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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)

Thursday, June 29, 2006


The weather's always crappy in Cambridge. In the winter, it's appalling. Now that it's summer, it's humid and overcast. There must be many pleasant days in Cambridge, but I can't remember having been here for more than one or two, and I've been coming to Harvard Square for over twenty years.

Not that things are better, at the moment, back home in Washington.

I should blog about the war of words that's escalating between Harvard and Larry Ellison, he of the gigantic unmade gift... But I can't get too excited about someone who was about to give an insanely overendowed university yet more millions, and then for various reasons thought better of it. I mean, I applaud his having thought better of it... I think it's time for Harvard and its enablers to stop the madness... But unless some interesting angle emerges in the Ellison case, applauding and moving on seems best.

I'll have some things to say about the Denice Denton memorial service that was held today, and about a well-meaning but I think somewhat wrong-headed interpretation of her catastrophe in today's Inside Higher Ed (no links for the moment -- I'm at Irving House in Cambridge, using their temperamental computer). But not now. Now I'm going to bed. Wedding rehearsal tomorrow.
UD Does Mother Theresa

Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor…. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.

UD and her daughter will be reciting these impossible instructions of Mother Theresa’s at the wedding this Saturday of UD’s niece, Giulia. They were asked to do a reading, and they were honored to be asked, and UD will try to do her sentence or two from it slowly and serenely. She will pretend to believe that you can spread love to your neighbor.

UD would revise the paragraph thusly:

Spread love in a reasonable number of locations: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to your dog…. Although students who come to you complaining about a grade are unlikely to leave happier (though it’s not impossible), do all you can to make most of the people who come to you leave better and happier. Although I know no one capable of this, certainly not myself, try to be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.

She leaves for Boston tomorrow. Blogging should continue pretty much unimpeded, given UD's obsessive ways.
Poehlman Goes to Jail

His research background in exercise physiology should help Eric Poehlman during his upcoming year at a federal prison work camp. Instead of pretending to read the pulse of old ladies he's put on treadmills, he can measure his own pulse after a day at the quarry.

'An official with the National Institutes of Health said Poehlman's case marked the first time a researcher would serve time in prison for falsifying data to obtain federal grants.'

"I generally think deterrence is significant, perhaps more so in this case. The scientific community may be watching," said the judge.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Snapshots from Home

Soddenly, This Summer

DC’s mayor has declared a state of emergency, and things don’t look too good in ‘thesda either. Despite sunny calm conditions out on Rokeby Avenue at the moment (UD just took her dog for a walk, picking up fallen tree limbs as she went), four more inches of rain are expected, and people in low-lying areas (does that mean me?) might have to evacuate. The National Guard’s revving up in DC.

Details here.

The good news is that a scrawny gray wren

baby stretched its neck out of the nest this morning.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More Trouble
Here in River City

Roiling rivers out there. The rain's pretty relentless.

I've gone from considering the mother wren an idiot -- nesting in a ceramic planter on my deck! -- to considering her a genius -- a nice dry egghouse even in onslaught conditions.

I'm the one who looks like an idiot, since I didn't know there's a whole line of "wrenhouses" you can buy that look an awful lot like my ceramic quail planter and that go under your eaves.

Actually, I'm probably not seeing the female as much as the male, since he's out getting bugs while the female's sitting in there... I done learned this by reading a birders' website.
Stole Millions of Federal Research Dollars
Did Incalculable Damage to the Cause of Scientific Research
Provided False Testimony
Influenced Witnesses to Provide False Documents
Fled to Canada
Threatened to Sue a Whistleblower
Boston Globe Called it “The Worst Case
Of Scientific Fakery to Come to Light in Two Decades”

The above list is by way of reminding you what Dr. Eric Poehlman, who used to be a powerful medical school professor at the University of Vermont, did.

He almost got away with it, too. The lab assistant who told on Poehlman

says that at least four University of Vermont researchers told him privately that they had concerns as well about some of Poehlman's work. However, no one else had spoken up to university authorities. "I was in a unique position to act. …I did not rely on Dr. Poehlman for funding, a post doc [research position], or a salary." …The University of Vermont took [the] accusations seriously, he said, but he quickly realized the difficulty of being a whistle-blower against someone as powerful as Poehlman. [Boston Globe]

Now he’s up for sentencing, and thinks he shouldn’t have to go to jail:

A former University of Vermont professor convicted of research fraud has asked a judge for leniency.

In a letter to the court last week Eric Poehlman said he has been punished enough by the consequences of his decision to fabricate research and should not have to serve time in jail.

Poehlman said his actions have cost him his job and relationships with friends and colleagues and ruined his national reputation.

"I have not only already been severely punished in a way that sends a clear message to the scientific community and the community at large, but have sharpened my focus on community service," Poehlman wrote to U.S. District Judge William Sessions III. "I hope you will conclude that the goals of sentencing in my case can be met without imposing a term of jail."

Poehlman, who was employed at UVM from 1987 to 1993 and as a tenured professor from 1996 until he retired from the College of Medicine in 2001, is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday. He faces up to five years in prison, three years on supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

Poehlman wants the judge to impose a sentence of probation and community service.
He is accused of requesting $11.6 million in federal funding for 17 grants using false data.

In April he agreed to plead guilty to fabricating research data to obtain a $542,000 grant from the National Institute of Health. As part of the plea deal, federal prosecutors do not plan to seek additional charges.

The case is the most serious incident of scientific misconduct in this country in more than 20 years, officials have said.

It is the first time a researcher has been permanently barred from ever receiving federal research grants again.

