harvard to a position of moral leadership in society. [I’m not that impressed with this sentence. Light a fire under …a decadent realm? "Realm" is too abstract a term to work with the bright and lively phrase “light a fire.” The proper phrase, which would have worked better, is “…light a fire under the increasingly decadent ass of elite….”]

Perhaps that sounds unrealistic. After all, no other private university in the country offers any such deal. But Harvard could do it with hardly a dent to its pocketbook — and along the way, it could send a potent message about egalitarianism, excess and the importance of education for all. [Yeah, well, here we’re running into another important problem. Since when is Harvard about egalitarianism? Its main job - like the job of Princeton and Yale - is to prepare the children of oligarchy for oligarchical responsibilities. Oligarchs aren’t into having their kids mix with proles. Make Harvard free and make it egalitarian and watch all the rich important people go somewhere else.]

Consider the numbers: Harvard currently has 6,600 students. Footing the entire bill for all its undergraduates would likely run close to $275 million a year (an additional net cost of only about $190 million, because the university already provides about $85 million in scholarships to undergraduates who qualify for need-based aid).

Of course, $190 million sounds like a lot to most of us, but it is less than 1% of the school's endowment, and only a small fraction of the endowment's $3-billion growth last year. What's more, Harvard spent 4.5% of its endowment in the 2005 fiscal year; even with the additional burden of paying for every single undergraduate, it would remain well within its own self-imposed comfort zone of an annual withdrawal of 5% of the endowment. (And who knows? Maybe such a worthy move would even prompt additional gifts from alumni and others, who last year donated about $639 million to the university.) [Hong might have mentioned here that alumni gifts to Harvard are tanking, in part because everyone knows it’s already supremely rich.]

Why should Harvard take such a costly, unprecedented step? Partly because the percentage of low-income students enrolling at the nation's top colleges has been falling for the last decade. According to a 2004 report by the Century Foundation, only 3% of students at the nation's 146 most selective colleges come from the nation's lowest socioeconomic quarter; 74% come from the richest quarter. In other words, as Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation put it recently, if you wander around one of the nation's selective campuses, you are 25 times as likely to run into a rich student as a poor one. [That’s right. High school seniors lucky enough to get into H, Y, or P might want to think hard about this one. Re-read Walter Kirn’s essay on Princeton. Think about the sort of people you’re going to be going to school with: John Kerry. Ted Kennedy. Claiborne Pell. George Bush. “Rich student” isn’t an abstraction when you get there.]

Harvard is a perennial bottom-dweller in enrolling low-income students. A study by higher-education researcher Thomas G. Mortenson reported that only 7% of Harvard undergraduates receive the federal Pell Grants that exist for low-income students (Pell Grants are considered the best measure of how many low-income students attend a school); U.S. News & World Report says the number is 11%. In either case, it is a far lower percentage than other elite private universities, such as Columbia, Caltech or Stanford.

Two years ago, Summers took action to make Harvard more accessible. He declared that parents of undergraduates with family incomes less than $40,000 a year would no longer have to pay anything for their children's Harvard education. The expected payment from families with incomes under $60,000 would be cut greatly as well.

Summers said his initiative sent "a powerful message that Harvard is open to talented students from all economic backgrounds." The university reported that the enrollment of students in those income brackets rose 18%. But the 18% growth, when you do the math, means only an additional 45 students. [And that, I would guess, is more than enough for the Harvard community. Space must be maintained for legacies.]

Harvard's message needs to be more powerful — at least as powerful as one ought to expect from an elite, 370-year-old, $26-billion institution. Dropping tuition, room and board charges for all students would be a gesture worthy of the institution.

Private universities continue to set higher and higher prices for undergraduates even as their endowments grow to record levels. Although Harvard's move would be unlikely to persuade most schools to drop tuition and fees altogether, it would certainly force them to rethink their priorities. Its closest rivals would certainly be under pressure to at least lower their fees, and those moves could have a trickle-down effect throughout higher education.

Of course, if Harvard were free, some of the savings would go to students whose families could easily afford to pay the tuition. But that would be outweighed by the message that would be sent: that a great college education is not something that should be put on the open market and made available only to those who have the money to purchase it. It should be available to all.

Admissions officers know well that many students either presume they can't afford a university such as Harvard or don't want to go there because they believe it is inundated with upper-crust twits. [Yes: See my last comment. Don’t underestimate the Presumption of Upper-Crust Twits disincentive for interesting smart middle class people thinking of applying to Harvard.]

Making the school free would address both issues. And Harvard's cachet among well-off students might also rise: They could now be sure they won their place competing against the very best students, not just the other wealthy ones. [But this projects a meritocratic world view onto people who may not hold one.]

Finally, there is the issue of trust. Trust in colleges is eroding. As established universities increasingly accumulate capital at record levels, cater to corporate funders of university research and launch lucrative online and extension learning programs, they become harder to distinguish from for-profit operators.

In his 2003 book "Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education," Bok warned: "As universities grow richer, they begin to inspire envy more easily than affection." [UD wonders, though: Is it envy, or is it a kind of quiet disdainful disregard? She’s reminded of the first line of an article in a recent New York Times. The headline was “Trading the Hummer for a Honda,” and by way of explaining why sales of Hummers are tanking, the writer began: “For Janna Jensen, it was the dirty looks and nasty gestures from other drivers that finally persuaded her to give up the family's $55,000 Hummer H2.” The vast lumbering hyperrich, whether sitting in their cars on sitting on their endowments, aren’t primarily objects of envy anymore, I’d argue - rather, profound dislike, increasingly willing to express itself.]

Harvard can be as guilty — and clueless — as any other school. When Summers announced his resignation, Harvard faculty and insiders were quoted in the newspapers worrying about the future of a yet-to-be-built 500,000-square-foot science and museum complex in Boston and a $5-billion fundraising drive.

Bok, who drove a Volkswagen Beetle to work when he ran Harvard from 1971 to 1991, is just the man to bring the school down to earth. As interim president, he will be beholden to no one to keep his temporary job. [But neither will he have real power.] He can call on Harvard's board to drop tuition and fees on the idea's merits and morality, with the authority of one who does not need to impress anyone to keep his job.
As European universities continue…

…to stew in their own juices, you’ve got your typical American university success story boiling away right here in UD’s dull, drab, Foggy Bottom.

Dull, drab? Well, Bob Peck, a high-profile businessman, says it’s "lagging in vitality" around here, and that‘s why we need Square 54 to be developed on campus -- to wake the place up.

Square 54, you recall, is a terrifically valuable piece of property (smack in the middle of FB; hop skip and a jump to a metro stop; jest keep on a spell down the road to get to the White House…) -- In fact,

Last year, the university commissioned the Urban Land Institute to study the development potential for the Square 54 site. ULI concluded the site is "far too valuable for anything less than a signature project."

It endorsed plans by GW and developers Boston Properties and KSI for an 800,000-square-foot, mixed-use project that would include ground-floor retail, office space, apartments and a grocery store.

ULI experts also support raising the campus density cap to a level slightly higher than the university has requested in its new plan.

So, the deal is that the site is too valuable for a mere university to use it for university purposes (note that Square 54’s multiple proposed uses include no classrooms or labs or anything like that), so instead of doing the natural thing and taking advantage of all that high-profile, well-located space for academic functions, GW will sell or lease it to wealthy residents and law firms (the heart goes pitter-pat at the thought of the urban vitality these groups will bring). Then, in part with the money from Le Big Deal (the name of a wretched French tv show UD‘s kid loved to watch when they lived there), the university will stretch its rather small urban space in other places on campus -- arguably beyond reasonable limits -- to keep growing students, buildings, and parking lots, thus pissing off the locals.

Such an American tale. At the University of Toulouse, where UD once taught, and where the students get huffy and shut the place down for some reason or another almost every semester (they’re having a real field day at the moment), students would respond to GW’s bottom-line machinations by barricading the campus, taking over the president’s office, hurling computers out of windows, and beheading a bust of George Washington. But in this country everyone accepts that a university would sell a vast prime piece of its own space to the highest bidder and at the same time insist on growing, growing, growing - growing its student population, off-campus programs, secondary campuses (GW’s got two), other real estate holdings, etc.

See if you can detect the Washington Business Journal’s position on the matter from its article, starting with its description of the opposing neighborhood group as “well-funded” -- as well it might be, but what about GW and other interested parties? Why doesn’t the article tell us if they’re well-funded? UD thinks they are. UD thinks they’re better-funded than the neighborhood group.

GW has asked the city to ease the density restrictions on its campus to allow for more student housing, offices and classroom buildings. If the zoning commission denies the university's density request, GW would have to look at using its valuable Square 54 site for university-related uses.

Would have to look! How degrading an exigency! A valuable commercial site is a terrible thing to waste! Here’s Bob Peck again!

“It's 2.5 acres -- hello? -- on Pennsylvania Avenue and next to a Metro.”

It’s 2.5 acres -- hello? -- on a university campus.

The article’s final paragraph makes clear what Proper Thinking on this one would be:

In recent years, the university has been under pressure to grow revenue based on additional tuition dollars, which translates into increased enrollment -- exactly what the neighborhood is opposed to. By developing Square 54 to its full potential -- and leasing it for 60 years to Boston Properties and KSI -- GW would generate a funding stream that could alleviate tuition-based revenue pressure and slow the influx of new students.

Unmentioned are the two other underutilized campuses GW owns, one of which, in a verdant affluent DC location, already takes some of the pressure off of Foggy Bottom.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tragedy, Farce

With French students trashing the Sorbonne and Italian students being taught via the Friends and Family plan, it can come as no surprise that

The most powerful economies of "Old Europe," including France, Britain and Germany, are struggling to keep up with a huge expansion of higher education in Asia, a new report has found.

The survey, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, warns the members of the European Union to increase spending on schools and universities and tackle a crippling lack of social mobility within their societies, or put future economic growth in jeopardy.

"The time when Europe competed mostly with countries that offered low-skilled work at low wages has gone. ... Today, countries like China and India are starting to deliver high skills at low costs," the report said.

There is "no way" that Europe can stop rapidly developing countries from producing "wave after wave of highly skilled graduates … This is profoundly changing the rules of the game," said the study, compiled for the Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based think tank which aims to make Europe more competitive.

"France and Germany, which make up 35 per cent of the European Union's €11.6 trillion [£7.37 trillion] economy, are no longer among the world's leaders in developing knowledge and skills," the study says.

Of the world's top 20 universities, using the most widely cited index, only two - Oxford and Cambridge - are situated in Europe, the report notes.

A writer in The Observer has some more thoughts about current events in France:

We witnessing a cultural tragedy unfold. The French carry a Utopian ideal in their collective heads about what it means to be French. They are self-appointed defenders of Europe's real republican virtues of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their rightful place is as Europe's leaders, and the state, embodying an idea of France, is the nation's master puppeteer.

None of this works in 2006. The state, as all others in Europe, is circumscribed by global market forces. France is only one of 25 EU member states and the way liberty, equality and fraternity have been delivered since the 1950s has to be recast.

…French students find themselves in the same ambiguous position as their country. Their only solution to the challenge of modernity is to defend the status quo to the last, even if it is evident it is malfunctioning.

The writer concludes in this way:

Next week, European heads of state meet to advance the so-called Lisbon agenda, by which Europe committed itself to becoming the most dynamic, competitive, knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. It is an empty farce.

Via Joanne Jacobs -- A provost closes his small college’s school of education:

"Schools of education mis-prepare would-be teachers in many ways. They deprive those would-be teachers of the opportunity to learn more important, substantive things during their undergraduate years; they require students to take hugely time-consuming courses of dubious intellectual value; and they inculcate would-be teachers in the educrats’ pernicious ideology. It’s an ideology that insists that virtually all of America’s social problems derive from institutionalized prejudices; that most knowledge is “socially constructed;” and that children are best taught by allowing their natural creativity to flourish, rather than by actually trying to teach the habits of self-discipline and mindfulness. Substantive knowledge and real skill in areas like mathematics, reading, and writing are clearly tertiary concerns at best for most teachers, because they are less than tertiary concerns for SOEs.

…A message to fellow provosts, college presidents, deans, and college trustees: let’s ring down the curtain on the SOEs. You have nothing to lose but your least-promising students and a cohort of faculty members who veer between giddy and grandiose ignorance. The students and faculty members worth keeping can find their places elsewhere in your college."

The Shleifer scandal has worked its way into a foreign policy opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, whose writer accuses the Bush administration of unfair and counterproductive hostility against Russia. Anatol Lieven finds particularly objectionable the hypocrisy of our condemning corruption there when we've been, in the recent past, complicit in it.

His prime example is Harvard’s Andrei Shleifer:

To ordinary Russians, Western-sponsored "democracy" meant watching helplessly while "liberal" elites looted the country and transferred vast fortunes to Western banks, to the profit of Western economies.

Harvard University, for example, is very belatedly investigating the conduct of professor Andrei Shleifer, who allegedly profited corruptly from a U.S. government-sponsored Russian privatization project on which he was an advisor. Shleifer was long protected by Harvard President Lawrence Summers, who as President Clinton's Treasury secretary himself helped push Russia's monstrous variant of privatization. If U.S. scholars are — rightly — outraged by the Shleifer case, imagine how ordinary Russians feel.

As Shleifer’s name becomes shorthand among foreign policy observers for the West’s self-serving cynicism, watch for that Nobel Prize trajectory his colleagues in the Harvard economics department think he’s on to curve sharply down.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

UD Makes a Poem
Out of a News Article
In The Globe and Mail

"U.S. officials are calling the Thursday seizure of 671,000 tablets of ecstasy at the Washington-British Columbia border part of an increasing new smuggling problem.

"The ecstasy is significant," said Mike Milne, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "The marijuana . . . we've just kind of gotten used to that over the last few years.

"The new trend we're seeing up in western Washington coming down from British Columbia is a rise in ecstasy over the last few years. It's just grown in leaps and bounds," Mr. Milne said Friday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized 210 kilograms of the drug as well as 375 kilograms of marijuana as part of a routine check Thursday night at Blaine, Wash., 40 kilometres southeast of Vancouver.

The drugs were found in 21 drums stashed among a total of 128 drums in a truck with Canadian licence plates. The manifest recorded the cargo as shredded scrap plastic.

While the truck driver and passenger were briefly detained, they were later released. No charges have been laid yet, Mr. Milne said.

Officers became suspicious after doing a gamma ray scan of the truck and ordered it to a loading dock for a complete examination. During that search, officers found the drugs.

"They were in bags inside the drums," Mr. Milne said. "Some of them were hockey bags, some of them were not concealed at all."

Lynn Gardner, an official with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, called the seizure "significant."

"Narcotics smuggling from British Columbia continues to be a major... enforcement priority. Our continued vigilance has once again paid off."

Mr. Milne said use of ecstasy in the state is a growing problem.

"Certainly we're seeing more and more of it being smuggled in from Western Canada. We're certainly on the lookout for it," he said.

Mr. Milne said U.S. officials are working with the RCMP to see if the drugs are being manufactured in Canada or being trans-shipped through Canada from other countries.

He referred questions about what is being done to combat that problem in Canada to the RCMP.

The RCMP could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

The smuggling of drugs across the border south of Vancouver has not been far from the news in the past year

In January, U.S. customs officers charged two 17-year-old Canadians after they seized 5.3 kilograms of ecstasy concealed on them when they tried to cross the border in a vehicle.

The two male youths face state charges in Whatcom County.

Officers arrested the pair after examining the vehicle and doing personal searches.

And in a story that made news around the world, border officials found a drug tunnel running from a Vancouver suburb into Washington state.

The last of three men charged with digging the first sophisticated drug-smuggling tunnel under the U.S.-Canadian border pleaded guilty two weeks ago.

Timothy Woo faces at least five years in prison and a maximum fine of $2-million (U.S.) when he is sentenced for conspiracy to smuggle marijuana, as do Francis Devandra Raj and Jonathan Valenzuela, who previously entered guilty pleas.

The Surrey, B.C. men were arrested last July.

Authorities said they had just finished the 109-metre tunnel north of Lynden, Wash., which ran from the living room of a home on the U.S. side to a boarded-up Quonset hut on the Canadian side."


The Ecstasy

The ecstasy is significant.

As if tablature
On a manifest, recorded
As shredded scrap plastic,
Were suddenly gamma-rayed;

As if boarded up Quonset huts,
Running over drug tunnels
For Canadian transshipments,
Opened, under continued vigilance.

It’s just grown
In leaps and bounds
Over the last
Few years.
I’ve Never Had Anything
Handed to Me in My Life.
(Except Full Tuition)

'Gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos, who recently came under fire from his own sister for calling himself a self-made man, is now taking back a statement he made on his Web site that he paid his own way through college.

The official bio on Mihos’s campaign Web site, originally contained the following sentence about the Stonehill College grad: “Christy paid his way through college by playing the saxophone, bass guitar, clarinet, and bouzouki (a long-necked mandolin) at Greek weddings.”

But sometime this month, the online bio for Mihos, a millionaire convenience store magnate who recently launched his official bid for the Corner Office as an independent,was amended, and the sentence was taken out.

Yesterday, Mihos told the Herald the sentence was axed because it is not true.

“Like many college students, my parents paid my tuition, and I am eternally grateful for it,” Mihos told the Herald. “I did have some part-time jobs while at school, and that’s where I got some of my spending money.”

Last month, Mihos’ sister Marlene Mihos Bucuvalas contacted the Herald to blast Mihos after reading her brother’s quote: “I’ve never had anything handed to me in my life.”

“We were all given things,” Mihos Bucuvalas said, adding that their father, Peter Mihos, gave his three children proceeds from real estate sales and gifted ownership of Christy’s Markets to his two sons. “My parents did so much for us.”'


Friday, March 17, 2006

A Quieter Benjamin Ladner Story…

…has been brewing at Texas Southern University, which has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country, and where officials have known for some time that the president was misappropriating funds. They didn’t know to what extent, however, and they’ve been moving cautiously, as they should.

But with the resignation of the university chief financial officer, who turns out to have been “convicted nine times on misdemeanor charges of writing bad checks” (don’t they check police records before they hire highly placed people at TSU?), and with new revelations of misbehavior, the regents, reports the Houston Chronicle, have acted:

TSU regents placed President Priscilla Slade on paid leave after a nine-hour private meeting Thursday and asked attorneys to expand their investigation of her spending.

Slade is expected to remain on paid leave at least until May 5, the next regularly scheduled Texas Southern University board meeting. In the interim, the Bracewell & Giuliani law firm's investigation that was limited to her spending $85,000 furnishing and $138,159 landscaping her new home is being broadened to other purchases Slade made with university money.

…TSU leaders will also hire a state auditor for a full external look at the school's finances, officials said.

No interim president was named Thursday, but the board appointed a four-member administrative team to sign off on TSU expenditures.

Both Slade and regents refused to comment on the announcements or Thursday's lengthy discussion, which included a preliminary report from Bracewell & Giuliani on how Slade spent school money on furniture, landscaping, audio-visual equipment and a security system for her Memorial Park-area home.

The property, located on a 17,675-square-foot lot on Terrace Drive, was worth $424,000 last year when it was just a vacant lot, according to tax records.

Slade repaid the landscaping bill after regents questioned the expense. She has said the university mistakenly paid the bill without her knowledge. (Would that have been when the bad check writer was CFO?)

Credit card statements released last month showed Slade spent $94,000 on meals, hotel rooms, event tickets and other entertainment-related expenses last year — nearly double the amount allowed by her employment contract.

In her seventh year as TSU president, Slade earns a base salary of $250,000 a year. She also received a $14,400 a year car allowance and $48,000 a year for housing expenses.

…Several regents have already been called in for questioning by the Harris County District Attorney's Office, which is conducting a criminal investigation that could take months.

…"That money could have been used to develop students better," [one student] said. "This administration has its priorities in the wrong places. This administration has its priorities in landscaping and furniture."
But Don’t Listen To Me.
Listen to Someone Who’s There.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

“Not only are we in Division I, but probably over the next 12 months, we’ll be in a conference.”
– [Athletic Director] Walt Bowman, January 2001

Ah, Walt. Your mailing address always was Somewhere Over The Rainbow, USA.

You spun your fantasies and fed us your cotton candy and curled your upper lip at all the sober-sides who tried to tell you that, on the far side of cotton candy, you’ll generally find the mother of all bellyaches.

None of it mattered, as far as you were concerned. It was so much background noise in the headlong rush to take IPFW Division I.

“Sure they have some concerns,” you said airily that day five years ago, before traipsing off into more reveries about rivers of money and conferences lining up like eager suitors.

“And while I understand their concerns, I don’t think they’ve paid enough attention to what we’re doing here.”

“They” being the Budgetary Affairs Subcommittee at [Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne].

The concerns being that IPFW needed to take a step back and draw a deep breath before plunging headfirst into Division I, because the money wasn’t there to do it.

Bowman, the athletic director at the time, all but laughed.

God bless you, Walt. But you had a pixie’s grasp on reality then, and nothing that’s happened since has done anything to alter that perception.

And so when it came out this week that IPFW is spending almost twice as much on D-I athletics as was originally projected, prompting a vote from the Faculty Senate to discuss … well, something, at some point … it did not exactly come as news. Unless you count as news that business about the Titanic.

I heard it hit an iceberg. And sank.

“Most universities don’t make money off athletics, and IPFW is no exception,” Brian Fife, chairman of the BAS, said this week, stating the obvious.

Well, duh. The lower tiers of Division I, after all, are stuffed with schools that, having jumped in with visions of March sugar plums dancing in their heads, are now backstroking in red ink. And IPFW was somehow supposed to be different? Particularly when it took the plunge without a conference?

…So what happens next?

Well, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, that’s for sure. Brian Fife suggested this week the Faculty Senate might decide that IPFW needs to get out of Division I, but that’s not going to happen.
Book Burning

'Rioters [in Paris today] set fire to a bookshop and destroyed the terrace of a café in the square in front of the Sorbonne University in the Latin Quarter.'
UD’s Friend,
Diploma Mill Expert
George Gollin…

…reports in an email (I’ll try to find a newspaper article to link to it later) that Wyoming

has passed ‘AN ACT relating to private school licensing…’ The vote was strongly in favor of the bill: 51 for, 7 against in the House and 27 for, 3 against in the Senate. It was signed by the governor a few days ago.

As I understand it, the bill requires a post-secondary institution in Wyoming and/or granting degrees to Wyoming citizens to be accredited, or to be a candidate for accreditation. I believe the exemption for religious schools only permits them to offer degrees in theological subjects.

This is an important step on the way back to educational self-respect for a state that has been a notorious diploma mill enabler.

I’m a wee bit worried about that exemption for religious schools and theological subjects, since it’s easy to rejigger your scam toward theosophy, theocentrism, theism, teaism, tzeism, and totemic thomism.
What the
Cutting Edge
Is Up To

Techno-edu-crats, with their powerpointed classrooms, ipodded lectures, computer-mediated faculty-student interactions, and expensive faculty training seminars in how to use all this shit, might want to take a gander at today’s New York Times for… the Next Big Thing!

Gotta keep up, after all; your competition may be on to some new thing that’s giving them an edge in the admissions game… there’s always an innovation coming down the pike…

So, here’s the headline:


The article notes “a renewed interest in spoken-word events, lectures, debates, readings and panel discussions, in many corners of the city, from university auditoriums to the 92nd Street Y…” Huge crowds are showing up. One observer says: “There is a kind of authenticity about having a living writer or artist in front of you.” In an age of “electronic and tv and visual media,” says another, “it’s a way to feel you are actually in touch with these ideas and these figures.”

A spoken-word event is also “a symbiosis between performer and audience, with the performer nourished and encouraged by sometimes invisible cues of posture and attitude from those in the crowd.” The director of public programs for the New York Public Library comments that direct engagement “trigger[s] people’s imagination…[It’s] the life of the mind. When you come into contact with a great idea, it can change your life.”

Difficult to picture? Here’s how it looks in action:

We see:

1.) a human being
2.) paper
3.) a lectern
4.) a light to illuminate the paper
5.) a small audience
6.) an unobtrusive microphone.

Now, out in the heartland you might not be ready for what these New York sophisticates are up to. UD understands that avant-gardisms can take awhile to make their way to Moline. She only means to signal her readers outside the go-go mid-Atlantic region to get ready.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

UD Says Name it After the
Chief Financial Officer:
Pfutzenreuter Stadium

From the Star Tribune:

Momentum may be building to undo plans for TCF Financial Corp. to have a naming rights agreement for a new on-campus football stadium at the University of Minnesota.

State Senate leaders have introduced a bill that would prohibit the university from using private money for the $248 million stadium if the donors are allowed to determine the stadium's name, a move that could unravel the stadium's financing.

A year ago, university officials announced that they had reached an agreement with TCF that, over 25 years, would bring $35 million from the bank in exchange for naming the facility "TCF Bank Stadium." (Has a nice ring to it, no?)

But Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said that the stadium's fortunes were being hurt because legislators were privately uncomfortable with the TCF agreement and that the stadium ought to be entirely funded with public money. Pogemiller is being joined by Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar. (Goddamn Minnesota socialists.)

Rep. Ron Abrams, R-Minnetonka, who sponsored the university's stadium proposal, said that while he does not support Pogemiller, the issue is dividing legislators. Abrams said the university's School of Management is named for the late Curt Carlson, the Carlson Companies' founder.

"Who do you think that was named after, or which companies were involved there?" Abrams said.

Pogemiller said the stadium's naming agreement, however, takes the issue a step too far.

"Naming a public facility in a business deal after a private corporation -- I do believe that's a problem," he said. A plan to charge students a fee to help fund the stadium, along with the naming rights agreement, were the two provisions "in the way" of approving the plan, he said. (Ah yes. The student athletics fee.)

"Nothing is happening on the stadium," Pogemiller said. "They don't have anything going right now."

Though university officials said the bills do not yet appear to have widespread backing, they acknowledged that the proposals could insert a major complication into the stadium's chances this session.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university's chief financial officer, said the university is concerned that the proposals would not only jeopardize financing for the stadium, but also would have a chilling affect (the writer means “effect”) on other attempts to obtain corporate and philanthropic contributions.

"We're a little nervous," added Pfutzenreuter, who said legislative opposition so far is confined to "a pocket here, a pocket [there]."

"We still absolutely believe that the plan we have is the best one," he said.

TCF spokesman Jason Korstange said that the company will not get involved in the debate and that there is no indication it is being driven by political opposition to TCF Chairman Bill Cooper, one of the state's most influential Republicans and a former state party chairman. "We just hold to that commitment," he said. "Quite frankly, it is the university's deal."

For now, it may be difficult to determine just how critical the issue may become.

"I think a lot of other legislators are quietly uncomfortable with that kind of stuff," said Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, who said he intends to introduce language on the House floor asking that the naming rights agreement be eliminated from the plan. "I'm not sure if I am going to vote for [a stadium] with a corporate name on it."

Under the university's proposal, the 50,000-seat stadium would be built with $99 million in state money and $149 million raised by the university. Of the $149 million, university officials said that they have secured $53 million in corporate and philanthropic contributions and that they would get another $53 million from a plan to charge students $50 a semester in fees to support the project. Once state funds are committed, Pfutzenreuter said, the university will seek the remaining $43 million from private donors. (A bit vague that, eh? Seek the remaining 43 mill from private donors? What happens to the student fees if that doesn’t work out?)

Abrams said he plans to push the stadium proposal forward, but acknowledged that critics are "grabbing hold of" the student-fee and naming-rights provisions. "It's going to be a debate that we're going to have," he said.

At the Capitol

On Tuesday, the university's challenges in getting the stadium approved were on display at a meeting of the House Capital Investment Committee. Chairman Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, said that the university is not making its priorities clear and that it is trying instead to separate the stadium from its other academic-related building requests.

University President Robert Bruininks defended the separation. "I would urge this state not to make it a choice between academic and nonacademic priorities." (And why not?)

Dorman said he, too, has problems with the naming rights agreement. "The more I look at it, the less I like the plan," he said of the overall stadium proposal. "It's starting to look like there's more and more problems with the way it was configured."
Evergreen v. Ivy

Intriguing little story this morning on NPR about Loren Pope, whose book, Colleges That Change Lives, has grown enormously in appeal year by year.

You can see why. In an American college story dominated by lumbering Ivies like Harvard, whose anal hoarding of billions of endowment dollars doesn’t seem to have generated a satisfying liberal arts education for its students, Pope brings to light more agile places with better student/teacher ratios and higher levels of student satisfaction: Reed, Antioch, Grinnell, Goucher (UD, you may recall, spent one horrific year at Goucher - but that was when it was a women’s college), St John’s College Annapolis and Santa Fe (a perennial favorite of UD’s, who likes to visit the nearby Annapolis campus), Beloit, and others.

The NPR piece focused on Evergreen State College, which has 3,000 feet of beachfront…

As more and more Americans realize how many excellent colleges there are - many of them in settings more inspiring than New Haven - the Ivies run the risk of becoming drab asylums for the status-obsessed.
Boone State’s…

…been following the OSU story too, of course.


From this morning's Inside Higher Ed:

Harvard University has a $25 billion endowment and in 2003-4, only 6 percent of its undergraduates were of sufficiently modest means to qualify for Pell Grants. While Pell eligibility varies based on a number of factors, only 5 percent of Harvard undergraduates that year came from families with incomes less than $30,000.

At Trinity University, in Washington, there’s a lot less money in the bank — but a much larger share of students are getting Pell Grants. The endowment is about $9 million. In 2003-4, fully half of Trinity’s students were poor enough for Pell Grants, and 26 percent came from families with incomes less than $30,000.

If the comparison makes anyone in Cambridge squeamish (or just has someone objecting to the comparison’s fairness), that’s precisely the point of a new Web site, Economic Diversity of Colleges

…[T]he new data drive home that many of the most prestigious and most wealthy colleges in the country — public and private — aren’t necessarily the leaders when it comes to educating low-income students…

…Patricia McGuire, the president of Trinity, says that she thinks “it’s shameful” that the wealthiest institutions in the United States aren’t educating more low-income students. “They make the big headlines when they drop the loan requirements for students, but that’s a drop in the bucket, considering their condition,” she said.
I cain’t say no!

Dear Ma:

Oklahoma State done asked me for more money for my ticket to Cowboys games… ‘N here I thought ol’ Boone’s billion’s ‘d make things easier for us fans!

I know you're proud I graduated from OSU and learned so much and all, and I sure do like to show school spirit by going to Cowboys games. But guess how much it’s gonna cost me now?

Season tickets are up 27 percent. Yeah, you read that right. Folks in the premium seats gotta double their donations.

I been reading what Mike Holder - he’s athletic director - been saying, and I’m doing my damnedest to understand it. First of all, turns out Boone’s $165 million is just for facilities:

Pickens recently donated $165 million to renovate the football stadium and facilities for other sports, but Holder said the day-to-day operation is the burden of other supporters.

"Facilities is one part of the puzzle," Holder said. "The other part is an operating budget. That's the responsibility of every fan and supporter we've got.”

Every fan and supporter we’ve got! Everybody’s gotta do his share! Ok, OK! … But lookee here:

Donors wanting football tickets will face much of the cost. For box seats at Boone Pickens Stadium, annual donations will be $2,500, up from $1,000 last season. Donations for seats between the 40-yard-lines increase from $500 to $800 per ticket. Overall cost for a seat on the 20-yard-line, including a $25 increase for donations from $100 to $125, go from $356 to $445.

And for the first time, lower level seats between the goal line and 20-yard line require a $100 donation.

Shit that’s a lot of money. And you know, we ain’t stupid. Like, a lotta people asked questions about this:

"The majority of people we ran this past asked why," said Joe Muller, associate athletic director for development and external affairs.

Mr. Muller explained, Ma, that we gotta stay competitive, so… ok, OK! Plus the head of the regents said, "It's all part of the business side of athletics. No one is doing this to take advantage of people,” which, uh, okay!… But did you know, Ma, that “The athletic department does not have to get the regents approval to increase ticket prices.”? I didn’t know that. I mean, turns out these guys don’t have any oversight. They can just do whatever the hell they want without anybody’s approval at the university… like, they’re totally independent of the university… But okay… OK! OK! Cowboys UP!

Did you know the Cowboys “didn't sell out any of [their] six football games" last season? A big ol’ state university that loves its boys so much and they can’t even fill the stadium once?

Maybe that’s because the team sucks.

So bottom line is our team sucks, tickets and donations are through the fucking roof, and we’re idiots.

Looks like I’m gonna have to get more wasted than usual at the next game.

Your Son
Dean Bites Man

Never get between a drunk and his car.

A good Samaritan learned this lesson the hard way the other day when he tried to keep a sloshed school of ed dean from getting back behind the wheel:

EVANSVILLE, Ind. --Police charged a university official after he allegedly bit a man in the calf when the man stopped to help him after a car accident.

Robert E. Mays, 64, an associate dean at the University of Southern Indiana, was charged with battery and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. He was released from Vanderburgh County jail on a $100 bond.

…Mays was driving on U.S. 41 in northern Evansville Tuesday night when he hit a vehicle in front of him, according to police reports. No one was injured in the wreck.

A passer-by who stopped to check on Mays tried to stop him from returning to his car.

Mays then bent down and bit the man's calf, leaving a bruise and teeth marks, police said.

Police said Mays refused to take a breath test.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Jonathan Zimmerman in the Christian Science Monitor [with UD’s parenthetical comments]

Why did Larry Summers get forced out of the Harvard presidency? There were many reasons, starting with Mr. Summers's impolitic remarks about women's ability in the sciences. He also annoyed the faculty by suggesting that they teach more introductory-level classes, not just narrow courses about their research specialities.

But as Mr. Summers must have known, mere exhortation will never change university teaching. Although we all give lip service to classroom instruction, there's simply no reward in it. Teaching doesn't advance your career.

In fact, it holds you back. As Penn State University scholar James Fairweather has shown, professors who spend more time on instruction-related activities make lower salaries. The more time you devote to research, meanwhile, the more money you earn. These numbers hold constant across different types of institutions, from so-called "Research-One" universities to liberal arts colleges.

And don't think teaching will help you win tenure, either. Indeed, young professors are often warned that a strong commitment to the classroom might actually hurt their chances for promotion. "If you excel at teaching, someone will undoubtedly think you're putting too much into your teaching and you should be doing research," one respondent told University of Southern California scholars William Tierney and Estela Bensimon, who have written about faculty evaluation. Privately, then, many faculty admit to neglecting their instruction. "I could be better," one young professor confessed, "but if I spent my time improving, I wouldn't get tenure."

Sure, we collect student evaluations and occasionally observe one another in the classroom. But nobody believes that these "measures" measure anything. A poor score on a student survey usually means you're a lousy instructor, but even the worst teachers can sometimes garner decent marks by going easy on the kids after midterms. And faculty almost always give each other rave reviews. [If he’s right about this, then the massive expansion of mandatory, lengthy, and often multiple end of semester teaching evaluation forms in most universities is a real scandal. And I think he’s right.]