In the letter to the judge, Poehlman said he fabricated data so that he would have a better chance of winning grants. He also said he wanted to excel as a scientist.

"When I falsified data, I convinced myself that it was acceptable," he wrote. "My remorse is profound and impossible to express in words."

Poehlman lost his job as a professor at the University of Montreal when the Vermont allegations were discovered. Since then he has been working as an elementary and high school teacher.

To the clink, I think.
Crucial Corrective…

…in the Washington Post today to the innocent-before-tried enthusiasm out there lately for the Duke boys. In a rather angry piece, Andrew Cohen, CBS News Chief Legal Analyst, writes:

Look, I don't know what happened at that house that night. And neither do you. And I wouldn't have done some of the things that the prosecutor has done to this point -- he started the media onslaught, after all. And neither probably would you. It is possible that a savage rape occurred. And it is possible that the young men who have been accused are victims, themselves, of an irresponsible accuser. The point is that we don't know. We haven't seen all of the evidence, haven't examined all of the testimony; haven't had the privilege of seeing the case unfold at trial the way it is supposed to.

Cohen notes that

journalists are tripping all over themselves to quickly and repetitively report the biased view of the young men's defense attorneys, family members, and other supporters. And the prosecutor, after saying a bit too much too early about his case, now is saying nothing at all, leaving the defense spin unchallenged and gaining both in perceived credence and volume. There is nothing wrong with this defense strategy -- I would do it, too, I suppose, if I were representing the alleged rapists -- but just because it's a good idea for lawyers doesn't meant it is good journalism. There is no balanced coverage in the Duke case. There is just one defense-themed story after another. …The presiding judge long ago should have stepped into this case and shut up the defense teams with a gag order. Failing that, the media should have exercised more discretion in allowing advocates to dictate coverage.
Details, Denice Denton

So far, the most aggressive paper on the Denice Denton story has been the Mercury News, which reports this morning that Denton’s recent two-week absence from campus was part of an already established pattern that began almost as soon as she made the now clearly catastrophic decision to take the Santa Cruz job:

Campus sources said the chancellor had disappeared from campus three times since arriving in February 2005, and had skipped official events with such regularity that they were not surprised when she didn't show up at commencement exercises earlier this month.

The first incident was about two weeks into her turbulent tenure, when Denton called her assistant in a panic from Yosemite National Park and said she couldn't get home.

A University of California official confirmed that Denton visited Yosemite after a trip to Sacramento and that someone was sent to the national park to help her. The source said the chancellor "had a reaction to medication she was or wasn't on," and it was so debilitating that it was unsafe for her to drive back alone.

Campus spokeswoman Liz Irwin said she knew nothing about the Yosemite incident.

However, she said the chancellor's mother, Carolyn Mabee, had authorized her to say that Denton had been treated that month for "an acute thyroid condition."

Denton's next extended absence occurred in November and December, when she disappeared for several weeks, the sources said. Campus officials trying to reach her were never given an explanation for the absence.

Denton's mother said Monday, through Irwin, that her daughter had a benign ovarian cyst removed in November and "was away for the surgery and the recovery period."

Denton had retreated from campus life in the weeks before her death, penciling out appointments and clearing her calendar. She began a medical leave on June 15; Irwin would not disclose why. Few people knew about this last leave until her apparent suicide on Saturday.

Irwin said Denton's medical leaves were not publicly announced at the time "because most people think of medical conditions as confidential. The people needing to know did know."

So she’s been in the job for not much more than a year, and she’s been absent for three significant stretches, the first of them (which occurred before a lot of the shit people cite in her collapse hit the fan) bizarre. The two others are lengthy and unexplained -- after the fact, her poor mother has cobbled together some illnesses and conditions for her which either should not have been as debilitating as the absences and behaviors suggest, or, if they were that debilitating, should have caused Denton to withdraw from the job, at least temporarily.

When I put this information together with the fact that Denton felt she needed guards when on campus (and in any case seems to have spent most of her time at her lover’s place in San Francisco), I come up with a tentative diagnosis of paranoia.
Work in Progress

[From today's New York Times]

Nearly every aspect of higher education in America needs fixing, according to a draft report of a national commission that calls for an overhaul of the student financial aid system, better cost controls by colleges and universities and more proof of results, including testing.

The report by the panel appointed last year by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was highly critical of the nation's institutions of higher education. It said there was a lack of accountability to show that students were learning, that college costs have risen too high, and that "unacceptable numbers of college graduates" were entering the workforce without skills that employers say they need.

In addition, the draft said, "rising costs, combined with a confusing, inadequate financial aid system, leave some students struggling to pay for education that, paradoxically, is of uneven and at times dubious quality."

"Among the vast and varied institutions that make up U.S. higher education," the 27-page paper added, "we have found equal parts meritocracy and mediocrity." It also added, "Change is overdue."

The 19-member commission, led by Charles Miller, a private investor and former head of the University of Texas Board of Regents, was formed to study how to increase access, affordability and accountability in higher education. Its recommendations could prove important for the country's 17 million college students and their parents.

The panel remains divided on a number of issues; the report is a “work in progress.”

…..Among its recommendations, the report called for "an unprecedented effort to expand college access and success" partly through substantial increases in need-based financial aid. And it said the current federal financial aid system, comprising 17 federal programs of direct aid or tax benefits, should be consolidated and streamlined.

The report said that teachers needed to be better prepared, and that colleges of education needed to be revamped. It suggested that students who were not well prepared might not belong in college.

"A troubling number of undergraduates waste time and taxpayer dollars mastering English and math skills that they should have learned in high school," it said.