"It's screwy," one professor confided to Tierney and Bensimon. "We're working as if this is Lake Woebegone - all the faculty are above average." Indeed, 90 percent of American college professors say they're better-than-average teachers. They can't all be right. [Every college and university department knows perfectly well which of its professors are bad teachers. It’s only a matter of having the will to do something about them -- dock them pay, take them out of the classroom and make them full-time administrators, attempt to improve their teaching (though UD thinks it unlikely that really bad teachers can be transformed into good ones), etc.]

How did we arrive at this strange state of affairs? The story begins about a century ago, with the creation of the modern American research university. Modeled largely after German universities, where many leading American educators had studied, these new institutions privileged original scholarship over teaching. "It is to the discoverers, in far greater measure than the transmitters, that the world is under obligation," declared a professor of Latin at the University of Chicago in 1902.

Some proponents stressed the social utility of new knowledge, which would help the United States improve health, housing, transportation, and more. Others celebrated scholarship for its own sake, not for any practical application. "Remember the research ideal, to keep it holy!" intoned another Chicago professor, echoing the sacred Jewish injunction about the Sabbath.

But to attract students - and to pay the bills - scholars were still required to teach. Some professors happily accepted this duty; more often than not, however, they downplayed or ignored it. Asked what he would do with the undergraduates who had gathered in his laboratory for instruction, one Johns Hopkins University professor quipped, "I shall neglect them."

He was joking, of course, but only in part. And the joke will continue until we devise new ways to evaluate and reward teaching. [Getting into bs territory here.] As my New York University colleague Ken Bain has written, all professors should have to "construct an argument" for their teaching - just as they do for their scholarship. [This kind of exercise is doomed to doltish ed school levels of discourse.] This argument would explain the objectives of their courses, the classroom strategies they use, the ways they measure student learning, and so on. [Objectives, strategies, measurement - I know of no truly great professor who thinks or teaches like this, no great course that can be reduced to this.] Like any good argument, it would draw from evidence gathered during the course: syllabi, tests, and student comments. [This is a recipe for turning your best, most independent teachers into file-cabinet bureaucrats.]

Second, tenure committees need to make such evaluations matter. In my 15 years as a professor, I've met many good teachers who were denied tenure for lack of scholarship. But I've never encountered a good scholar who didn't get tenure because he or she couldn't teach.

Over the past hundred years, universities have devised intricate peer-review systems to judge scholarship. [These are often themselves bogus, based on simple article and book and grant counting. Do you think anyone actually read what Ward Churchill published, or took note of the quality of his publishers?] Yet we still don't have a serious method to judge - or to reward - our work in the classroom. [Actually, we’re beginning to. Online reviews look more and more attractive. You don’t need all that paper-pushing, easy to distort bullshit about incomes and inflows. Just have advisors chat with students on occasion about their professors, and keep checking things like Rate My Professors.] And until that changes, nobody will be able to improve college teaching. Not even the president of Harvard.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

“The university spent about $1 million
supporting the athletic program in 2004-05
when it initially projected spending nothing.”

Hm. Now you know I’m no good at math, but there’s a bracing simplicity to these numbers, from the Senate Budgetary Affairs Subcommittee at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Zero. One million. Nothing. Something.

What went wrong, I wonder?
University of Wexford Grads -
They’re Everywhere!

'A self-described sentencing expert who claimed to be a consultant for numerous Center City criminal-defense lawyers was arrested yesterday after a Philadelphia grand jury accused him of defrauding the city courts out of almost $400,000.

District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham said Richard Gottfried and three alleged accomplices preyed on the lax procedures of some lawyers and city judges to bill the courts for presentencing investigations and other consulting work he never performed.

Abraham called Gottfried, 49, "the great pretender," alleging that he used a "diploma mill" to provide a résumé that included a purported law degree and state psychologist license.

The investigating grand jury issued a presentment recommending that Gottfried be charged with corrupt organizations, forgery, criminal conspiracy, theft by deception, tampering with public records, and bribery.

…According to the grand jury's report and presentment, Gottfried first appeared in Philadelphia in about August 2000 and began contacting criminal-defense lawyers in Center City offering his services as a "sentencing mitigation specialist" who could perform presentence investigations or testify as an expert at sentencing.

Within a year, the grand jury reported, Gottfried began getting work, especially from lawyers with court appointments to represent indigent defendants. Gottfried obtained a city business-privilege license and a tax account as a mitigation specialist.

In December 2001, the grand jury found, Gottfried leased an office at 924-28 Cherry St. already used by two defense lawyers and Miller, the criminal investigator.

One of the lawyers, Fred Harrison, retained Gottfried in March 2002 for a capital murder case. But before Gottfried could testify, the grand jury found, the prosecutor researching the backgrounds of defense witnesses discovered that Gottfried's law degree from the University of Wexford was bogus; the university was a mail-order diploma mill.'

Monday, March 13, 2006


There’s a little news meme in Michigan, so far picked up only by local media, about the waste and expense of sabbaticals for university professors.

Every six or seven years, professors can apply to take a semester or a year off. Usually the deal is that they’ll continue to get full salary for a semester sabbatical, or, if they want the whole year, they’ll be given around ½ salary.

Headlined “Professors Paid Not to Teach,” the article that’s been picked up around the state goes like this:

Michigan universities paid more than 500 professors $23.2 million to be absent from the classroom during the 2004-05 school year, even as the state's economy nosedived and parents and students struggled to pay double-digit tuition hikes.

And lax systems are failing to make sure professors use their sabbaticals -- paid time off intended for research, expanding skills and recharging mental batteries -- in ways that benefit universities and students.

Critics question the value of sabbaticals as college affordability recedes and professors already are relieved of many routine tasks by graduate students and other assistants.

"Why do people in higher ed have to recharge their batteries when people almost nowhere else in the world recharge them?" asked Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University and author of the book, "Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much."

At Michigan's 13 public universities, 558 full-time faculty members received paid sabbaticals in 2004-05, a Detroit News analysis found. That's about 4.4 percent of full-time instructors.

The $23.2 million cost -- calculated using sabbatical and pay records The News obtained under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act -- represents only the salaries paid to professors while they were away from their jobs. When health insurance and other benefits are included, the cost of the sabbaticals increases to about $31 million.

The $31 million, which does not include the cost of temporary instructors frequently hired to fill in for absent professors, represents less than 1 percent of the 13 universities' 2004-05 general fund expenditures of $3.9 billion.

But Michigan's cash-strapped colleges socked students with tuition and fee hikes this year of between 7.5 percent and 19 percent. The schools blamed cuts in state funding.

Sabbaticals are approved time away from the university, typically used to conduct research, publish books and articles and upgrade skills. Proponents say they allow professors to gain fresh insights they share with students, and are critical to attracting and retaining top-flight professors and researchers.

But critics say professors typically work only nine to 10 months per year, their teaching loads have dropped dramatically since the 1960s and their schedules already allow ample time to conduct most research.

There’s a reasonable case to be made against sabbaticals, and the writer’s doing a pretty good job of that here. When you add unpaid leave time off and paid sabbatical time off to low course loads (two courses a semester or fewer) plus free summers, you get a hard to justify system. Not all professors of course enjoy quite this list of goodies, but many do. When unpopular university presidents like Larry Summers talk about the need for faculty to teach more, it’s this sort of picture they often have in mind.

What makes it even more difficult to justify sabbaticals, it seems to me, is the obsolescence of the professor-as-intellectual, the professor as essentially a monkish pensive type. Traditionally, the professor was not a publications-generating, conference-organizing, grants-getting, newspaper-quote-issuing dervish. She was intended to do the world’s slow and careful thinking for it, and her primary function was to share the fruits of that thinking with students and colleagues within the walls of the university.

No one questions the need for contemplatives to sit atop mountains and reflect to no particular end. But everyone questions the need of non-reflective careerists to reflect. To the extent that university professors look more like non-reflective careerists than old-fashioned contemplatives, they can expect people to wonder why they get to drift off to subsidized wanderjahren.
The Way Things Work

From CATO:

College sports… cost a lot, and when it comes to vying for the money needed to keep big-time athletes in whirlpools, the field is slanted heavily toward state schools. This is especially true in football, where only sixteen of the 117 schools in Division I-A — college football's highest level — are private.

Most private schools simply cannot afford the multiple millions it takes to pay for the equipment, 80-plus scholarships, and six-figure (or higher) coaches' salaries needed to compete on the highest level.

Unfortunately, success in football leads to dominance in lots of other sports because football offers a big profit, a rarity in intercollegiate athletics. The result is that mammoth, football-playing public schools are increasingly dictating terms in all Division I sports, including basketball, the only other profit-maker.

…[S]tate universities have much bigger student bodies — and therefore alumni bases and football crowds — than private schools, in large part because taxpayers absorb so much of their costs. So megaversities like Florida State and the University of Georgia have more than 26,000 undergraduates, while private schools like Duke and Vanderbilt have only about 6,000.

But having the size necessary to fill stadiums and arenas with tens-of-thousands of fans is just the start of state schools' advantage. Being able to build palatial stadia is next.

To be fair, much of the funding for state megaversities' facilities comes from student fees and private sources. But don't be fooled. Money is fungible, so as a practical matter taxpayers are subsidizing everything on state university campuses. Students are able to afford heftier athletics fees, for instance, because taxpayers are handling so much of kids' educational costs. Similarly, private donors are able to concentrate resources on athletics because taxpayers are covering academic needs.

Even with all these hidden advantages, though, states still sometimes decide to put taxpayer dollars directly into college sports. The state of Pennsylvania, for example, recently spent $53 million to help build a 12,500-seat basketball arena at the University of Pittsburgh. And don't look now, Minnesotans, but Golden Gopher football boosters are lobbying the state to take $100 million from you to help build them a new football stadium.

The fleecing of taxpayers for sports, of course, is the most disgusting part of this story. But for thousands of small schools and their fans the tale is also sad because, for them, the joy of intercollegiate athletics is slowly being destroyed by megaversities that take public dollars to drive the little guys off the courts and fields.

Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford, lamenting the plight of small Catholic colleges, recently captured that feeling of loss. Though long ago driven out of football, he wrote, until just a few decades ago small schools were still able to compete on a level basketball court. But then "the NCAA expanded its field, big television money came in, and large state institutions that had never cared much for basketball wanted a bite out of the apple."

Now, "even the richest Catholic colleges have trouble competing for the best players when the big-time public schools can offer state-of-the-art facilities, special team dorms, even chartered game flights. Frankly, it's taken a lot of fun out of college basketball."
Mr. Jacobs Refiles.
By Way of a Poem.

From this morning’s New York Times:

With plans calling for almost 39,000 square feet in the main building, plus an 1,165-square-foot pool house, the home that Joseph M. Jacobs, a 53-year-old hedge fund manager, wants to build for his family on 11 acres in the Conyers Farm section of town would be twice the size of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch and would top the Greenwich mansion occupied by Leona Helmsley, the self-appointed queen of a real estate empire.

Whether the Jacobses' homestead turns out to be the town's largest depends on how one measures. (Be glad you're not the tax assessor.) Do finished basements count? What about guest cottages, barns and gazebos? Should ice rinks and twenty-car garages count as much as other structures?

Still, the unbuilt house has come under fire from neighbors whose own homes easily surpass the 10,000-square-foot mark. They say there is insufficient foliage to screen the mansion from the road. Another complaint is that the planned facade stretches about 220 feet from end to end.

"It's just a huge departure," said George James, a next-door neighbor who told the town planning and zoning commission in December that the new palazzo-style home would undercut the "rural character" he has worked hard to preserve in the century-old farmhouse he owns near the Jacobses' property line. Mr. James also owns a much newer 20,000-square-foot mansion behind the farmhouse, when enclosed areas are counted.

Barry Hawkins, the general counsel for the Conyers Farm homeowners' association, which is made up of the development's residents, told town officials at that meeting that other homeowners also had problems with the proposal. "It is too large, it is too in-your-face, it is too visible," he said.

…Roger J. Pearson, a former first selectman of Greenwich, offered some support for the house. In a letter to town officials, he expressed hope that the furor was not built on "manufactured issues to suit the purposes of neighbors who upon completion of their own amply sized residences become instant conservationists."

…[Another resident], whose 31,600 square feet of living space in the north part of Greenwich is one of the largest homes on the tax rolls, has sparred occasionally with neighbors, but backed down last fall when they objected to his plan to encase his tennis court in a bubble for year-round use.

But the Jacobses have inspired fierce opposition.

Town records show the couple downsized four kitchens and two laundries that town officials deemed excessive and redesigned a drainage system. The couple had a harder time showing that the proposed septic system could handle an 11-bedroom main house and secondary structures.

They notified Ms. Fox's office on Feb. 13 that they were temporarily withdrawing their request for a special permit, required when a planned structure exceeds 150,000 cubic feet, as theirs does, to address the concerns of town officials. "I do intend to refile," Mr. Jacobs said on Friday.

One thing the couple has not done so far is shrink the plans for the house, which now includes his-and-her dressing suites; a five-car garage; a home theater; a staff lounge; and most spectacularly, a 3,600-square-foot indoor gym, complete with its own squash court, golf simulator, massage room, beauty parlor and indoor pool, with views of a sunken garden.

The current design may make it hard for them to win the consent they need from the Conyers Farm homeowners association, which represents members of the 1,500-acre development, built on a former dairy farm that straddles the Connecticut-New York border. Conyers Farm has long had extensive guidelines, backed up by restrictions in the landowners' deeds, aimed at maintaining the development's country look. Lots in Conyers Farm must be 10 acres or more. Glimpses of homes and stables are all that should be visible from the road.

Sentries limit access to all but a few of the 70 or so homes that make up the development.

…Gigi Mahon-Theobald, a neighbor who presides over the planning and architectural review committee of the homeowners' association, said her group advised the Jacobses to remove the side wings or wrap them behind the house to minimize what would be visible from the road and polo fields. On Friday, Mr. Jacobs said, "Trust me, it won't work."

He said he wanted a home that would be suitable for entertaining and have room for his children's friends and his future grandchildren to sleep over. "We have one guest room," he said of his current 5-bedroom house. "I go down in the morning and there's people sleeping on sofas."

Mrs. Mahon-Theobald said the association recognized that the Jacobses paid $5.5 million for their lot and it was "not in the business of trying to turn people down." But she did not recall a project in Conyers Farm "that aroused anywhere near the depth of passion really that this one has. It's really kind of an uproar."

Those sentiments were on display at the December meeting of the planning and zoning commission. There, Charles Campbell, Jr., Mr. James's lawyer, ridiculed claims made by Mr. Jacobs's lawyer, Thomas Heagney, that three of the four kitchens were actually kitchenettes and could be further downsized into wet bars.

"I doubt that Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs are going to want their five live-in staff people to have coffee with them in the main breakfast room down on the main floor," Mr. Campbell said.

Frank Farricker, a commissioner of planning and zoning, marveled, "Are there really four kitchens in the house?"

"Depends on how you're defining a kitchen," Mr. Heagney replied.


To Greenwich, From J.M. Jacobs

Let us not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments! Wealth is not wealth
Which falters when it escalation finds,
Or fails its tennis courts to enbubble:
No! 'tis an ever-fixed indicator,
And e’en four kitchens is not too much trouble;
It is the star to every golf simulator,
Whose worth exceeds what measures might be taken.
Twice the size of Neverland, it beguiles the assessors
Who with their mystic numerals come;
Its long façade makes enviers of lessers
Whose real estate dominance it dooms.

If this be error and the town finds guilt
My legal counsel assures me it’ll still get built.
Monday Morning Grab Bag

Just a spark of this and a spark of that to get our engines purring…

!!! The University of North Texas has a curious department of counseling, featuring a professor who does healing séances:

LEWISVILLE -- In what can only be briefly described as a seance, about a dozen people gathered at a dimly lit church and tried to conjure up the dead. One saw visions of a man without a face; another felt a dead girl come into the room and try to tell her grieving mother that everything is all right.

The group delving into this paranormal realm was led by a University of North Texas tenured professor and her graduate students, who believe that ghosts don't haunt, they heal.

Counseling professor Jan Holden facilitates these "induced after-death communications," or IADCs, and said she has seen them help people deal with the loss of loved ones. She gives a sympathetic ear to people who say the dead have come back to them.

"There is just no basis to say this is not a legitimate area of research. Thousands of people have had after-death communications, and probably what's most hurtful is a culture that doesn't prepare people for these experiences," said Holden, coordinator of the counseling program at UNT's College of Education. "I have no reason not to believe it's real."

But Holden, who has been at UNT since 1988, said she's more interested in the beneficial, therapeutic effects of IADCs than in ghost hunting.

Reaching a dead friend

Holden patiently watched and offered encouragement as one of her former graduate students led Elli Covelli into an IADC. The 54-year-old Dallas woman was trying to find out whether a friend, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, shot himself by accident or on purpose.

Covelli's eyes followed as Lisa Lane's hand moved slowly back and forth. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, just as Lane instructed, but nothing happened.

"He ain't here. There's nothing. I'm not getting anything," Covelli said. "It's going to be four years, and I don't have any answers."

They tried again. Nothing.

She tried several more times and started to see something.

An elevator took her up to a garden lush with purple flowers. There was a faceless man on a swing. Covelli believes it was her friend.

"I kind of think that was who was on the swing next to me because I got this warm, fuzzy feeling," she said….

!!! One of Professor Holden's
Departmental Colleagues:
Director, Center for Play Therapy
University of North Texas

!!! The field of psychology seems to attract strange people, like Professor Holden. Here’s another psych professor, a serial stalker at Kansas State:

A K-State psychology professor was arrested Thursday on charges of stalking a former member of the K-State track and field team and violating a protective order.

John Uhlarik, 63, was arrested at about 11 a.m. Thursday at his home, 2340 Park Drive. He was arrested on reports of continual intentional, malicious and repeated following or harassing of the victim, according to a release by the Riley County Police Department.
RCPD officers also served a search warrant at Uhlarik's home.

The protective order dates back to 2004 when Uhlarik was arrested for stalking the same victim at Ahearn Field House.

After the incident in 2004, Uhlarik was suspended with pay from teaching his classes at K-State for the remainder of spring 2004.

Stephen White, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the university is aware of the situation.

"We are assessing the situation and monitoring it as well," he said.

White would not comment on whether Uhlarik would be suspended again.

Uhlarik's bond was set at $5,000.

!!! A more routine university story this morning involves the president of a struggling public university hopping over to Harrisburg in a private plane -- to make the case for more state support:

Penn State President Graham Spanier traveled to Harrisburg last month to ask for higher state appropriations for the university.

Somehow he didn't get laughed out of the building after showing up in one of the university's $5 million planes.

What could possibly be more hypocritical than flying to the state capital in a private, university-funded plane and asking for increased appropriations?

Penn State is one of the least supported state-related institutions in Pennsylvania -- only about 10 percent of the university's total operating budget comes from state grants. This is miniscule, even for a state that ranks 45th in the nation in per capita support for higher education.

At the Feb. 28 hearing before the state Senate Appropriations Committee, representatives questioned Spanier about his extravagant mode of transportation.

The university's two Raytheon Beechcraft King Air B200s are paid for through the general budget, which is supported mostly by tuition and appropriations.

The maintenance and fuel for Spanier's planes cost $760,773 last year, according to a report the university provided to the state House Appropriations Committee.

Still more routine is this case of a local yokel with a fake degree:

A candidate for the board of selectmen is coming under fire by some who say he misled the public about his educational background.

Arthur Barnes, a former Salem fire chief, said yesterday he got a master's degree in business administration from Belford University in 2002 thinking it was a credible institution. The program, however, awards degrees online at a low price without completing any classes. It is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Web site — — offers master's degrees based on "life experience" for $479. Users are asked to submit their work experience on the Web to qualify for the degree. And if there is no work experience, they can still get a degree by finishing an online multiple-choice test.

The program even lets users choose their grade-point averages. A 3.0 GPA is free, but they can earn a 4.0 for an extra $75. The program also promises to ship the degrees out within a week.

Barnes said he went through the program after learning that his studies at the National Fire Academy could qualify him for the equivalent of a master's degree. At the time, he said, he thought Belford was credible and decided to go with it because of the low price.

Now, he said, he realizes the degree might be illegitimate, but his experience is enough to qualify him for a master's. He finished the executive fire officer program in 1998 and got an associate's degree from Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Mass., in 1976. He said he chose the Belford program in 2002, knowing that he'd be retiring from the department soon and wanted something to demonstrate his education that future recruiters could understand.

"If somebody wishes to discount the diploma ... that's fine, but the work that I did to earn a diploma was certainly legitimate," he said.

Stephen Campbell, an outgoing member of the budget committee, is one of Barnes' critics. He said, after looking at the Web site, that there was no way anybody could think the degrees are legitimate. Anyone who believes they are, he said, isn't qualified for the office.

"There is no one above the age of — let's be generous — 8 who didn't know what they were doing was wrong,' Campbell said. "No one thinks you can earn a master's degree for less than $500 in seven days, so Arthur Barnes is either not ready for the responsibilities of a selectman or he's making up stories."

Campbell said he got a master's in management from Purdue University in Indiana in 1981, after earning a bachelor's degree in political science in 1979. The bachelor's degree to 3 ½ years to earn, and the master's took two years, he said. He said he doesn't think Barnes' work at the fire academy qualifies him for a master's.

"I'm under no delusion that you need a college degree of any sort (to serve as a selectman)," Campbell said. "What I do require of the candidates is that they tell the truth."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Indiana University:
A Model of Public Higher Education
Almost Entirely Driven by a Basketball Team

From an Indiana newspaper:

...[T]he choice of basketball coach will determine not only the health of the men's basketball program, but of the entire IU athletic department--and to some extent the entire university--for decades to come.

…"At Indiana, basketball has been the driving force in terms of how much money has been generated," not only for the athletic department but for the university as a whole...

…There hasn't been much good news coming out of Indiana's athletic department recently. Three football coaches and three athletic directors in five years helped put the department in financial distress, and unrest has swirled around the men's basketball program since Bob Knight's firing in 2000.

It's difficult to draw a direct connection between those problems and overall giving to IU, in part because large, one-time contributions can skew the picture. But the university has seen annual contributions drop from $220 million in 2001 to $150 million in 2005.

Local IU alums say that for the giving tide to rise in Bloomington, the university must restore stability to the athletic department and the basketball program in particular.

…problems in the athletic department, particularly the basketball program, cast a pall over the entire university.

"The trauma around the whole Mike Davis situation detracts from what they're trying to do down there," said Stitle, whose family has attended IU for three generations. "It's always portrayed negatively. Never positively. I think that has a negative impact on the morale of the faculty and alumni."

"…Basketball is the lynchpin to everything at Indiana,” [comments one insider].

Today's New York Times:

A former top White House aide was arrested on Thursday in the Maryland suburbs on charges that he stole merchandise from a number of retailers, the police in Montgomery County, Md., said Friday.

The former aide, Claude A. Allen, 45, was President Bush's top domestic policy adviser until resigning last month. Known as a rising conservative star, he previously served as deputy secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, and in 2003 the White House announced its intention to nominate him to a seat on the federal appeals court based in Richmond, Va. Democrats raised questions about the nomination, and it never came to a vote.

The police said Mr. Allen was seen on Jan. 2 leaving a department store in Gaithersburg, Md., with merchandise for which he had not paid. He was apprehended by a store employee and issued a misdemeanor citation for theft, said Lt. Eric Burnett, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Police Department.

A statement issued on Friday by the police said store employees saw Mr. Allen fill a shopping bag with merchandise and put additional items into a shopping cart. He then sought, and received, a refund for some of the items and left the store without paying for others.

The Police Department said that as a result of an investigation it opened after the initial incident in January, it found that Mr. Allen had received refunds of more than $5,000 last year at stores like Target and Hecht's. Mr. Allen was arrested on Thursday and charged in connection with a series of allegedly fraudulent returns. The police said he was charged with a theft scheme over $500 and theft over $500.

"He would buy items, take them out to his car and return to the store with the receipt," the police said in the statement. "He would select the same items he had just purchased and then return them for a refund."

…Mr. Allen went to the White House after his nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stalled in the Senate. The nomination never came to a vote, in part because some Democrats raised questions about comments he had made in 1984, while working for Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina. He had been quoted as saying that Mr. Helms's opponent that year was vulnerable because his campaign could be "linked with the queers."
A Letter to the Washington Post

The fascinating front-page article on Omar Williams's undistinguished academic career ["A Player Rises Through the Cracks," March 5] before being accepted by George Washington University left one vital question unanswered: Precisely what courses has he taken at GW that have him on schedule to graduate in May? Given his lack of academic achievement before arriving at George Washington, and the time demands placed on him by its basketball program, it is difficult to believe that he could have successfully concluded any genuinely college-level course. It seems that the courses taken by many so-called student athletes at Division I schools are of precious little educational value and serve simply to ensure athletic eligibility.

The Drake Group is asking the same question, insisting that universities

...publiciz[e] what classes student-athletes [are] taking, their teachers and academic advisors, and their grades in those classes.

Basically, everything but the athlete’s name would be disclosed under The Drake Group’s vision. Refraining from naming names, [Executive Director B. David] Ridpath said, would make the focus on the institution, not the athlete.

“Even to some of the most jaded viewers of college athletics, the APR [Academic Progress Rate system] in principle and on the surface sounds like a really good idea,” Ridpath said. “What we’re not getting at is what is going on under the surface.”

The APR keeps track of athletes staying eligible and in school by way of a point system. A score of 925 is thought to translate to an appealing graduation rate.

Ridpath, though, said there was more to it, and references a recent Washington Post story regarding Omar Williams, a basketball standout at George Washington University.

Williams has maintained eligibility at the elite private institution and reportedly is set to graduate in May, despite not graduating from high school, earning no grades at three different prep schools and being the subject of numerous sources saying he has no interest in academics.

“How is he making it at a school like George Washington?” Ridpath said. “We want full transparency of what’s going on behind the scenes."

One thing about the behind the scenes thing : As a number of observers point out, NCAA sanctions single out poor corrupt universities and leave rich corrupt universities alone. The richer the university, the more personnel they can hire to contrive courses and grades and majors for players who need them. The poorer places, lacking the expensive smoke and mirrors, are more exposed.

There's so much to learn! The proper phrase is "bunny classes."
Diversity Plan De-Orwellianized

The University of Oregon has now seen reason and dropped the inane and pernicious phrase “cultural competency” from its latest diversity plan draft. And it’s given departments and programs much more freedom in thinking about how to broaden their faculties. Good.
Squalor at the Sorbonne

French students, many of whom share the national penchant for industrial violence, are currently trashing the Sorbonne. A philosophy student from Gabon puts it well: They have "taken the Sorbonne hostage for their cause."

Their cause is the expression of outrage over modest proposed changes in employment law that actually might make them susceptible to firing if they don't perform well. Because employers don't like the ridiculously restrictive French employment laws, they tend to avoid hiring people. The unemployment rate among young people in France is approaching 25%.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sued if you do,
Sued if you don't

Gotta say that even with insufficient information my sympathies so far are with my university. From today's Washington Post:

About 2 a.m. one sleepless night, sophomore Jordan Nott checked himself into George Washington University Hospital.

He was depressed, he said, and thinking about suicide.

Within a day and a half of arriving there, he got a letter from a GWU administrator saying his "endangering behavior" violated the code of student conduct. He faced possible suspension and expulsion from school, the letter said, unless he withdrew and deferred the charges while he got treatment.

In the meantime, he was barred from campus.

"It was like a stab in the back," he said. He felt they were telling him, "We're going to wipe our hands clean of you."

His response has college administrators around the country taking notice: Nott sued the university and individuals involved. The school violated federal law protecting Americans with disabilities, the complaint argues. The law covers mental as well as physical impairments.

In essence, it says the school betrayed him by sharing confidential treatment information and suspending him just when he most needed help.

In court documents filed this week, the university's attorneys defended the actions taken, denied that Nott was disabled and suggested that his conduct might bar his recovery. And they asked that the charges be dismissed for the individuals named -- mostly administrators and counselors. The university policies might seem impersonal, spokeswoman Tracy Schario said, but they are designed to keep both individuals and the community safe.

Suicidal students have always forced tough calls. But with shifting legal ground, growing threats of lawsuits and increasing numbers of troubled teenagers entering colleges, many administrators are even more worried about how to handle them.

For whatever reasons, GWU and NYU -- very similar institutions -- have in the last few years suffered a number of student suicides. I think it's safe to say that both institutions are pretty traumatized, both uncertain how to respond to what's happened.

And both must be aware of the drawn-out lawsuit at MIT, in which parents of a student there who killed herself sued the school for over $27.65 million because they claim staff overlooked her suicidal tendencies and failed to intervene. The parents lost the case, but it was enormously expensive and destructive, and other schools have taken note.
Same Shit:
Costs the School A Fortune,
No Real Penalty Imposed,
Nothing's Going to Change

So here's the background on big ol' "Boban" Savovic, who could neither write nor speak English but was moving very impressively through an academic career at Ohio State while playing on its basketball team, until his university-issued paper-writer/class-attender/player-impersonator complained she wasn't being paid enough. If she hadn't filed a lawsuit, little of the extensive criminality of Ohio's program (which the USA Today article I'm about to quote details) would have come to light, but, as in many complex illegal enterprises, you dislodge one little rock and a whole wall might come tumbling down...

'Ohio State was placed on three years' probation Friday for using an ineligible player, a ruling that wipes out records from four NCAA tournament appearances by the men's basketball team — including a trip to the 1999 Final Four.

...The Buckeyes won't be barred from postseason play as a result of using the ineligible player from 1999-2002 under former coach Jim O'Brien. However, the school will have to repay tournament revenues of about $800,000 for the four years in which Boban Savovic played. He received improper gifts, including housing and cash, from a booster.

Ohio State must [also] take down the 1999 Final Four banner which hangs from the rafters in Value City Arena.'

Taking down the banner. That's gotta hurt.

As for the $800,000, I'm sure OSU fans don't mind one bit coughing that up for the guys.
Balmy and beautiful... here in Foggy Bottom, even with ambulance and motorcade sirens, plus helicopters buzzing the White House. UD's about to meet her sainted Honors Seminar group (many students have already left GW for spring break, but these people are stuck with a once a week seminar) to talk about Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.

This post's by way of a place-holder: When I get back to Garrett Park, I'll write about the latest Diversity draft from the University of Oregon, a lawsuit recently filed against George Washington University which is attracting front-page interest in the Washington Post, and of course some college sports stuff.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

University of New Hampshire Sports II:
The More You Know,
The More There is to Love

From the Concord Monitor:

A group of University of New Hampshire students, parents and alumni gathered at the State House yesterday to ask Gov. John Lynch and lawmakers to do whatever possible to save the four varsity sports cut last month from the school's athletic department.

...Some alumni and students suspect that the university's plan to build a $25 million to $35 million football stadium "will distract the athletics department and will require even further cuts." Alumnus Brian Lucey, who grew up in Concord and graduated from UNH in 2000, called the plan "fiscally irresponsible."

"They want to build up their two main sports, basketball and football, into something bigger,"said Lucey, a former swimmer. "That may just not be possible."

Scarano has maintained that the money for the stadium is separate from the money for the sports teams.

Scarano gets points if this was said with a straight face.

Okay, so the last post was an extreme version of one way you could go with college athletics -- radical decoupling. As "superdestroyer" has already pointed out in a comment to that post, there are problems with that approach, mainly involving Title IX and equity issues. UD thinks these could probably be worked out in one way or another, with some tweaking and some changes in the initial idea, but in this post, she’d like to point out that the exact opposite approach - real integration of bigtime sports into the university as an academic institution - can also be made to work.

Consider Vanderbilt, as Bloomberg News does today.

Now, Vanderbilt’s down south with those big ol’ maniacs like T. Boone’s OSU and all, but its president says “he won't get in a spending war with the football powerhouses in his conference. As long as his teams are competitive on the field, and excelling academically, the goal has been accomplished. ‘Look, what we did [was] break all of the china, and that can really silence a room,' he says of the amazement that has greeted his initiatives. 'Athletics has always been about winning and tradition, right? But what I'm saying, is that there is another way.'"

Forgive my quoting at some length; much of this is in the details:

Vanderbilt University Chancellor Gordon Gee remembers the head-shaking and snickering. His wife, Constance, wondered if he'd gone nuts. The college's athletics director thought it was a gag, until Gee removed him.

Three years have passed since Gee stunned U.S. college sports by handing control of the Nashville, Tennessee, school's athletic department to academic administrators to rein in a sports culture he said was ``segregated'' from student life.

While no major U.S. school has followed Gee's lead, Vanderbilt's teams haven't drifted into oblivion. The football and men's basketball programs, though far from stellar, remain competitive in the vaunted Southeastern Conference. The Commodores' Class of 2009 baseball recruits was voted the best in the U.S. by Baseball America magazine.

Along the way, Gee's administrators have identified $1.5 million in annual sports savings.

``They thought I was crazy and wrote my obituary that very day,'' says Gee, 62, who has been chancellor since 2000. ``But we'd built up these little companies within our universities that no longer shared the values of the university anymore. It had to stop.''

On Sept. 9, 2003, Gee announced he was moving Vanderbilt's athletic department under the management of the Division of Student Life. Run by Vice Chancellor David Williams, 58, the division controlled fraternities and sororities, intramural sports and the student health center. Athletic Director Todd Turner was asked to become a special assistant to the chancellor; he eventually left.

…Gee, the former president at West Virginia University, Brown University, the University of Colorado and Ohio State University, said at the time that he took the radical step to eliminate the ``win-at-all-costs culture'' in college sports that was fueled by television contracts, alumni boosters and politicians. Athletics has to be more closely integrated into academic and student life, he said.

``We have created a culture, both on this campus and nationally, that is disconnected from our students, faculty and other constituents, where responsibility is diffuse, the potential for abuse considerable and the costs -- both financial and academic -- unsustainable,'' Gee said at the time.

Today, Vanderbilt doesn't contend that the move turned losers into winners. Still, Gee says colleges can keep athletics from becoming a commercial venture with only a tenuous link to higher education -- and still field strong teams.

Vanderbilt's teams are no embarrassment. In the 2002-2003 season, the Commodores finished the men's basketball season with 11 victories and 18 losses, and their average attendance at home games was 8,849. This season, they are 16-11 and have an average attendance of 11,867.

NFL Draft Pick

The football team was 2-10 in 2002 with an average home attendance of 25,837. This past season, they upset the University of Tennessee for the first time in 30 years and finished the year 5-6 with an average attendance of 36,031. Quarterback Jay Cutler will be picked in the first round of next month's National Football League draft, according to ESPN recruiting analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

Jerry Porras, a member of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, set up in 1989 to respond to college sports scandals, says the record of Vanderbilt's teams will be closely watched.

``Athletics have become divorced from the university,'' says Porras. ``He put the athletic department back under control of the university. Now, you have to be able to compete on the field. Winning would help make their case.''

…To make a clean break at Vanderbilt, Gee eliminated the athletic director's job. Turner later became athletic director at the University of Washington in Seattle. Gee also offered coaches the security of longer-term contracts in exchange for lower salaries.