The draft also advocated testing. It recommended that states require public institutions to measure student learning using tests like the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a recently devised test of student skills in math, reading and critical thinking. And it said colleges should then post the results of such tests to show how much students had learned in a manner that would allow students to compare the performance of colleges.
Older People Who
Set Themselves Up
Under the Sun

'Despite top grades at law school, two years as an intern and success at the bar exam, Simon Caille faced the prospect only of temporary work and low-paid assistantships as a new lawyer in Paris.

Instead, brandishing the English he picked up along the way, Simon landed an internship in New York that paid better than some entry-level salaries in Paris. Soon he had a full-time position as a lawyer for an investment bank.

"That's the way it should work in France, but the truth is you spend almost a year looking for a real job offer," he said during a visit to Paris. "Everyone knows that hanging around too long is unattractive to employers, so I just left."

France's famously rigid labor market survived intact this spring when street protests tripped up Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's proposal to liberalize job contract laws for young people.

Its inflexibility is blamed for high unemployment and has prompted an exodus of young, well-educated French to look for work abroad.

…"They're looking for a hiring system that's more flexible than in France. And they're heading to countries where the 'casual job' culture is more developed," says Olivier Galland, a sociologist at the French National Research Center.

Last autumn's riots by poor suburban youths -- mostly children of immigrants -- highlighted youth unemployment of 22 percent overall and 40 percent or more in some poor suburbs.

…"France may remain attractive for older people who set themselves up under the sun in some beautiful countryside, but it's no longer the case for a young, dynamic workforce," said Herve Le Bras, a sociologist at the School for Advanced Social Studies in Paris.'


Monday, June 26, 2006

Long Churchillian Twilight
Lengthens into Night

BOULDER, Colo. -- The top official at the University of Colorado's flagship campus said Monday he intends to fire Ward Churchill, the firebrand professor who compared some of the World Trade Center victims to a Nazi and then landed in hot water over allegations of academic misconduct.

Churchill displayed "a pattern of research misconduct committed over a period of time," Interim Chancellor Philip DiStefano said.

Churchill has 10 days to appeal the decision to a faculty committee, DiStefano said. Churchill, a tenured professor of ethnic studies, has denied allegations of plagiarism and other misconduct and has said he would file suit if fired.

Churchill did not immediately return telephone messages.

…University officials said Churchill had been relieved of all academic work including teaching and work on committees but will remain a paid faculty member as long as the firing is in the appeals process.

Churchill is currently on a leave and is not teaching any classes.

If I Were Ann Althouse

…I’d take a picture. But you’ll have to trust me that, even as I blog, there’s a river pouring down Rokeby Avenue, Garrett Park, Maryland.… Our house is on a slope and seems to be draining the amazing amounts of water into the street pretty well, but we keep wandering down to the basement to check things.

My main worry is the nest.

Years ago I ordered a very cool terra cotta container with an image of a quail painted on it in black, but instead of sending me that, the company sent this --

-- a quail, certainly, but very uncool. I told them about the mistake, and they quickly sent me the right container. And they told me to keep the wrong one.

I stuck the wrong one in a distant corner of the deck, under an eave, and forgot about it.

Now there’s a wren, a nest, and four eggs in it. We think it’s a wren.

I just checked. Dry.
John Douglass…

… the Berkeley professor who authored a study on American and European universities that I found too alarmist, has written a very useful comment in UD’s comment thread for that post, which she will now reproduce:

A note to say that [higher education] in Europe and the UK has many big problems, and that US HE retains many advantages. Europeans also, as a general rule, are very skeptical about their own reform efforts -- often with good reason. The Bologna Agreement, for example, is uneven in its successes; reform is too slow in the view of many. But there is actual reform going on, and with the first signs of actual results.

There are important indicators of long-term shifts and actual gains in BOTH access and graduation rates in a growing group of OECD economic competitors. It is not the current state of comparison so much as the trajectory.

Since the Inside HE article did not include some of the relevant statistics, and perhaps many do not actually read my study which, I think, is fairly balanced and notes many caveats, here is a section that may interest readers:

'On average, the postsecondary participation rate for those aged eighteen to twenty-four in the United States is a mere 34%, according to a recent study by the Education Commission of the States. Rhode Island has the highest rate at 48%, while Alaska has the lowest at 19%. 5 In California, Florida, and Texas—states with large and growing populations—approximately 36%, 31%, and 27%, respectively, attend some form of postsecondary education. And in the majority of states, these rates have steadily declined over the last decade.

In contrast, within a comparative group of fellow OECD countries, on average almost 50% of this younger age group participate in postsecondary education, and most are enrolled in programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree.

Perhaps most importantly when compared with other industrialized nations, in 2002 the United States ranked only 13th in the percent of the population that enters postsecondary education and then completes a bachelor’s degree or higher. In other words, the US has decently competitive rates of participation in tertiary education, but meager and declining rates of actual degree attainment.

In some states, such as California, access to higher education for the traditional age cohort has declined significantly over the past two decades. In 1970 in California, some 55% of high school graduates moved directly to tertiary education, among the highest figures in the nation; in the year 2000 the rate was a mere 48% and it appears to be declining. This drop has occurred in an economic environment that needs a labor pool with more postsecondary training and education. In the US, there are healthy increases in the participation rate of older students—important for lifelong learning in the postmodern economy and for facilitating socioeconomic mobility. But even in this regard, a number of OECD countries are consciously attempting, through national policies, to expand participation and to meet or exceed the rates found in the US.'

Douglass agrees, then, despite the rather dire rhetoric of his study, that the US “retains many advantages.” But he says that the “trajectory” of change within European education, rather than the direct comparison of Europe and the US, is what really matters right now.