After athletics employees were reassigned or left for jobs elsewhere, Vanderbilt had saved $600,000 in salaries, benefits and overhead out of a total athletics budget of about $32 million, according to Williams, the vice chancellor, who had previously worked at Ohio State. He says annual savings will rise to about $1.5 million within a year.

Three athletics administrators left after the reorganization, and no coaches departed because of the reorganization, according to Williams.

`Run for the Doors'

``Everyone expected the coaches and athletes to run for the doors, but they didn't,'' Gee says.

After Gee acted, Williams began scouring the department's books. Three areas stood out: summer school, fund raising and tutoring.

Williams says he realized that athletes were taking the minimum number of courses during the regular school year, and then attending abbreviated summer sessions to catch up. It was costing the athletics department about $825,000, he says, to pay for about 160 athletes' summer tuition, room and board.

``Summer school is no longer a right,'' he says. Vanderbilt will cut the number of students attending summer school to about 100 this summer and reduce its expense to about $400,000, Williams says.

Athletic departments at other major-universities pay similarly large summer-school fees. Ohio State paid $1.5 million for summer school in 2005, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News through government open-records requests.

`Why Separate Staffs?'

In fund raising, Gee decided there were redundancies. Vanderbilt is in the midst of a capital campaign that has raised $1.25 billion over the past six years, according to Williams. At the same time, athletics is trying to raise as much as $25 million to endow coaching jobs and sports scholarships.

``Why do we have separate staffs for all this, and why isn't my university development office overseeing it?'' Williams asks.

Through attrition and reassignments, Vanderbilt has cut four athletics-only fund-raising jobs, saving $200,000, Williams said. The function has been shifted to the university's central fund- raising department. By comparison, the University of Oklahoma in Norman has 12 athletics fund-raisers and an operating budget of $925,000 for fundraising, according to school documents.

Williams says sports giving has been shifted away from big, modern facilities toward endowments and that annual giving to the National Commodore Club, the school's booster organization, has increased to about $2.7 million this year from $2 million before Gee's reorganization.

Academic Support

Another Williams project focused on academic support. The university has a program to assist students with their studies; a separate unit with eight employees works only with athletes. Oversight of the group working with athletes was removed from athletics and put under the control of the university's academic advisers.

``Making sure coaches weren't involved was the first priority,'' he says.
Harvard National Scholar-Athletes Fund

Frank Deford, on National Public Radio this morning, has an idea UD has heard before. Why not respond to the farce and larceny of university basketball and football by letting players major in their sports? As music majors major in music, he suggests, so ball players should be able to graduate based exclusively upon what they do on the field.

It’s Deford’s

…libertarian solution [to the] academic fraud of college athletics. [E]liminate all standards… Let colleges suit up for four years any able-bodied player whether or not he bothers to see the inside of any classroom … Universities as fine as George Washington [have] accepted clearly unqualified players… [whose] term papers [are] written for them [by] jock loving enablers on the faculty. …Why don’t we make honest men of college athletes? Some simply aren’t capable of college work.

Under this approach we couldn’t really call these people “majors” because music majors have to take many other courses to get their BA -- college-wide requirements, distribution requirements, non-practice courses (history of music). Football and basketball -- call them concentrators -- would just play games. They would be exempted from all academic activity. Players who wanted to get an academic education could take the traditional route and become some other sort of major, but football and basketball concentrators would shake rattle and roll their way to a degree.

UD would go further than this. F & B Concentrators would also be paid. Highly. The pretense of academic/athletic “scholarships,” routinely illegally supplemented by alumni boosters from the local business community, would be replaced by salaries. These salaries would come from the same place administrative and faculty salaries come from -- tuition, state aid for public universities, and ticket sales and other revenue generated by the sports programs themselves.

Football and basketball players would, in other words, be employees of the university, supported by students and faculty and administrators, all of whose salaries and tuitions and fellowships would have an annual sports fee subtracted from them, because these… what’s that word corporate types like so much… “stakeholders” love the game, the school spirit generated, the publicity and corporate attention, the higher number of applications the school receives - all the goodies that accompany a winning team.

UD would go yet further. As this new approach to bigtime university athletics introduces itself to the country, Harvard University, our most high-profile and (despite all its problems lately) most esteemed institution, would lend it prestige and legitimacy by establishing the National Scholar-Athletes Fund.

This $10 billion fund, which Harvard would draw from its $26 billion endowment, would represent the country’s first real commitment to the first-rate higher education of some of our most promising and least advantaged undergraduates. It would be targeted at a very specific group among university athletes: those who are students at reasonably good universities; those who wish to major in an authentic academic subject; and those who are willing to invest the extra time it will take for them to get a real education.

These students would have to be willing to be enrolled at their universities for up to eight years in order to balance a game schedule with a course schedule. They would have to be willing to assume, some semesters, lower-profile roles on their teams as their academic obligations evolved.

In exchange for their patience and seriousness, these players would be guaranteed an up to eight year Harvard National Scholar-Athletes Fund Fellowship on top of their university salary. Known as the “Harvard Players,” they would constitute the aristocracy of the team and receive enormous media attention and national acclaim. Those admitted to graduate school would be guaranteed a continuation of Harvard Fund support.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What if significant numbers of people at a university refuse to subsidize the salaries of their basketball and football players in the way you suggest?

This would indicate insufficient commitment to bigtime athletics on the part of the university. If your university is in the wrong level of sports league, a correction is in order.

What sorts of undergraduate majors would be ineligible for the Harvard Fund?

Leisure Studies, Human Kinetics and Leisure Studies, Spa Studies, Sports Psychology, Travel and Tourism, Casino Studies, Exercise Studies, Sports Therapy Studies, Sports Management.
University of New Hampshire Sports:
Way to Go!

From the Boston Globe:

Swimmer Jenny Thompson, America's most decorated Olympian, is rejecting a high honor from the University of New Hampshire to protest the school's decision to cut its men's swimming team.

Thompson said she is turning down the Charles Holmes Pettee Medal, the highest honor given by UNH's Alumni Association. Thompson did not attend UNH.

"I grew up in New Hampshire and was proud to be an Olympian from the state. The message from the largest university in the state is that it doesn't support Olympic sports, and I can't really accept an award from a university that does such a thing," she said Tuesday in a brief telephone interview.

…The university also is eliminating men's and women's tennis and women's crew and cutting the men's ski team in half as it tries to erase half of a $1 million annual shortfall.

A review of UNH athletics showed the program was stressed because it had too many teams -- four more than the average Division I school, Athletic Director Marty Scarano said when he announced the cuts in late January.

Several protesters said Tuesday that UNH's football and men's basketball teams both run huge deficits, while the men's swim team only costs $56,000 a year.

…University spokeswoman Kim Billings said the cuts were painful, but the university needs football and basketball to maintain its Division I status and remain in America East, which are priorities. She also said the university will honor the students' athletic scholarships if they want to remain at UNH and help them transfer if they don't.

Right now, every student pays an annual fee of nearly $700 to support the athletics program, although only 675 of about 10,500 undergraduates play varsity sports, she said.

…The university predicts more cuts if it cannot close half the annual deficit with better fundraising and ticket sales, she said.
Kids These Days

The University of Delaware football players’ masked, armed break-in of another player’s apartment made no sense to UD. One of their fellow students? Why go to the trouble to dress up and brandish weaponry to enter some undergrad’s room?

But here you go, a motive has emerged:

Newark Police Lt. Thomas LeMin said two of the suspects were armed with shotguns when they barged into a fellow teammate's home at the Park Place Apartments not far from the university's campus. The theft of steroids and other controlled substances appears to be the primary motive for the robbery, LeMin said.

The alleged victim told The (Wilmington) News Journal he has been dismissed from the team, apparently for possessing steroids.

So okay this guy had drugs the other guys wanted, but this guy wouldn’t share, or sold at too high a price or something. …

Police found lots of recreational drugs at the apartments of the players who did the break-in….

The University of Delaware’s athletic director said something cute: "It's been a real tough day…I think, by and large, everyone's disappointed in the kids. You recruit kids, you invite them to your campus, and you just hope they're quality people with character. Then they do something stupid like this."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

“Anything you say, Tom.”

From the Courier-Journal:

University of Louisville students were told in 2002 that their annual $50 athletic fee would expire this summer.

But now U of L may not keep its promise, and some students wonder whether their $1.5 million contribution to sports programs could be better spent on other campus activities or even offset rising tuition.

…U of L President James R. Ramsey would not comment about the fee, saying through a spokesman that the school is still working on its budget for 2006-07.

He told the trustees last month the fee is set to expire this summer, but Athletic Director Tom Jurich's contract says the money would be available to the athletic department.

Jurich's contract runs through 2016 and can be renewed annually after that.

Jurich declined to comment, referring questions to Ramsey.

…Trustees approved a $25 fee for 2002-03 that would rise to $50 by 2005-06 and expire after that without explicit renewal by the trustees.

They also called for a possible fee renewal proposal to be discussed with student government before any action by trustees.

But then-interim President Carol Z. Garrison signed a contract with Jurich that said the university would provide $1.4 million in tuition revenue to the athletic program each year starting in 2005-06.

In June 2004, Ramsey extended Jurich's contract through 2016. That revision said the athletic department would receive all the money generated by the student athletic fee -- "$50 per student per year. Thereafter, such fee shall not be less than $50 per student per year."

Bill Brammell, a senior and Student Government Association president, said students were not consulted.

"They didn't even wait to evaluate it, and when they evaluated it they left us out," Brammell said.

Brammell said he thinks students are willing to continue paying the fee but only if it is used for students, such as to improve health services or child care on campus.

"What we'd really like to do is reduce our commitment to athletics," Brammell said.
Does This Hat
Make Me Look
Like a Dick?

Not only did the Supremes today say military recruiters on campus were fine with them; they also refused to hear the case against Washburn College, accused of offending Catholics by featuring on its campus (years ago; it’s long since vanished) this sculpture of a bishop with a phallic miter.

“The Supreme Court's refusal to take up the case was the final blow to the student and professor who sued,” reports the Topeka Capital-Journal.
With its administrative salaries scandal...

...and now this, the University of California is generating as much bad publicity for itself lately as the poor University of Delaware, dealing at once with a fascist on the staff and three football players accused of an armed break-in.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jack Gilbert...

... a poet whose Refusing Heaven just won the Book Critics Award, was a known substance to old UD, because the online magazine, Slate, did an intriguing story about him a few months ago. She’d never heard of him before the Slate thing. She ordered a used paperback copy of his earlier book, The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992, and liked it a lot. His direct-statement nature-and-spirit poems reminded her of the poet Linda Gregg, which isn’t surprising because it turns out they used to be married to each other. Both of them write more or less sonnet-length blank verse of sweet simplicity about the beauty of the earth and the turbulent passions of the people on it.

UD hadn’t heard of Gilbert before because after winning the 1962 Yale Younger Poets Series award, he retreated to Greece and obscurity. He still wrote poetry, but not much of it. He asks himself, in the poem “Going Wrong,” why he did this, why he lives alone on a dry Greek island.

The Lord insists: “You are the one who chooses
To live this way. I build cities where things
are human. I make Tuscany and you go to live
With rock and silence. …
No one knows where you are. People forget you.
You are vain and stubborn.” …I am not stubborn, he thinks…
Not stubborn, just greedy.

Gilbert’s story reminds UD of Camus’s thing for coastal Algeria. Both men seek stark terrain where they can sense their highly charged inner life as well as the eventual aridity nature has in store for them. The Slate writer puts it extremely well: Gilbert’s is

a struggle (never successful) to erase the ego. This struggle, needless to say, was the kind of idea much bandied about in the 1960s and '70s but rarely acted upon, let alone truly lived by. Taken together, Gilbert's poems capture what it might be to live out a spiritual quest for authenticity, helpfully set against a classical backdrop of Mediterranean blues and bleached-out whites. ... [Gilbert concludes that] solitude is the only way to know one's place in the world. ...[His poetry is] rescuing from the debilitating forces of cynicism a conviction that transcendence can await us in this world.

This is an existential greediness, I guess, since it demands a renunciation of the social world. Camus went back and forth between his politically committed life in Paris and his silences in Tipasa and Djemila and Algiers, but Gilbert appears to be brazening it out over there for the duration. He occasionally takes visiting professorships, I gather, to support his life on the island.

Along with greed, there’s a certain cowardice in this withdrawing gesture. Many of Gilbert’s poems in The Great Fires record his effort to make time stop, to avoid the shabby anxious ordinary life which despite his efforts comes to him:

He lives in the barrens, in dying neighborhoods
And negligible countries. None with an address.
But still the Devil finds him. Kills the wife
Or spoils the marriage. Publishes each place
And makes it popular, makes it better, makes it
Unusable. Brings news of friends, all defeated,
Most sick or sad without reasons. Shows him
Photographs of the beautiful women in old movies
Whose luminous faces sixteen feet tall looked out
At the boy in the dark where he grew his heart.
Brings pictures of what they look like now,
Says how lively they are, and brave despite their age.
Taking away everything. For the Devil is commissioned
To harm, to keelhaul us with loss, with knowledge
Of how all things splendid are disfigured by small
And small. Yet he allows us to eat roast goat
On the mountain above Parakia. Lets us stumble
For the first time, unprepared, onto the buildings
Of Palladio in moonlight. Maybe because he is not
Good at his job. I believe he loves us against
His will. Because of the women and how the men
Struggle to hear inside them. Because we construe
Something important from trees and locomotives,
Smell weeds on a hot July afternoon and are augmented.

Although straightforward in address, these are sly stylish poems. Look at all the “alls” and “ells” and “ills” snaking through this lyric, giving it its lilt and trill.

The Slate writer concludes:

Gilbert isn't just a remarkable poet. He's a poet whose directness and lucidity ought to appeal to lots of readers—the same readers who can't abide the inward-gazing obscurity of much contemporary poetry. Indeed, what's powerful about Gilbert is that he is a rarity, especially in this day and age: the poet who stands outside his own time, practicing a poetics of purity in an ever-more cacophonous world—a lyrical ghost, you might say, from a literary history that never came to be.

Jack Gilbert is the anti-Jorie Graham.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

…when first we practice to defend huge athletics expenditures at academically struggling universities.

However complex the stitchwork, there’s no getting around the fact, for instance, that Southern Illinois University should use its money for urgently needed academic improvements rather than announce grand multimillion dollar athletic (and administrative) projects, as it has done.

Many students (whose fees will rise immensely) and faculty (who regard the university as a university) oppose the grandiose “Saluki Way”:

Detractors complained the project was over-developed for university athletics, with plans for a new football stadium and a renovated basketball arena set in place, and held only sketchy afterthoughts on academics, with mere placeholders marking future sites of academic buildings. Complaints were exacerbated by revelations that student fee increases will be used to fund a majority of the opening construction phase for Saluki Way, which includes the building of the stadium and renovation of the arena, along with a new student services facility.

Cushy new offices for administrative personnel -- that student services thing -- deepen the insult. Everything’s here but what SIU needs: dedicated academic buildings.

The Chancellor insists that big academic projects are in the pipeline, but this only begs the question of priority.

SIU has an interesting recent history involving athletics. Six years ago, the football program was so rotten many people talked of shutting it down; but then the school brought in some brilliant coach, and it improved a lot. Even so:

Faculty Senate President Robert Benford said some camps still discuss whether the campus should retain a football program - or any intercollegiate sport - not because of failure but because they don't think NCAA athletics mesh with the university's main purpose.

"Should universities be involved in big-time entertainment? Is that the mission of the university?" Benford said.

Not only that, but, you know, if the program could tank as recently as six years ago, it could tank again, couldn’t it? keep that from happening they'll have to increase the coach's compensation package, right? So he won't go away? Imagine the institutional fate of a big university so dependent upon one human being... But say even with a genius at the helm the program slips again. Then you’ve got what a lot of universities have -- poor ticket sales, hemorrhaging budgets, and even more scandals than usual as the athletic staff tries out more and more desperation moves. (Most biggish university athletic programs produce, by UD’s estimate, two to three scandals of one sort or another per year that attract major media attention. You want the list? You don't mind long parentheses? Okay: Coach arrested for drunk driving. Half of basketball squad academically ineligible. Gunplay breaks out among the lads. Desperate grad students cheat in every conceivable way to get their athletic charges through the rigors of Leisure Studies in Our World. Boosters fund bacchanalia in Las Vegas. And so much more.) (UPDATE: Latest example, hot off the press, at the University of Delaware.)

The article goes on to note that “at many public universities, where capital projects and operating expenses are being pushed off onto the institutes themselves in light of declining state funding, officials are beginning to have conversations about the necessity of athletics and other offerings peripheral to the academic mission of campuses.”

"There is a lot of concern about directing limited resources toward a non-essential part of the university mission," [one of them] comments.

Part of what reformers propose is that the traditional independence of athletics from academic governance end: "The governance issue is essential [an advisor to the NCAA says]. What we have proposed and suggested is that university athletics be governed by the academic arm of the university and not left to be governed on their own or have a reporting structure that doesn't include the academic officers." (At Southern Illinois, athletics gets to jump over the entire academic structure and report directly to the Chancellor.) And the vaunted independence of athletics, this advisor notes, issues in such community enriching phenomena as the “Troutt-Wittmann Training and Academic Center, a $3 million capital gift from an alum that only allows student athletes to use its facilities. [S]uch trends are driving a wedge between athletics and academics at SIUC, when officials at other universities are thinking along lines of integration of the two.”
Paglia Today

Camille Paglia’s intriguing but occasionally unfair opinion piece in today’s New York Times allows me to mention a Crimson essay I hadn’t yet been able to find a place for in my posts about the Summers resignation.

As always, Paglia writes a strong and beautiful defense of the humanities as they should be, and of the importance of faculty governance (contra John Tierney’s recent op/ed piece in the Times, where he called for greater corporatization of universities).

But she’s unfair, I think, when she writes this:

Harvard's reputation for disinterested scholarship has been severely gored by the shadowy manipulations of the self-serving cabal who forced Mr. Summers's premature resignation. That so few of the ostensibly aggrieved faculty members deigned to speak on the record to The Crimson, the student newspaper, illustrates the cagey hypocrisy that permeates fashionable campus leftism, which worships diversity in all things except diversity of thought.

On the contrary, plenty of thoughtful Summers opponents on the faculty have weighed in. Here’s one of them, in the Crimson, who, after deploring the catastrophic social style of Summers (on which virtually all observers agree), zeroes in on what I think is the core issue:

As the recent multi-million-dollar Russian reform fraud scandal involving his close friend and fellow economist Jones Professor of Economics Andrei Shleifer ’82 illustrates, Summers also has an ethics problem. This is perhaps most starkly evident in the way that he worked to maintain a fortress of secrecy around him while employing Washington-style political tactics as a way to embarrass or humiliate colleagues. In Summers’ inner circle, economics is about power rather than principle. And this debilitating corporate worldview—where market values are more important than moral values—constitutes the real threat to Harvard’s reputation and standing.

The writer then goes on to say:

…As faculty members, we must articulate clearly and persuasively the reasons for our own discontent with the president. Moreover, we must take student grievances seriously by engaging undergraduates in conversation—publicly and privately—in an effort to restore their confidence in us as educators who are fully committed to Harvard’s long-term health. We must demonstrate our desire to work closely with students to reform the undergraduate curriculum, and we must devote ourselves more assiduously than ever to good teaching and advising. Together, we must work to make Harvard the institution it can and should be—a place of higher learning where critical debate coincides with mutual respect, where moral values triumph over market values, and where transparency replaces secrecy. We have a better chance of accomplishing all of this now that Larry Summers is gone.

These don’t strike me as empty words; I’ve read variants of them from many Harvard faculty from the outset of this mess, and I’m inclined to believe them.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Shleifer Scandal Now
Actively Under Investigation

Today’s Financial Times:

Harvard University, still reeling from the resignation of Larry Summers as its president, is seeking to clear up another controversy dogging its reputation.

The university is investigating the professional conduct of Andrei Shleifer, the economics professor accused of defrauding a US government programme designed to help bring capitalism to Russia in the 1990s.

Prof Shleifer allegedly made personal investments in the former Soviet republic when he was working under contract to privatise Russian companies. In an out-of-court settlement reached in August after the government took legal action, Harvard agreed to pay $26.5m and Prof Shleifer $2m, though neither party admitted wrong-doing. [That figure should be upped to $44 million -- add lawyers’ fees, stir briskly.]

According to people familiar with the investigation, the Committee on Professional Conduct, an ethics board comprised of eight members of the faculty of arts and sciences, has been looking into the Shleifer affair for several months. The committee will soon make a recommendation to the dean of the FAS about whether any disciplinary action should be taken, including possible termination of his contract. [Don’t get excited. Remember Harvard’s pathetic response to the rash of plagiarisms among high-level law school faculty last year.]

The fact Prof Shleifer, a close friend and colleague of Mr Summers, has so far not been subjected to disciplinary action has caused outrage in US academic circles. In recent weeks, several prominent faculty members have become increasingly outspoken on the Shleifer case. They say it represents one of the university’s darkest hours and could harm its credibility with federal aid agencies if no action is taken. [Finally people are noticing it and bringing the right language to it. UD wondered if that would ever happen.]

Harry Lewis, professor of computer science, and author of the book Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education, said: “To this day … no one has said it’s a shame that Harvard did this, it was wrong. No one has said it’s a stain on the university.” [That’s right. Harvard needs to find its most florid orator and let it rip.]
Theological Conundrum:
Can the God Who Guides
Thomas Kinkade’s Brush
Also be Guiding his Dick?

From today’s LA Times:

…A devout Christian who calls himself the "Painter of Light," Kinkade trades heavily on his beliefs and says God has guided his brush — and his life — for the last 20 years.

…Kinkade has spun a hugely lucrative career from his distinctly romantic, idealized images of street scenes, lighthouses, country cottages and landscapes. It is a world without sharp edges, all warm and fuzzily aglow with setting suns and streetlights and luminescent windows.

…In sworn testimony and interviews, [associates] recount incidents in which an allegedly drunken Kinkade heckled illusionists Siegfried & Roy in Las Vegas, cursed a former employee's wife who came to his aid when he fell off a barstool, and palmed a startled woman's breasts at a signing party in South Bend, Ind.

And then there is Kinkade's proclivity for "ritual territory marking," as he called it, which allegedly manifested itself in the late 1990s outside the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

"This one's for you, Walt," the artist quipped late one night as he urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure, said Terry Sheppard, a former vice president for Kinkade's company, in an interview.

Study, Disneyland, Thomas Kinkade,
Pre-Piss Period

…"But you've got to remember," [Kinkade told an interviewer]. "I'm the idol to these women who are there. They sell my work every day, you know. They're enamored with any attention I would give them. I don't know what kind of flirting they were trying to do with me. I don't recall what was going on that night."

From the Washington Post , with parenthetical comments from UD:

(The star basketball player was) accepted at George Washington after failing to graduate in five years from his original high school and receiving no grades at three prep schools in the next two years, including one that burned down after he was there five days. The National Collegiate Athletic Association certified his transcript without any verification.

…"If you knew the circumstances way back, you would probably make a different decision," said Robert Chernak, George Washington's senior vice president of student and support services, who oversees the school's admissions department. "Clearly, you would have to at least researched further the credibility of the [prep] school." [Weirdly dissociative use of the second person here.]

[The player] said school officials had told him not to speak to a Post reporter. [That’s odd. If I were a GW student, I’d be pretty shocked to be told I couldn’t speak to a reporter. Or anyone else.]

The NCAA's eligibility certification process is handled by a private company it created, Clearinghouse, which approves high school courses and transcripts of recruits. Under Clearinghouse policy, there was no requirement to check if any of the schools on Williams's transcript existed, if the grades were real or if he attended the schools, said Kevin Lennon, an NCAA official. The SAT scores of applicants, critical for certification, are allowed to be submitted in handwriting, instead of on an Educational Testing Service document. Those scores are not compared to official results, Lennon said. [It’s hard to think of a more aptly named company than Clearinghouse, its sole function being to clear athletes to play at universities under any circumstances.]

Administrators at other local universities, including American University and Maryland, disagreed with George Washington's emphasis on Clearinghouse approval in the admission decision. They said student-athletes at their schools go through the same admissions procedures as all applicants. [Score one for the competition. But I’d still want to know about the academic plausibility of the people you take under established procedures.]

…George Washington officials declined to say from what high school Williams graduated. [Guess this is their only move at this point.]

[Thanks to Phil for the link.]
Yet Another Novelist
Takes Aim at the
World’s Broadest Target

From the Globe and Mail:

An archetype of the worst that creative writing professors can be, Arsenault is a blatantly bad teacher and a committed drunk, who ought to be kept far away from students. But to them, he is a swashbuckling hero, and when this small-town university denies him tenure, his student acolytes take up their cudgels and fight.

…Arsenault expects everyone to tolerate his eccentricities, most especially his drinking, along with his frequent absences and omissions. He has a habit of not showing up for class and of skipping office hours. An attention junkie, he requires constant approbation.

Narcissistic to an extreme, he is vicious in his appraisal of other Canadian poets, dividing them into two camps, "hucksters" and "the real thing," with himself trumping true authenticity. He performs an endless aria of the "I'm a misunderstood genius" opera.

…I would not dare to gesture toward any actual persons, living or dead, on whom the character of Arsenault, his black despair, his drinking, his manipulation of students, might be modelled. In some ways, the character is reminiscent of the Maritime poet John Thompson, whose work is quoted in the epigraph. [There must be a word for this rhetorical gesture -- saying you wouldn’t dare do something and then immediately doing it.]
Opportunity Cost

The president of one of Florida’s poorest public universities is a pooh-bah. While his students and faculty starve, he lives it way way up. "The opportunity cost of my time is very high,” he explains to the Miami Herald, which wants to know why it’s all limos, four-star hotels and private planes for Modesto “Mitch” Maidique of Florida International University.

The opportunity cost of my time is very high. I am a VIP. Everyone wants a piece of me. Every moment of me costs a fortune. I move within a four-star aura.

Hence, as to why “in February 2003, Maidique spent $462 to hire a limo for seven hours during the Miami International Film Festival,” he points out that "It was part of the whole patina and the whole style of the film festival" to travel in a Lincoln Town Car with dignitaries.

At all times a luxe tone must be maintained.

One summer day in 2004, the president of Miami-Dade County's only public university traveled to state Sen. Ken Pruitt's office in Port St. Lucie to lobby for more school funding.

Instead of using his state-issued Buick for the 2 ½-hour drive, Florida International University President Modesto ''Mitch'' Maidique chartered a private plane. Then, for the 13 miles between the St. Lucie County airport and Pruitt's office, he hired a chauffeured ``Diamond Limousine.''

Total cost of the trip: $1,616. Total travel time each way, according to his itinerary: two hours, 15 minutes.

It wasn't the first or last time Maidique traveled in style. Over the past four years, he has spent thousands of FIU's dollars on private planes, limousine services and guest rooms at some of the world's most luxurious hotels, according to a Miami Herald analysis of his travel records.

…Over the past four years, records show, he has stayed at The Plaza in New York, the St. Regis in Washington and the Ritz in Madrid -- where his taxi bill ran more than $1,000. He has taken a 14-hour limo ride in Connecticut and a four-day trip to Paris that cost $6,700.

He had to take a limo through Connecticut. It’s a jungle out there:

In 2003, for a lunch meeting at former FIU board chairman Armando Codina's Connecticut summer home, Maidique spent $474 for a night at the Four Seasons Pierre, a five-star hotel in Manhattan.

Then he contracted a limousine service for 14 hours, 15 minutes, charging $1,248 to the foundation. Maidique said that Codina's house is in this "absolutely unknown" place, so he hired a Connecticut driver and paid for the time it took to make two round trips.

In all, the luncheon, to discuss a proposed medical school and other FIU projects, cost $2,678...

"There's a big difference in speaking to someone on the telephone and speaking to someone in person," Maidique said.

The opportunity cost of talking to someone in person is so very high.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I Knew I’d Get Something Good
If I Checked Out One of Those
Arty Colleges

From Rate my Professors:

A Drama Professor:

Kind of scatterbrained. Too into high concept stuff and not too big on technique. I slept with the TA though, so that was cool.
One More Lewis Mumford Story

[For an earlier Mumford narrative, see UD, 1/29/06.]

At Jerzy Soltan’s memorial event yesterday, a short film was shown, in which he was interviewed. He told the following story:

During the Second World War, when he was in Murnau, the German prisoner of war camp, Soltan ordered a book by Lewis Mumford, The City in History.

Being in a prisoner of war camp for captured officers, he said, was horrible, but it was nothing like being in a concentration camp. In Murnau, for instance, they could send and receive mail, and sometimes they could order books.

Everything they received was heavily censored by the Germans, and one of the censors decided that the Mumford book was banned material.

So the book was duly stamped BANNED (or some such thing) in big black letters and put away. But, Soltan went on, the bureaucratic organization of the camp wasn’t all that good, and he was eventually able to get the book out of the censor’s office.

Long after the war, Soltan met Lewis Mumford at some architects’ event. Knowing Mumford would be there, he’d brought along the book, which still bore the big BANNED stamp. He showed it to Mumford.

“He loved it.”
There’s such lavish irony...

...abounding in John Tierney’s column in today’s New York Times that UD -- a lover of irony -- doesn’t know where to start.

Tierney’s main point is that universities like Harvard are tanking because they lack strong presidents: “Authority is so diffuse that no one's accountable. Lawrence Summers was ostensibly in charge of Harvard, but he had little power to fire or hire anyone.” Without that authority, you get the mutinous politically correct ninnies who did Summers in. We need “to give university presidents the hiring and firing authority that most executives have.”

This is remarkable stuff coming from a columnist at a newspaper still reeling from the damage Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd did by hiring and retaining (despite pleas from reporters who knew he was a fabulist) Jayson Blair -- not to mention Rick Bragg, another of their favorites forced to quit because it turned out he was too special to write his own articles, fobbing them off on stringers and then signing his name to them.

Tierney goes on to say:

If newspapers were run like [universities], by committees of tenured journalists unconcerned with circulation and ad revenue, we wouldn't spend much time trying to improve the weather map or the news summaries or movie listings. We'd all be too busy writing 27-part series to be submitted for peer review by the Pulitzer board.

Um, journalists at newspapers like the New York Times are much more like tenured professors than drudges entering movie times onto lists. At the bottom of Tierney’s piece, there’s a little note: "Maureen Dowd is on book leave." That’s a sabbatical -- same thing professors get. For that matter, many mid and high-profile New York Times writers are also professors - they teach part or full-time at universities. Many former New York Times writers go on to become professors. The reason these back and forths work so smoothly is that the two groups - professors and journalists - are very similar sorts of people, socially and intellectually.

Universities like Harvard are swamps of inactivity, Tierney suggests, because complacent lazy tenured faculty don’t want anything to change, and insufficiently powerful presidents are afraid to change anything, knowing that the faculty will simply rise up and toss them out. "You get ahead by massaging the system as it is, not attempting so-called radical reform by dumping academic dolts."

Reading Tierney‘s descriptions of swamps and dolts, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Harvard University is the number one ranked university in the United States and in the world, and that, more broadly, American universities dominate all lists of the world's best universities. Tierney ends by quoting someone saying that “The Achilles heel of academics is their status anxiety.” I wonder how much percentage there is in status anxiety for a Harvard professor whose status is firmly and overwhelmingly number one. I suspect most Harvard professors are bright enough to figure out that there are better uses for their time than worrying about where they rank on rankings where they rank number one.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Snapshots from Home

A GW student writes in the university newspaper, and, in slightly modified form, at, about non-intellectuality in American colleges. (I’ll quote from the GW version of the piece, commenting as I go.)

"Extracurricular activities galore" declares the GW Web site under the heading "About the Student Body." The site claims that 92 percent of GW undergraduates have either been employed or interned to supplement their coursework. But is that really a number to brag about?

In recruitment efforts, GW lures students with the motto, "Something happens here." But, what often happens is that students take Mark Twain's famous words - "I never let my schooling interfere with my education" - to the extreme. As a group, we are not just allowing classes to interfere with our broader education; we are pursuing this life education at the expense of our schooling and ironically, in the process, narrowing the broad experience we seek. [This is an awkwardly phrased sentence, but it more or less makes its point. The Twain quotation in the earlier sentence is a nice touch.]

Students are drawn to the opportunities that GW and Washington, D.C., offer, and the result is a campus filled with people that play their "full-time student" roles in their spare time - between internships and other activities.

We're probably all familiar with peers that come here specifically to use their four years to learn the ins and outs of politics and the D.C. work environment, doing their grunt work a few years before their friends from home. It's ambitious, motivated and smart; I'd like to think that I have spent three semesters and two summers of my college experience pursuing similar things. But as I reflect on my academic experience, my recurring thought is that maybe we are missing out on some "stuff" in the process. [Smart strategy to wait until now to move in for the kill.]

That "stuff" is academic rigor. There's probably something to be gained by spending time struggling to understand and explore Kant's categorical imperative - but because that is something we all lose out on, I can't say for sure. [There are quite a few philosophy courses at GW that’ll do that for you. Hell, even in my survey of literary criticism course I have them read some Kant -- the “purposiveness without purpose” bit.] The academic environment here does not often cater to people that want to just learn for the sake of intellectual curiosity. [Well, no one should be “catering” to anyone at a university; but note that this writer herself chose to be an international affairs major, thus guaranteeing that her education has mainly been about protean, present-day events, rather than foundational verities.]

Personally, I've been intellectually disappointed with various classes I have taken in my seven semesters here. While class content often seems promising at the beginning of the semester, I've rarely attended class sessions that have examined the material with the sort of depth that would elevate subject matter from interesting to stimulating. [Again, a lot of international affairs courses don’t lend themselves to the sort of depth this writer has in mind.] This results, in part, because GW students are driven more by career aspirations than they are by serious intellectual curiosity. We're a "pre-professional" breed, as a friend of mine once put it. [That’s right - many students are pragmatic rather than reflective, and they’re drawn to fields of immediate utility -- political management, communications, journalism -- rather than to fields of philosophical depth.]

Consequently, the pervasive attitude is that time in the classroom is seen as a means to an end, the learning process itself is not seen as inherently valuable, and as a result the caliber of class discussion suffers because students would rather spend time on the Hill than the library on H Street.

Professors also perpetuate the problem, perhaps unknowingly. Sensitive lecturers, all too aware that GW students are so busy with future aspirations, are often understanding of this predicament and so this translates into accepting a lot of mediocrity. [This might be sensitivity. It might also be cynicism.]

At the end of the day this adds up to a place of very average academics. Students and professors understand the value of being in the heart of the nation's capital and seek to maximize that opportunity. I'm not suggesting that we should neglect this - it is an asset that makes GW a truly unique place - I'm just wondering if perhaps we can try to introduce some level of balance into the environment so we can at least try our hands at Soc. 103 - classical sociology theory - to supplement our career ambitions.