I agree that the trajectory and not merely comparison is important. But I’d note two things:

1. While it’s true that some countries are making progress, the trajectory in quite a few other countries is wretched, with grim opposition to change causing serious social unrest. Already, for instance, the Greek government, like the French before it, seems to have backed down, what with daily ugly street violence. And Douglass characterizes as understandable European “skepticism” in regard to reforms what others (like Butler and Lambert, authors of the recent much-discussed report on EU higher education) characterize as self-interested inertia or visceral fear or ideologically rigid egalitarianism.

2. The rest of the report that Douglass reproduces is a reiteration that participation rates in the States aren’t very impressive, and that they’re sometimes more impressive in the EU. About this I’ll repeat my earlier comment: High participation rates in systems of higher education that do not educate, and in economies that have very few jobs for graduates (see the absurd French employment system, which discourages employers from hiring employees, for instance) are probably a bad thing. You produce pseudo college people with high expectations for themselves that will not be fulfilled, thus insuring a restive population.

Douglass asks that we worry about the fact that “the US has decently competitive rates of participation in tertiary education, but meager and declining rates of actual degree attainment.” I do think we should worry about this, but on the other hand the employment rate for most of this country suggests to me that many dropouts are getting jobs. More broadly, I don’t see college as something everyone needs in order to be gainfully and satisfactorily employed. On the contrary, the US needs to be far more serious than it has been about vocational schooling.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Written Off

Jim Hu offers a skeptical take on UC Santa Cruz events, strongly sympathetic to Denton. Among other interesting things, he says:

So...she becomes chancellor at UCSC, taking a large but not unusual compensation package which includes a trailing spouse position. She arrives, full of hope that she can do something worth moving herself and Kalonji from Seattle. In less than a year, she's got students stopping her car, people throwing things through her windows and pounding on her door demanding attention. No honeymoon while she gets her bearings and works out where she wants to lead the university. No support from the community she was led to believe wanted her leadership. People are acting like she's there for the money...the same people who criticize her for her lack of attention to her appearance. She's become a symbol for every academic who others think is overpaid, for lesbians, for the clash of science and engineering with liberal arts, for diversity efforts, and who knows what else. From all that has been written about her, can we tell how she planned to do anything at UCSC? Or was she written off as an archetype?
Take it With a Grain of Salt, but…

Radio Equalizer quotes an email he received from a faculty member he knows at Santa Cruz. It’s anonymous. It’s not necessarily representative. Here it is anyway:

We should start to learn soon what the proportions of [Denton’s] despondency were: how much was due to professional frustration and how much to Gretchen Kalonji [her partner. It‘s rumored that Kalonji had just broken up with Denton].

What was clear from the recent grapevine was that she had alienated almost everyone by now. One leak out of the Council of Chancellors said they were all fed up with her -- anyone who disagreed with her was met with shouting, rage and denunciation for homophobia (her universal response to being thwarted). Another from her office staff said much the same thing -- turnover in what had been thought to be plum jobs was astonishingly high.

Dean-level meetings on campus produced similar reports. Significantly, she fired her number two person within minutes of meeting her and installed in his place perennial yes-man David Klieger [it‘s spelled “Kliger“] --a pathetic character respected by almost nobody. (On becoming Dean of Nat Sciences some years ago Klieger immediately instituted a "Campus Scientist of the Year" award and then gave the first such award to himself.)
Have no idea why…

… it’s taken me so long to add Rita’s great blog, Nobody Sasses a Girl in Glasses, to my links. It’s there now, between Easily Distracted and Mental Meanderings.
From the Local
Santa Cruz Paper

"[I]t was just a bad fit….She might have been unused to dealing with people outside of science and engineering, because she never had to deal with them before."

…Criticism of the chancellor escalated to the point that Denton worried about her personal safety.

"People were coming to her house and banging on the door wanting to talk about issues," Regan said.

…In April, she received dozens of threatening phone calls and e-mails from people upset that student anti-war protesters forced military recruiters off campus, a campus spokeswoman said. And earlier this month, Denton was followed across the campus by chanting protesters against "institutional racism" at the university. They blocked her from leaving until she agreed to watch them perform a skit. She left before the performers finished.
More Santa Cruz Reaction
to the Chancellor's Death

'Today in San Francisco is the annual Gay Pride Parade and Celebration. My mind whirls at the craziness of it all - our openly lesbian chancellor may have been going through a break-up of her seven year relationship. Her mother said she had been depressed about work and personal issues. I know she had a rough landing at our little campus, with lots of bickering about her salary (too high, they said) and the whole town gossiping about the dog run she had built at her campus home (we don't allow dogs on campus) because it - supposedly - cost twenty thousand dollars. And a couple of weeks ago she was surrounded by a group of angry protestors as she left a meeting. They surrounded her car and made it difficult for her driver to manuever out of the small back parking lot. She was no doubt scared, but she decided not to bring judicial action against those students.

Who knows what demons, fears, illnesses she was wrestling with? Ours is a harsh community, and I've seen many staff and administrators beset by angry faculty, staff and students, who make the issues extremely personal. I don't know if the nasty reception she received played a role in her depression. Probably we will never know. I just hope that people come away from this with a renewed sense of compassion and kindess towards one another. I'm still reeling from this news and can't imagine how awful it is going to be to go to work on Monday morning. Many people in my office worked fairly closely with her. There are going to be a lot of heavy hearts, and dazed and confused minds.'