College is supposed to be a testing ground for ideas, a safe place where students can pursue any intellectual question, lose themselves in alternative lifestyles and, most importantly, experiment. If GW is simply a convenient name to adorn a diploma and a venue to sleep at nights in between internships, then perhaps we should be more honest about that. Instead of GWU, perhaps the name should be changed to GWH, the George Washington Hotel.

-The writer is a senior majoring in international affairs.


A few more thoughts about this thoughtful essay.

At any college or university, there will only be a small number of students truly interested in intensive and organized reflection. And, sadly, unless they’re at St. John’s College or Reed, they will really have to fight for it. As if all that extracurricular stuff the writer cites weren’t enough of an impediment, the lack of intellectually coherent curricula at most schools means that even a serious student runs the risk of getting little more than flashes in this course or that of important thought about justice or love or mortality. Only brilliant curricular strategists among the students will be able to figure out how to structure their four years to yield a sustained, cumulative form of inquiry.

One thing that could help in this would be a general “things of the spirit” atmosphere on campus in place of the materialist, utilitarian, careerist atmosphere that the student correctly describes. But as I’ve remarked before about wealthy hip urban schools like GW (think also NYU, BU), worldliness in such places is all. You can’t wave a wand over Foggy Bottom and make it the Left Bank. It is what it is.

What you can do, if you’re one of those students who actually likes the idea of grappling with philosophy and literature and history, is stick with the liberal arts as they’ve traditionally been conceived.

If you do that, you’ll get into a better law school than your buddy who kept taking Contemporary Political Trends over and over again. Why? Because you’ll be a better writer. And reader.
He Can Forget
Going After that Job
At Ave Maria University

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A criminal justice professor at Grand Rapids Community College has resigned after showing a video in class of a man having sex with a pig, students and a faculty representative said.

A school administrator confirmed that Samuel Naves, 47, resigned Feb. 17, but would not comment on why he left.

However, students and a faculty leader said the resignation had to do with the video. They said Naves was teaching an introductory criminal justice class earlier this year when he was going through video files on his computer.

The video appeared on a projection screen and students begged Naves to show the 10-second footage, according to the accounts.

Faculty association president Fred vanHartesveldt said the incident occurred this year. He said Naves was known for a blunt teaching style.

"His pedagogy was to teach real life," vanHartesveldt told The Grand Rapids Press. "His classes were very earthy. Some students took to that very well, and some students didn't."

Naves, who had worked at the college since 1997, declined to comment to the newspaper.

This isn’t the only way Naves incorporates technology into his classroom. Students at Rate My Professors (he got 106 comments!) say he loves to chat on his cell phone too.
Some Things Have
“Express Delivery: UD”
Written All Over Them

From the Austin American-Statesman:

As a scholar of early Greek culture and writing, Thomas Palaima knows well the story of the plague that the god Apollo visits upon the Greek army in Homer's "Iliad."

Greek king Agamemnon's insulting treatment of a priest is to blame, but nobody has the courage to explain this to Agamemnon. Only when the warrior Achilles promises to provide protection from Agamemnon does the prophet Calchas agree to speak up.

It's still true today: Most people are reluctant to question power. Palaima, 54, a professor of classics at the University of Texas, is not one of them.

He is challenging a new university president, UT's governing board and a sacred institution — Longhorn sports — in a campaign against what he regards as the outsized role of intercollegiate athletics.

Among his beefs are the following:

The low graduation rates of some athletes. About 61 percent of freshman student athletes entering UT in the 1998-99 school year graduated, according to NCAA statistics; 74 percent of UT freshmen overall graduated.

The practice of charging fans up to $75,000 for a stadium suite, with 80 percent of that amount considered a charitable donation for income tax purposes. The free seats given to regents and other VIPs at a value of more than $1 million a year. The policy allowing athletic programs to retain the vast majority of more than $80 million in annual revenue instead of contributing more for academic purposes.

That a lawyer, rather than an academic, oversees athletics. A culture that insists upon first-rate performance in athletics but seems satisfied with a No. 52 ranking among national universities by U.S. News & World Report.

Especially galling to Palaima — pronounced pahl-EYE-muh — were decisions by the regents last month to approve a raise of more than $390,000 in salary, now $2.6 million, for football coach Mack Brown, and to authorize a $149.9 million expansion of the stadium.

Those actions came a few weeks after the Longhorns won the Rose Bowl, securing their first national championship in football in more than 30 years.

Palaima doesn't buy the explanation that athletics pays its own way without consuming any taxes or tuition money. "I'm a sports fan. I played baseball all my life," Palaima said.

"But the athletic programs have grown into a monster."

It's largely a one-man campaign, fought in e-mails, in various campus settings and in opinion columns written for the Austin American-Statesman and other publications.

When Palaima questioned UT President William Powers Jr. at a faculty council meeting last week on the role of athletics, no other professors spoke up.

Powers said Palaima raised worthwhile questions but defended the university's policies. Powers, who took office Feb. 1, also promised to provide a more detailed analysis of male athletes' academic performance.

The lack of public support from colleagues doesn't thrill Palaima.

"It's very easy to marginalize a single voice," he said.

On the other hand, it's not hard to understand why even tenured professors might be reluctant to get involved.

"Anytime you make waves, you're not making friends. You're viewed as an oddball," said Michael Granof, an accounting professor and friend of Palaima's. "For most of the faculty, athletics does not affect their vital interest. They've come to the University of Texas knowing what it is, and they expect it."

Palaima might have a point on whether athletics is truly self-funded, Granof said.

"If you were to full-cost it, taking into account all of the benefits athletics gets that are not included in the budget, most notable of which is land, I suspect virtually all programs in the country would be in the red. On the other hand, what's very hard to measure is the goodwill athletics brings."

Edwin Dorn, a professor and former dean of public affairs, said Palaima reflects the views of a substantial portion of the faculty.

"To some extent, he's beating his head against the wall because it is very hard to envision a major change in the relationship that big public universities have with athletics," Dorn said. "He can, however, have some influence at the margin. It's very important that athletics programs are held accountable for the academic performance of their students."

Palaima said he learned his sense of right and wrong from the Roman Catholic Church in Cleveland, where he grew up the son of a postal worker. Although he transferred his emotional and intellectual devotion to the study of humanities in college, a certain reverence and piety stuck.

Like many classicists, Palaima has broad interests. He is equally comfortable quoting Euripides and Dylan. One of the courses he teaches is titled "Myths of War and Violence, Ancient and Modern."

He said he replies to every e-mail he receives in response to his commentary pieces, often copying the exchange — after deleting the sender's name for privacy — to more than 300 people on his e-mail list.

His honors include a Fulbright fellowship and teaching awards from UT's alumni association and honors program. But it was the announcement of his MacArthur fellowship, nicknamed the "genius grant," that prompted the university to recruit him 21 years ago, shortly after turning down his application for a faculty position.

"That gave me a sense of the whimsy of life," he said.
Words Wisely Withdrawn

From the Harvard Crimson:

Glimp Professor of Economics Edward L. Glaeser, who has frequently spoken out in Summers’ defense, said on Wednesday that the issue of anti-Semitism was “never the slightest thing on my mind” during the crisis that forced Summers out.

It was Glaeser who helped revive the charge last month, when he told The Crimson that a magazine exposé on fraud allegations against Summers’ friend and fellow economist Andrei Shleifer ’82 was “a potent piece of hate creation—not quite ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ but it’s in that camp.”

Glaeser said on Wednesday that he regretted making the comparison, which recalled a notorious anti-Semitic hoax that first appeared in a Russian-language newspaper in 1903. The similarity he meant to point out, Glaeser said, was “that people use defamatory information for their own political objectives.”

“I spent a lot of time in the last week apologizing about this, and just feeling awful,” he said.
More Turmoil at Harvard

Even as a memorial for UD’s father-in-law takes place there today, the Harvard Graduate School of Design is in an uproar.

Via Inside Higher Ed and the Boston Globe , some faculty at GSD seem to have taken advantage of the fact that, as one Harvard observer puts it, “there’s nobody running the university,” to try ousting their controversial dean.

Alan Altshuler, a former state transportation secretary and an urban planning type rather than a designer, apparently faces a faculty no confidence vote if he does not step down.

This is a developing story, and the information is vague, but one professor there says that "Some in the community believe that, all things being equal, a designer should lead the design school.” The conflict is less, he continues “about Alan Altshuler as a human being than about the priorities and mission of the school." Also mentioned is the fact that Altshuler, appointed a year ago, was a Summers ally, and that Summers was known to dislike modern architecture (which means… Altshuler dislikes it too?). Plus, like Summers, Altshuler has been talking about how GSD faculty needs to teach more.

For what it’s worth, here’s UD's take on this so far: It shouldn’t matter a jot whether an architect, a designer, or an urban planner runs GSD, and most reasonable people know this. So the anti-Altshuler forces might want to get off that high horse. And a related point -- we’re told that the dispute is really about “the priorities and mission of the school.” Whoa Nellie. The field of architecture is a notorious ideological, philosophical, professional, and aesthetic morass (listen to Leon Krier and Peter Eisenman go at it sometime ), and you’re never going have clear priorities and missions at GSD beyond platitudes about the dynamic synergy created by diverse design approaches, etc.

UD is prepared to believe that GSD’s dean should be removed. But no real reasons for his removal have yet been offered.


UPDATE: An article in the Crimson makes the rebellious GSD professors look even worse. It says they’re also “angered by [Altshuler’s] public support of the controversial president [that’d be Summers].”

Someone needs to acquaint this group with the concept of free speech.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

This Just In.

From Newsday:

Arts and science faculty members voted by a wide margin Thursday to express "no confidence" in the leadership of Case Western Reserve University president Edward M. Hundert over budget and other issues.

The vote by professors representing about 9 percent of the full-time faculty is nonbinding. Only trustees can terminate his contract.

The college of arts and sciences faculty voted 131-44 to express "no confidence" in Hundert's leadership and 97-68 to express "no confidence" in John L. Anderson, provost and vice president.

Faculty members opposed to Hundert have expressed concerns about budget deficits and uneven fundraising on the campus of nearly 10,000 students and schools including medicine, dentistry, nursing, management, law, engineering and graduate studies.

Hundert said he took the vote seriously and was determined to listen to faculty complaints. The support of the trustee board expressed at a meeting earlier in the week remains unchanged, Hundert said.

An early critic, physics professor Lawrence Krauss, said the vote reflected faculty concern over the university's direction. "We feel there needs to be a change in direction," he said after the vote held at a closed-door faculty meeting.

Hundert said earlier in the week in a campus e-mail that some $17 million has been cut from the university budget and Case faces a possible $40 million recurring annual deficit, or 5 percent.

Hundert became Case's president in 2002 and previously served as psychiatry professor and medical-dental dean at the University of Rochester and taught at Harvard medical school. Anderson served until 2004 as engineering dean at Carnegie Mellon.

William J. Stuntz, a Harvard Law professor, is angry about the fall of Lawrence Summers, which is fine. But he’s let his spite create a wholly unconvincing scenario for the future of American universities. To hear him tell it, principled reformer Summers represented fat, complacent American higher education’s last chance to save itself. Now that heedless tenured aristocrats have run him out of town, there’s no stopping the decline and fall of all campuses. Because it’s not just about Cambridge:

The health of any single university is no large matter. But in this market, the top players set the terms for everyone else. If the Ivies and Stanford and the top state universities continue to do things the old-fashioned way, schools farther down the food chain have to do the same, or risk losing their best faculty members. It's a little like the early stages of a Ponzi scheme: Everyone wants to keep it going as long as possible, and the odds are it won't end just yet. My generation of academics (I'm 47) will get ours and then, probably, get out before the crash--just as GM's managers in the 1950s got theirs, then went on to rich retirements. But woe to those who come after us.

Woe? Whoa. Stuntz, with his sad lack of faith in self-correcting market mechanisms, has messed up here. In fact, quite a few scrappy American universities and colleges are competing with the Ivies, offering more faculty attention and other goodies, and it’s working. A number of observers have pointed out that the unquestioned supremacy of the Ivies no longer pertains, and that savvy applicants and smart professors take advantage of an increasingly broad range of attractive university choices these days.

I happen to agree with Stuntz that Harvard is too rich and bland and careful now; it’s just that I ultimately see Summers as part of all that, not a rebel against it. After all, it was on his watch that Harvard, like any smug, clueless organization, failed to punish one of its own for serious, institutionally damaging misdeeds (this may change -- there are signs, now that Shleifer’s protector is out of a job, that Harvard will do the right thing and sanction him). And don’t forget Harvard’s equally pathetic response to the recent plagiarism scandals in Stuntz’s law faculty.

No, Summers was not the person to resuscitate Harvard. No one person can do it. The place will have to wake itself up somehow. As alumni donations continue to tank (despite a national upward trend, Harvard’s have for some time been significantly down), and as more and more students realize they might be able to get a livelier intellectual experience somewhere else, the Harvard community will grasp that it runs the risk of becoming a luxurious simulacrum. Then it'll get to work.
It’s Temple

From today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:


The NCAA yesterday revealed that 99 Division I teams at 65 colleges and universities would lose scholarships for poor scholastic performance by their student-athletes.

Guess who tops the list of schools scheduled to lose the most scholarships?

It's not New Mexico State or Toledo, who'll lose six each. Not Hawaii, Middle Tennessee or Western Michigan, who'll lose five each. It's not even Buffalo (three) or Northern Illinois (two).

It's Temple.

…[The athletic director] is trying to put a positive face on a football program that, quite honestly, should be nonexistent.
Poetry of Departures

There’s an interesting case study, over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, in quitting a tenured academic job. People are shocked when tenured professors at satisfactory schools in nice enough settings give up permanent employment and the many pleasant aspects of academia for something else. The great dread in academia is failing to get tenure; having won it, the decision, some years later, to give it up seems bizarre, masochistic.

But it isn’t really. Not under some circumstances. Take the pseudonymous ex-professor at a public university who’s written a couple of columns in the Chronicle describing her decision to leave.

Part of it’s her personality, though since she’s been at it for 25 years, this can’t be a real determinant:

No academic job has really worked for me. I am no good at politics. I am overly sensitive to criticism; occasional biting comments in my evaluations almost always overshadow the accolades.

All of these are perfectly normal behaviors and responses, except for the actual reading of every student evaluation year after year after year. She’s obviously a good teacher (and a good writer - her Chronicle pieces are excellent). She should have remembered the old joke about the psychoanalyst. How, a friend of his asks, can you bear to sit in that chair in your office year after year listening to such profound anguish from so many people? The psychoanalyst smiles at him and says: Who listens?

I despise the student-as-customer mantra of the day. I loathe writing 11-page syllabi [Ah! The Syllabum Omnium!] in the futile attempt to document learning outcomes as if it were possible to prepackage the essential alchemy of the classroom.

Here we’re getting to the core of her problem. She’s at a very bad university. It sounds like a pleasantly situated, okay sort of place, but with every detail of the administrative nightmare it actually is, this woman’s departure becomes more understandable:

…the innumerable meetings, reports, self-studies, external- and internal-evaluations, five-year strategic plans, and assorted other "objective" measures of success…

…Metropolitan State's president [recently] proclaim[ed] in his weekly radio address [weekly radio address? Is he the president of the United States?] that, to keep up with the for-profit educational sector, professors needed to do a much better job of delivering product, not when it was "convenient," but whenever our "customers" (formerly known as students) demanded it.

When your institution has no self-respect, no sense of itself as a university rather than a market-driven information delivery system, it makes sense to bail.

My president had just announced to the community at large that I was lazy and doing a bad job. I was now going to have to keep up with the for-profit Joneses. Internet classes. Saturday classes. Satellite campus classes. Night classes.

…I began the purge.

On the first day, after a huge latte, and armed with a dust mask, I went through every bookshelf in my home office and pulled out my favorites, a few classics, my essential canon, and some texts I thought my son might need when he goes to college. I put those aside and was absolutely merciless with the rest.

Out came large shopping bags with big, sturdy handles. Into the bags went everything else: books I had not opened in years, books I thought useless or poorly written, books that had bored me to tears. I piled up the bags in the hallway as I literally deconstructed my shelves, and then loaded the castoffs into the car so I would not have time to ponder the consequences of my actions. There would be no buyer's remorse for me.

…My dusty old bookshelves, file cabinets, giant-kitchen-table-as-desk, and huge, very uncomfortable office chair, at which I used to sit for hours, grading, ranting, and raving, are all gone. So are the rants and raves.

Absent the physical and psychological paraphernalia of my former melancholy, I am master of my domain. I have, quite literally because I can reach them now, thrown open the windows, blown out the cobwebs, and shed some light on my present circumstances.

UD’s impressed, and she wishes her well.

(How drearily neurotic that academic thing, by the way, of tucking every tome away on a bookshelf, never mind how turdy…)
Vote of No Confidence Today

As Inside Higher Ed reports, faculty at Case Western Reserve University will vote on whether they retain confidence in their president, Edward M. Hundert, a man apparently prone to financial mismanagement and secrecy. The professors calling the vote were inspired by recent events at Harvard.
Ralph Luker, at Cliopatria, Notes:

Congratulations to Jacob T. Levy who has accepted an appointment as Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory in the Political Science Department at McGill University. A former member of The Volokh Conspiracy, Levy is one of my favorite commentators at places like Crooked Timber. Last year, when both he and Daniel Drezner were denied tenure at the University of Chicago, it seemed to suggest that Ivan Tribble was right about academic blogging. Now that both Drezner and Levy have landed on their feet – Drezner at Tufts and Levy at McGill – Tribble looks less persuasive, pathetic even.