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Chancellor Kills Herself

SAN FRANCISCO — An embattled University of California chancellor who was criticized for helping her partner secure a top-paying university job died Saturday morning after apparently jumping from a downtown hotel, authorities said.

Denice Dee Denton, 46, the chancellor of the Santa Cruz campus, apparently jumped from the Paramount Hotel near Union Square around 8 a.m. and landed on a parking garage, police and university officials said.

The Medical Examiner's office and a university spokesman confirmed her death, though the cause was still under investigation.

"Those of us who worked closely with Denice valued her intelligence, humor, and commitment to the ideals of diversity and higher education," UC Santa Cruz Campus Provost David S. Kliger said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened by her death."

An employee union in 2005 criticized the university's creation of a $192,000-a-year job for Gretchen Kalonji, Denton's longtime partner and a former professor of materials science at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Update, via

'Denton was noticeably absent from the university commencement exercises earlier this month, and some employees said she had not been at work for at least two weeks. When asked about her absence, university officials told them she was ill.'

Reactions begin:

From a blogger:

You haven't heard the last of this story. Denice Denton's financial situation was becoming news.

(I don’t know whether he’s talking about the old news of her questionable use of funds, or something new.)

Comments from a UCSC live journal:

It's pride weekend in San Francisco! If there was any time to be a happy, rich, lesbian chancellor, it would be now.

I just saw this on the news and was gonna share but you beat me to it. Not a hoax. I feel horrible; she didn't deserve to be our chancellor, but I didn't want her to DIE. I'm totally shocked.

I just wanted her to get fired. But suicide? Harsh.

From a similar live journal:

it's so surreal, i don't want to believe it

Yet another student's live journal:

chancellor denice denton committed suicide in san francisco today.
jumped off a building.
even though i didn't really know her..had only met her a few times...i feel sad at this news.
mostly i feel guilty for the times that she was made fun of, or disliked because of things she did. (our show BUZZZ made fun of her a great deal)
she didn't show up to our graduation because of health reasons and we all thought that it was because she just didn't care enough to show up. then a week later she was so depressed she killed herself.
i wonder if the buzzz had any affect on her? i mean i'm sure it was a myriad of things that caused her to be sad, but i'm sure us doing a show that made fun of her did not help.
i don't know what to feel or how to feel right now.

A comment from another live journal:

Ripped from the pages of a naturalist novel.

He’s right. There’s a Theodore Dreiser sadness to the story, at least at this early stage. Jumping from a place called “The Paramount” on a summer morning in San Francisco.

And what could possibly have been enough to prompt it? That’s a naturalist element too -- the way the act suggests a world of causeless malignity.


The San Francisco Chronicle describes her as having been “despondent over work and personal issues.”

'She had been on medical leave from the university since June 15 and was expected to return to work this week, said UC Santa Cruz spokesman Jim Burns. …Denton's mother, Carolyn Mabee, was in the building at the time of her death, police said. She told authorities that her daughter was "very depressed" about her professional and personal life.'


UPDATE: An example of life sounding like a naturalist novel:

'Denton's maternal uncle, Gilbert Drab, of Gun Barrel City, Texas, said …"It's a real tragedy. That's what happens when you get really bright people -- too much on their mind."'

A lot of people, some of them gay, aren’t that keen on gay marriage because they aren’t that keen on marriage. "Why are we perpetuating such a terrible thing?" Larry Kramer asks in a story in tomorrow’s New York Times. “I’m amazed by how little support for gay marriage comes from gay people."

The Canadian ethicist Margaret Somerville supports gay civil unions but not gay marriage. She thinks that barring gay marriages is better for children.

John Fraser, master of the University of Toronto’s Massey College, which has invited Somerville to give this year’s Massey Lecture, writes of her:

I so admire the direction she has provided contemporary Canadian society on abortion and terminal illness, and so disagree with her on the subject of same-sex marriage, that I am longing both to learn from her as well as to question her about her wrong-headed views on gay marriage (versus gay civil unions, of which she approves).

This would seem the civil thing to do -- to disagree with her (as I do) on same-sex marriage, admire her admirable work in ethics generally, and look forward to opportunities for debate.

Yet when, a few days ago, Somerville rose to accept an honorary degree from Ryerson University, a man yelled “Shame on you!” at her, and various faculty on stage ostentatiously turned their backs on her, a gesture wildly applauded by some in the audience.

Fraser’s good on the subject, which has become quite the controversy in Canada. He describes the event as having turned into “something of a conclave by the elders of Salem during witch-hunting season.”

You have to hand it to Ryerson. When it bestows honours, it is a comprehensive exercise: DSc (Doctor of Science), BH (Branded Homophobe) and POM (Pariah of the Month). The process was not entirely negative, though: Bloodied as she was, Somerville was able to return to Montreal wiser than when she arrived.

Anticipating her Massey appearance, Fraser writes:

In preparation for that fine day, there are useful books out there that feed directly into an understanding of the ivory tower of academe. When Petrified Campus: The Crisis in Canada's Universities (Random House) was first published in 1997, the screed by David Bercuson, Robert Bothwell and Jack Granatstein was received with both enthusiasm and more than a smattering of turned-down thumbs. Well, it was bound to have its enemies, since it was ferociously attacking what many believe is the principal scourge of campus life today -- political correctness.

Their critique of the forces of intellectual intolerance in Canadian universities (a critique, of course, not restricted to Canada) remains devastating. An emblematic observation points out that whenever there is a battle royal on campus over race, creed or gender, and there is no hard evidence of discrimination, the word "systemic" is sure to be wheeled into the fray. Once "systemic" is deployed, all counterarguments are automatically trumped. The more you argue against the point, the more you are thought to expose your pre-conscious intolerance. As an argument in a post-faith age, it is unbeatable and chilling.