True about La Tribble, who has been awfully quiet lately as one after another blogger sorts through attractive academic job offers... Gotta wonder about the University of Chicago too -- is the current department composed of avant-gardists experimenting with Gidean actes gratuits?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Okay, so,

here’s an editorial in today’s Christian Science Monitor, with UD’s running commentary.

Duke University has long run a campus program to support students in moral reflection and in developing personal integrity. But this type of education - so essential later in the workplace (What workplace would that be? What I hear tell, you can do a whole lot better in American organizational settings without the heavy burden of moral reflection and scruple.) - remains notably absent in most schools of higher learning. (You’re going to have to define this wondrous Duke thing more precisely if you want me to get excited about it. What are you talking about?)

Academics, of course, are the core reason for college or university. Duke, for one, doesn't neglect that side of learning. And yet, according to a new survey, more than half of all faculty in higher ed say it's important that undergraduates develop moral character and enhance their self- understanding. (That “and yet” is pretty tricky. What sort of logical connection are you asking me to make here? If you ask me do I think students should be good, thoughtful people, I’m going to say yes. That doesn’t mean I think my university should offer Being a Good, Thoughtful Person courses.)

The survey, conducted among 421 institutions by an ongoing project at the University of California at Los Angeles, reveals a big disconnect between teachers and students that may explain why so few schools of higher education spend much effort on character education.

Connecting moral reasoning to spiritual values is often essential in character education. (How’d we slip from moral to spiritual?) And students don't shy away from telling pollsters that they want spiritual help and growth in higher ed. (What poll results, precisely, are you talking about here? “In higher ed“? Does that mean a majority of college students say they want sermons on character education from their professors?) But their professors remain shy about giving them that. (Hey baby, I ain’t shy. I’m just not a Character Education Facilitator.) Less than a third of professors say colleges should facilitate a student's spiritual development (The reiterated cliches and buzzwords in this piece are starting to make me sick), while a similar survey of students found nearly half say it is important that colleges encourage their personal expression of spirituality. (Is there even a shred of science to the claims you’re making? To the extent they’re comprehensible as claims?)

Discussing religion or spirituality in the classroom is indeed difficult for teachers. (Who says? I can talk about lots of things, including religion or spirituality. I often do, since most serious literature is involved with it in one way or another. But I don’t sermonize, and I never would.) And yet they also know that preparing students to act morally in their chosen profession is especially critical to their career success, not to mention society at large. (God, the cliches. Society at large. Again, I don’t think it’s ever been demonstrated that being an earnestly moral person correlates with career success. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence the other way. And professors are intellectuals dealing dispassionately with morally ambiguous texts and other complex phenomena -- they are not a career-morality preparation service the way H and R. Block is a tax-preparation service.)

The survey did find that a majority of faculty believe their own spirituality does have a role to play on campus, and 3 in 5 do consider themselves to be religious people. But a big majority of students say their professors never encourage discussions of spirituality or religion or provide opportunities to discuss the meaning or purpose of life. (This is too weird. Which professors? All schools have departments of philosophy; many have theology, or religion, or whatever, as well. WTF?) "It would appear that there is much more that colleges can do to facilitate students' spiritual development," says Alexander Astin at UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, which conducted the survey. (And Jesus said: Lo, I come to facilitate your spiritual development...)

Colleges need not resort to proselytizing, but schools such as Duke have found they can have more than honor codes or elective courses in ethics. A student's spiritual growth can be supported by such activities as writing self-reflective essays (just what our students need -- more opportunities to write about themselves) or in community service related to their studies (“I’m studying Michel Houellebecq with Professor Soltan. My community service is dating rancid pathetic horny old guys.“) Many colleges are introducing "service learning," or community work that allows students to experience the ethical or moral dilemmas that they will face in their careers.

An influential education think tank, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, in Stanford, Calif., has a project to look at how professional schools, from medicine to law, teach practical, moral reasoning. It found undergraduates are inspired by moral ideals but need help in working toward them. Only a few institutions integrate such learning in campus life, such as finding "teachable moments" that expand a student's heart for qualities such as compassion and integrity. (The marriage of bad writing and fuzzy thinking throughout this piece is extraordinary.)

Higher ed needs to break this barrier between professors and students that keeps them from talking about an essential in real education. (Does this editorial represent some cynical hack filling up column inches? UD votes yes.)
The Complex Text

From today’s Washington Post:

The ability to handle complex reading is the major factor separating high school students who are ready for college reading from those who are not, according to a new report.

…In complex reading passages, organization may be elaborate, messages may be implicit, interactions among ideas or characters may be subtle and the vocabulary is demanding and intricate.

…The ACT isolated reading complexity as a critical factor by analyzing the results of the 1.2 million high school seniors in 2005 who took the well-known ACT college entrance test. Based on that test, only 51 percent of students showed they were ready to handle the reading requirements of a typical first-year college course.

From the ACT website, here’s a bit more about complex reading passages:

A complex text can be described with respect to the following six aspects (which can
be abbreviated to “RSVP”):

● Relationships: Interactions among ideas or characters in the text are subtle,
involved, or deeply embedded.

● Richness: The text possesses a sizable amount of highly sophisticated information
conveyed through data or literary devices.

● Structure: The text is organized in ways that are elaborate and sometimes

● Style: The author’s tone and use of language are often intricate.

● Vocabulary: The author’s choice of words is demanding and highly context

● Purpose: The author’s intent in writing the text is implicit and sometimes

I don’t know. Speaking just for myself, I always find results like these kind of happy-making. After all, I’m an English professor… this is what I do… I stand up in front of people, the way I did yesterday and the way I’ll do tomorrow, and I read passages from James Joyce and analyze them and ask my students to discuss them and all.

In the largest sense, the ACT results represent bad, though not surprising, news. But in a more personal sense, they point to the importance of the work that English teachers and professors do.

In looking over the report’s criteria for complex texts, I thought of the famous final paragraph in Joyce’s short story, “The Dead” --

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

This stunning passage has it all: its ideas are subtle, embedded; its philosophically complex information is conveyed via literary devices; the organization of language is markedly unconventional; the author’s tone is hard to place - elegiac, frightened, defeated? - and context dependent. A word like “mutinous” is certainly demanding. Sailors, not waves, are mutinous. There’s a poetic suggestiveness to it, with its echoes of muteness, another form of silence in a passage about the descent of silence. And though the soft insinuating rhythm and sounds of the passage hint at a kind of tranquility, there’s a restlessness in the character’s decision to “set out on his journey westward.”

To understand this passage, a student first has to intuit its value and then discipline herself in the patience to read it carefully and slowly, as it clearly wishes to be read. Ideally, the student would already have been aroused by the beauty of the language, and her aesthetic pleasure would now draw her toward the act of interpretation. She wouldn’t be able to be very clear about its meaning, but having read through the rest of “The Dead,” she’d have a general sense of the thing. Nor would she demand absolute clarity, since she would understand that great art is about ambiguity.

From the blog Oh Harvard...:

Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature, was always a vocal Summers supporter, and she couldn't but allude to her dissatisfaction with current state of Harvard politics. In a lecture on Franz Kafka's The Trial, she remarked (rough quotation):

"Perhaps the most disturbing thing about The Trial is [Joseph] K.'s resignation to his fate. What happened to man who was so fiery at the onset of the story? At the end, like our former president, he gives up without a fight."

She got a few laughs, but mostly an awkward silence fell on the room. She apologized, visibly upset, and tried to articulate perhaps her feelings on the matter or why she had referenced Summers. It was actually sad to see her, clearly full of emotions about a battle that was over before it had begun. She, like many of the undergraduate body, at least wanted Summers to fight back, to stand up for his actions. Like K., he goes quietly to the slaughter that he once seemed so determined to fight.

Assuming this anecdote is accurate, UD has a few comments.

(1.) Wisse has demonstrated here the disturbing tendency of some professors to inject political content into their lectures. She knows that Summers’ strongest support comes from Harvard students, and she is lobbying those students. If it’s wrong for Ward Churchill, it’s wrong for Professor Wisse.

(2.) Mr. Summers will leave his post at Harvard and -- after a year off at full salary -- return to a lucrative, powerful, and prestigious position in Harvard’s economics department. Professor Wisse discerns a parallel between this fate and that of Joseph K., degraded, tortured, and slaughtered like an animal.

(3.) A more appropriate parallel between The Trial and the fate of President Summers would stress his involvement in an actual trial -- that of Andrei Shleifer -- and the way in which, like all the well-connected functionaries in Kafka’s work, Shleifer, though found guilty, was returned to the Harvard castle and given no punishment.
More Naughtiness;
And One Brave Regent

From the Hawaii Star Bulletin:

The chairwoman of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents criticized a key state senator yesterday, accusing him of meddling in university affairs and trying to pressure regents up for confirmation in the Senate.

During the discussion over whether to suspend the national search for a new UH president and offer the job to interim President David McClain, board Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta praised McClain for standing up to Senate Higher Education Chairman Clayton Hee over the Legislature's transfer of a single faculty position from UH-Manoa to UH-West Oahu.

Lagareta went on to accuse Hee of trying to influence board members up for confirmation before his committee, saying regents were told through intermediaries that their votes on the president and a Navy research center could affect their confirmation.

However, Michael Dahilig, the only regent officially up for confirmation this year, said Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) and members of his staff did not threaten him.

"In no way do I feel the senator's office has been grossly inappropriate," Dahilig said.

He said he would expect hard questions about his votes, and that Hee has every right to ask those questions.

Hee said Lagareta is speaking without knowing the facts.

"She may wish to personalize it, and that's unfortunate," Hee said. "Her fantasies are getting the best of her."

The terms of two other regents -- James Haynes II and Myron Yamasato -- expire this year, but Gov. Linda Lingle has not yet announced if she will reappoint them or select new regents.

Lagareta said Haynes, who may be reappointed to the position, was also told by intermediaries that his votes on McClain and the Navy University Affiliated Research Center could affect his confirmation.

Haynes did not return a call asking for comment.

After the meeting, Lagareta said she said what she did because "I feel like I'm representing my regents, who have all had back-door lobbying and accusations and threats and bullying."

One other regent position remains vacant since last year, when the Senate rejected interim regent John Kai after two hearings before Hee's Higher Education Committee.

The feud between Lagareta and Hee may go back to those confirmation hearings, when Lagareta was openly critical of Hee and of the distribution of tickets for a Hee fundraiser to the regents.

Hee and Amy Agbayani, a former part-time Hee staff member who also works at the university, apologized for sending the fundraising tickets.

Lagareta, who was then vice chairwoman, asked the board for a formal resolution expressing their concern over the situation. However, the board let the matter drop and did not consider the resolution.

Number of things to note here about wealthy Hawaii and its shabby public university system.

As always, a key component of the failure of higher education in the state is government interference. Senator Hee in particular is notorious -- and he's the head of the Education Committee. His people did not pressure regent candidates to buy a ticket for one of his fundraisers; they pressured the candidates to buy blocks of tickets. Hee was behind the effort simply by state fiat to move a university position from one campus to another. And he reportedly tried to blackmail regents into voting his way on the next university president and on an unpopular research center by threatening to deny them confirmation.

Hee has been unlucky in his defenders. "In no way do I feel the senator's office has been grossly inappropriate," one of them insists, carefully leaving open the possibility that, while not grossly inappropriate, his office has been - let us say - significantly inappropriate.

Hee's own defense is a moronic offense: He calls the head of the regents a lunatic. "Her fantasies are getting the best of her."
Shut Up, Carol,
or T. Boone
Will Repossess Your Town

A letter to the Dallas Morning News:

A little less altruistic?

Re: "Tax break helped in OSU gift," Friday news story.

So on Dec. 30, 2005, T. Boone Pickens "gives" Oklahoma State $165 million for its athletic program. He gets a tax deduction equal to 100 percent of his gross income. Then the university keeps the money less than an hour, and one person – the athletic director – decides to invest it in a hedge fund run by ... T. Boone Pickens.

The person who really benefits? T. Boone Pickens.

What a philanthropist! Does his generosity warm your heart or stink like 165 million rotten eggs?

Carol Stum, Richardson
Although We’re No Italy,
We Can Certainly Be
Very Bad in Our Own Small Way

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Just days after taking office in 2003, Attorney General Jim Petro ordered the University of Akron to replace four law firms, even though the university's top lawyer had warned that the changes would be costly and inefficient.

Petro dismissed the university's concerns and ordered much of the legal work, including patent cases, transferred to Roetzel & Andress, a politically wired firm that had to scramble to assemble a patent law department. At least two of the firms said they believe they lost the work because they refused to contribute to Petro's campaign.

The disagreement is detailed in never-before-disclosed e-mails in which university general counsel Ted Mallo pleaded with Petro to keep the four firms, which had represented the university for years. The university's board of trustees voted unanimously to release the correspondence Tuesday in response to a public records request from The Plain Dealer.

After the newspaper asked for the records, Petro advised the university that they were not public.

He said they fell within attorney-client privilege.

Trustees agreed the privilege applied but should be waived.

The e-mails reflect Mallo's frustration as he tried to persuade Petro to change his mind.

In a Jan. 14, 2003, e-mail, Mallo told President Luis Proenza and trustees that a change in patent lawyers "would have a significant education curve and cost."

In a Feb. 13, 2003, e-mail to Matt Cox, who coordinated outside legal work for Petro at the time, Mallo noted that the Roetzel firm did not have a patent department.

Kenneth Preston, associate vice president for research, complained to Mallo in a June 3, 2003, e-mail that Petro's office had given Kent State University flexibility in the use of outside counsel.

"We, on the other hand, appear compelled to put all of our fortunes in the hands of one person in the Roetzel firm," Preston wrote. "And we know that the Roetzel firm is trying to hire young associates to pick up the workload. None of this bodes well for providing us with a high level of experienced assistance."

After Tuesday's trustees' meeting, Mallo said he could not estimate how much money and time the changes cost the university, but he said it was "significant."

Petro specifically ordered the hiring of Roetzel and the replacement of Renner Kenner Greive Bobak Taylor & Weber, an Akron-based firm that specializes in patent and other types of intellectual property law.

In the e-mails and interviews, General Counsel Mallo praised Ray Weber, the Renner lawyer who oversaw the patent work, and expressed concerns that Roetzel lacked the expertise to do patent work in the areas of polymers, engineering and chemistry.

Although attorneys general tend to honor state agency and university re quests for out side lawyers, the attorney general makes the final call.

Petro vehemently denies any link between political donations and special counsel work, but Weber has maintained that he lost the business because he ignored the Petro campaign's fund-raising requests.

He and fellow Akron lawyer Jack Morrison, who also lost special counsel work to Roetzel, said they were interviewed by the FBI last month, and both said they told agents they believe Petro punished their firms for not supporting his campaigns.

Morrison said that Petro personally told him that his firm, Amer Cunningham, would have to "sit out" for a year but could earn the business back through donations.

Morrison is a member of UA's board of trustees but abstained from Tuesday's vote.

The flap over the pricey patent lawyers is the latest in a string of controversies over Petro's system of hiring private lawyers, known as special counsel, to help with state legal matters.

For decades, Ohio attorneys general have used special counsel appointments to reward political allies and contributors. Under Petro, however, some have complained that he and his associates have used heavy-handed tactics to raise money. Morrison was among the first to complain publicly.

Petro, who is seeking the Republican Party's nomination for governor, has called for a dramatic overhaul of public colleges, saying they are financially inefficient and offer too many duplicative degree programs.

Even in light of the warnings in the e-mails, Petro's office on Tuesday continued to defend his decision to spend more to replace the law firms.

Petro's first assistant, Michael Grodhaus, issued a statement saying that he recommended replacing the Summit County firms "rather than have any political party chairman make those decisions for us."

Grodhaus was referring to the firms' ties to Summit County Republican Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, a longtime political foe of Petro's.

Petro has suggested that Morrison manufactured his story at Arshinkoff's behest.

Morrison is Arshinkoff's personal lawyer, and Weber has been a reliable donor to the Summit County GOP.

The other two firms that were replaced are Brouse McDowell and Roderick Linton.

To help counter Arshinkoff's clout in Summit County, Petro formed an alliance with Roetzel, a powerful law firm that sits atop Arshinkoff's enemies list.

The firm has hosted fund-raisers for Petro, and its lawyers gave $53,500 to Petro's campaigns from 2002 to 2004. Once Petro became attorney general, the firm became one of the leading recipients of state legal contracts. In fiscal 2004, Roetzel placed No. 3 in total state legal business, getting $1.6 million in work. It had never before placed in the top 10.

Morrison's firm, Amer Cunningham, saw its special counsel work drop from $356,827 in fiscal 2003 to $29,368 last year, state records show.
Italian Family & Friends Plan

Recall the pietoso rank of Italy on the recent lists of the world’s best universities. Among the top fifty, Italy, with its strong economy and spectacular cultural traditions, is simply absent; on the list of the top 500, it starts appearing, spottily, down in the hundreds, easily outranked by a number of smaller, poorer countries.

What’s interesting about Italy’s national disgrace is that everyone knows why it’s happening, but, with some exceptions, no one gives a shit. As one high-ranking Italian university administrator explains in an article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education, the Italians prefer a “personalized” system of academic hiring to the cold objective approach that in part accounts for America’s dominance of the lists.

In expressing “solidarity” with a now-suspended rector who has been particularly blatant, even by Italian standards, in handing out tenured positions to family and friends, the national coordinator of the Association of University Teachers “acknowledged that Italian academe's ‘personalized’ hiring and promotion practices lend themselves to suspicions of the kind now surrounding Mr. Tosi.” Yet how unsporting it would be to impose upon Italy the predatory capitalist practices of the United States.