Yet political correctness has honourable enough roots within our universities. Big battles have had to be fought. There are many people still living today, for example, who remember when Jews in Canada were subject to discreet quotas in medical and law faculties. As for women's rights, as recently as three years ago, illustrious teachers and researchers such as Ursula Franklin and Phyllis Grosskurth of the University of Toronto were still having to prove, during a vicious pension struggle, that they deserved equal treatment with their male colleagues.

So academics have had to fight for justice within the campus and that struggle has often preceded reform in society at large. On the other hand, the struggle on campus can become endlessly more toxic than on the outside and the reasons for that are both complex and alarmingly obvious. Perhaps the single most devastating account of campus life gone seriously amok is The First Stone: Some Questions About Sex and Power (Pan Macmillan Australia, 1995), Helen Garner's scorching account of what happened to an Australian academic administrator at the University of Melbourne accused of sexual harassment by two women students.

Garner is a noted Australian novelist, journalist and front-line, pioneer feminist who reported how the master of an illustrious college, found innocent of all charges of impropriety or harassment -- in other words an innocent man -- was hounded out of his high office as well as academic life by misplaced persecution and an appalling conspiracy of silence in which fellow academics felt too terrified to join in the fray for fear of the accusations that might come their way.

The First Stone caused a major controversy in Australia when it came out, and was a particular focus of enmity among younger feminists, who were accused by Garner of misusing the positions of strength and power delivered to them by vanguard feminists.

It remains a hugely gripping tale and anyone interested in the kind of hysteria that can be whipped up on the campus -- like that which greeted Margaret Somerville -- will profit from reading it. The role of the media in reporting the case also added to the general misery of everyone involved and probably did as much to undermine the victim at the centre of the tale, and secure his unhappy fate, as anything his accusers managed.

At its worst, campus controversies can be so totally debilitating and vicious not, as Henry Kissinger is supposed famously to have said, because "the stakes are so small," but because they leach out of the university and into everyday life. This is the dark side to all the extraordinary gifts and breakthroughs the academy has always bestowed on our ever-aspiring society. Yet even the dark side has its uses, and sometimes you just have to shake your head and laugh at the abounding absurdities. For this, you cannot find a more brilliant satirical work than Tom Sharpe's comic novel, Porterhouse Blue (Secker, 1974).

Through Sharpe's merciless gaze, political correctness becomes a vehicle for scholarly promotion and an excuse for scoundrel academics to cite "reform" for unconscionable acts of intellectual impiety and dishonesty. His depictions of lazy senior scholars and vapid, stupid administrators are as wicked and hilarious as any that exist in the English language, although no funnier than the statement of the Ryerson awards committee that if its members had known about Prof. Somerville's views "as presented to Parliament and reported in the media," they would never have recommended the honorary degree.

It is getting increasingly difficult to write good satire these days.
The Wilmington Star
Also Does the Math

[For an earlier calculation, see this post.]


North Carolina taxpayers will give more than $5 million next year to out-of-state students who come to North Carolina's public universities on scholarship. Most will be athletes.

For example, UNCW is expected to get 25 scholarship students under the program. Twenty three are athletes. They will cost North Carolina taxpayers roughly $248,375.

The Honorables created this subsidy last year to please one of the richest political action committees in Raleigh. Its members lobby for what they believe are the best interests of UNC-Chapel Hill - particularly its athletic programs. Boosters were sick of paying rising out-of-state tuition for athletes.

The providers of academic scholarships, notably the Morehead program, also were fretting because their money was covering costs for fewer out-of-state whiz kids. (They're imported to improve the student body's intellectual muscle tone and possibly stay in the state after they graduate.)

So the new law allows our public universities to admit more out-of-state scholarship students - forget the 18 percent cap on out-of-state admissions - and to charge in-state tuition to the organizations that finance their scholarships.

At Chapel Hill, because of the Morehead program, 61 of these scholarship winners will be ordinary students. Thirty-nine will be students who - it is fervently hoped - can sack opposing quarterbacks or hit three-pointers with two defenders in their faces.

Across the system, 145 students will get scholarships for academic reasons. Three hundred and eleven will get them for athletic ones.

The UNC Board of Governors opposed the law. But the Honorables knew better.

Their generosity will cost us about $5.2 million next year, and more in the future.

Might as well go to that ball game. You're paying handsomely to hire the players.'
Saturday’s Scathing Online Schoolmarm…

….shows you how it’s supposed to be done.

Yes, today our regular Saturday scathe-fest, in which UD, an English professor, analyzes in detail a bad piece of writing she has found ‘pon the web, will be a little different. Today UD, courtesy of a link from her blogpal Ralph Luker at Cliopatria, will show you how a great writer produces great writing.

The blog barista is run by David Tiley, an Australian writer… or, it was run by Tiley, until he got very seriously ill - almost dead ill - and had to have lots of operations and be in the hospital for ages and generally go through hell.

Let us see how Tiley writes his first post after having to be away from his blog’s readers for a long time:

I’ve been home from hospital for a few days, and I can focus on fine print. I’ve cut my fingernails so I can type again. Bread tastes funny and I can’t tolerate coffee. I’ve been away a lot longer than we expected.

Notice that he’s chosen to start with very brief, very simple, declarative sentences. This makes sense because it conveys his still being in something of a state of shock, knocked back intellectually by what’s happened to him. The style all by itself tells you Tiley’s not himself. The detail about the fingernails makes graphically clear how extended his absence has been.

My first conscious memory after my bowel resection is one of the worst things you can confront in a hospital – an apologetic surgeon. I’d been hit by a medical emergency which was fifty years in the making.

Tiley knows a rule of good writing UD has talked about more than once on this blog: Try to end each sentence with your strongest word or phrase. The apologetic surgeon shows up at the end of the sentence. It’s more dramatic this way - especially introduced with the dashing dash.

When I was very small I had some kind of unidentified infection, which stopped one kidney from growing. Instead, the bowel had occupied the space, which meant the spleen had moved too. Reorganising my unexpected gut design, the doctors nicked my spleen, which collapsed and had to be removed, while I bled badly.

Now, as Tiley settles into his writing task with more clarity and focus, his sentences begin to look more complex, with transitional phrases and subordination and all of that. He’s coming back to the world with greater force.

Two days later, I responded to the trauma with a small heart attack.

Tiley has also learned that it’s extremely effective to alternate between longish paragraphs with longish sentences in them and very short paragraphs of perhaps only one simple sentence. And again, he doesn’t write, “I had a small heart attack two days later.” He ends the sentence with “heart attack.” And he gives this horrendous event its own paragraph because it is horrendous and deserves its own paragraph.

The next ten days became a blur of disconnected vignettes, my bed a nest, pushed from scan to scan and ward to ward.

I’d have taken the word “disconnected” out of this sentence, since “blur” already does the job, and the sentence scans better without it. The metaphor of the bed as a nest is wonderful, conveying all at once the smallness, vulnerability, fragility, and perhaps also the growing sordidness, of Tiley’s suddenly constrained and frightening world.

With all that morphine I made friends with a huge bear in the corner. I lost control of my visual cortex and lay for days in a muddle of spontaneous images, some viciously ugly, most collaged from shattered pieces of coloured Perspex cut with frozen, scanned memories. In my own naturally verbal sensorium, I suppose this was the pictorial equivalent of voices in my head. I puzzled for hours over the way that could happen but still be under control, which I guess is the way visual artists function, in a parallel to the stream of words coming from my fingers to this screen.

Note, first of all, that we’re now fully recovered from that first-paragraph primitivism -- this is a complex, beautiful paragraph. It starts with humor, which shows up in this chronicle of misery just on time. You want to vary the tone in a piece like this one and not stay on “what a vile nightmare” throughout. I laughed when I read the huge bear line. The successful part of that sentence -- what makes it funny -- is the phrase “made friends with.” Notice too that, whether he’s aware he’s doing it or not, the writer is treating us to some pretty smooth alliteration:


The second part of the paragraph, where he puzzles over his responses, is extremely moving. He is sharing with us the intimate business of the mind struggling hard against muddle, asserting self-consciousness in the battle for mental and physical survival.

I twisted back and forth on a mobius strip of recursive identity, trying to work out who I was if the drugs had seized my brain. The “I” that I needed being a creature which could ask questions, organise my bedclothes and work out whether to put my hearing aids in or not.

Spectacular. The writer also knows that we crave new and even weird forms of writing, original writing. And here we’re treated to writing appropriate to this man’s particular experience of real extremity. Hence the great “mobius strip of recursive identity,” which is a strange phrase I don’t entirely understand -- but I don’t care, because its baroque intricacy is somehow exactly right for the elaborately askew mentality of the sufferer as he tries to put himself back together again.

I remember a man across the ward who was 86 years old, stone deaf, who shouted very loudly and was mentally flitting through the twilight zone. The doctors seemed to think he might have had a stroke in his fall at home; his family simply ignored his ravings, as if they had known his behaviour for a long time.

Next to him was a young man of Islander background who had been in some sort of fight. His mates came and he swanked around, making moves and swaying his hips, laughing about the violence. His big sister was on the mobile talking about someone else who had been arrested over the incident. But that night, when everyone else had gone home, I heard him sobbing in his mother’s arms.

Beyond the curtain at my side was a Czech chippie, who got away from the Russians in the fifties. Eighty years old, still smooth skinned and strongly built, he lives with his wife who is five years older on a piece of land somewhere in the hills. His eyes lit up when he talked of his two ponies. Lying there patiently, waiting for his heart to calm, I felt like he was an inspiration, a direction for a life well lived.

These three character sketches are excellent, but probably were the easiest part of this post to write. I like the way he begins with the old man mentally flitting through the twilight zone, since it allows the reader perhaps to see this as a kind of panicked projection of the younger writer’s own condition -- being sick threatens to make him old before his time. As far as the Islander is concerned, ending the paragraph with what in other contexts would be a cliché - “sobbing in his mother’s arms” - works gloriously here because of the writer’s powerful prior account of the man’s toughness -- “swanking around” and all. More broadly, these sketches of other people reassure us that the writer is not dully concentrated on his own being and his own suffering -- he has the capacity to look compassionately at his world. Indeed, in his penultimate paragraph he’ll tell us that “I know something more of mortality, of compassion, of friendship and love” for having gone through all this. These sketches have already conveyed that to us.

I’m not going to go on to analyze Tiley’s entire post -- it’s quite long -- but I want to end with the following paragraph:

I rowed on through the hospital, my bed a dinghy, across rivers of knowledge. Bowels. Spleen. Hearts. I saw slices of my own heart beating, which were slowed down and repeated with their own sound track. ‘Beat’ is not the right word – the thing flutters, endlessly precise, fabulously fragile, each dancing move identical for every second from the womb to the grave.

I’m fascinated by this metaphor of the dinghy, in part because I’ve seen it used in a very similar way in Harold Brodkey’s stupendously written account of his decline and death from AIDS, This Wild Darkness. Toward the end of his chronicle, Brodkey writes:

My identity is as a raft skidding or gliding, borne on a flux of feelings and frights, including the morning’s delusion (which lasts ten minutes sometimes) of being young and whole.

Brodkey comes back to the raft in his book’s very last paragraph:

I am standing on an unmoored raft, a punt moving on the flexing, flowing face of a river. It is precarious. The unknowing, the taut balance, the jolts and the instability spread in widening ripples through all my thoughts. Peace? There was never any in the world. But in the pliable water, under the sky, unmoored, I am traveling now and hearing myself laugh, at first with nerves and then genuine amazement. It is all around me.

Even in the last days of his life, Brodkey finds the word “pliable” -- rare, lovely, apt. The pathos of a powerful writer struggling to assert verbal power even at the end resides in “pliable.”

One can no doubt find other great writers, along with Brodkey and Tiley, locating themselves upon rafts and dinghies as they attempt to convey identity suddenly made to float and maneuver in a new world. I suppose the cliché lying behind this utterly fresh writing about rafts is “clinging to a liferaft,” but that cliché has developed precisely because this floaty singular bobbing thing is in fact what losing your physical and mental moorings feels like. Tiley and Brodkey haven’t discovered a new metaphor; they’ve hit on one that was always there and set it skimming again.


Friday, June 23, 2006

I Know I’m Not Diplomatic…

… but I’ve always hesitated to say anything on this blog about The Law School Option. This is because I know and like a lot of lawyers, and because I don’t have firsthand knowledge of the daily realities of the field of law.

But, via law professor Ann Althouse, I note a recent opinion piece which is very undiplomatic indeed about the phenomenon of huge numbers of college students (some of them English majors… some of them English majors who chat with me in my office about whether I think going is a good idea, since their parents are pressuring them and they can‘t think of anything else to do…) going to law school.

The writer begins by noting the amazing attrition rates from jobs in law firms:

[T]he legal profession is actually losing lawyers every day, a silent drain of talent to banking, business and premature retirement. …[L]arge law firms, those employing more than 500 lawyers, lose nearly 40% of their associates within four years of hiring them. After six years, the ratio climbs to 60%. …42% of lawyers in small firms (and 50% in solo practices) have changed jobs within three years of graduation, and two-thirds of them have switched two or more times… [A] significant percentage drop out of the legal profession entirely.

Beyond the massive job dissatisfaction much of this would suggest, there’s the cost of law school. The writer notes that you can feel compelled to take and keep the most lucrative job available in order to repay loans, which might mean that you’ll spend years harnessed to a vocation you hate. Plus, salaries for most lawyers aren’t the glorious things people think they are…

A commenter on the Althouse thread writes:

Of the things keep me out of law school, there are two things foremost in my mind. The first is that it is massively, crushingly, chokingly expensive… And thus the second - as a corollary to the first - is that law school is full of people who want to make lots of money. And I suppose that is inevitable and unsurprising: if you're going to spend three miserable years paying through the ass to listen to three lectures by some fourth-rate hack teaching critical legal studies (or any number of "soft law" classes, which is to say, "not law at all" classes) for every one bright, shining class of CrimPro or ConLaw … and graduate into - in Michael Dorf's phrase - "the ranks of one of the most hated professions in history," under a pile of debt comparable to the mortgage on a decent-sized house in a nice suburb, it should hardly be surprising that these people want to make money…

Another writes:

I think a lot of lawyers do hate their jobs. There is a lot to hate […], including cynicism, long hours, boring work, and in many parts of the law, experiencing a lot of aggression. Indeed, I have always wondered about all the women going to law school - a lot of them can't be all that happy with the level of aggression required for a lot of the practice of law. (Yes, I am being a bit sexist here, but I am also intentionally not talking percentages - I don't know if this is 10% or 90%, just that much of the practice of law requires this, and men seem to enjoy it more, on average).

Another problem with being a lawyer is that you have to deal with lawyers on a regular basis. Not only the loyal opposition, but those on your side too. In many firms, you have to watch your back a lot more than your front. Innumerable lawyers are thrown out of firms or firms break up for no sin greater than that some other lawyers in the firm covet their business or the money you are making. I doubt that there are many professions out there where the practitioners are anywhere as vicious to those on their own side. And it isn't easy for many to live in this sort of environment.

Let me tentatively conclude, then, that many people who enter law - especially perhaps undergraduate humanities types, who’ve already shown an interest in deeper questions than the econ and business majors - should not.

At least should not right away. One thing people who’ve just graduated with humanities BAs should think about is time.

You have more of it than you think. Throwing yourself into law school -- perhaps into any graduate school -- immediately after having finished four or more undergraduate years is in itself perhaps not such a hot idea. It might make more sense to dedicate a few years at this point to pursuing an unlikely dream (theater, novel-writing, living abroad, whatever) and then perhaps, after a decent creative or intellectual interval, applying to a vocational graduate school. You’ve got the time. Really.
Gracious UD

Fellow blogger Rita does homage to UD and UD’s town, Garrett Park, in a post today:

'Last night, in contrast to many previous days full of much complaint, was a lot of fun. KD (who no longer has a blog to which he can be linked and identified) and I had dinner with the very gracious UD, who lives in Our Town, a place where everyone gets their mail at the Town Hall and there is a Peace Pole, though UD denies every having seen it. While somewhat weirdly utopian, it was obviously much nicer than downtown DC…'

UD also had lots of fun, with Rita and KD. And I really don’t know what the hell the Peace Pole is.
UD Gets a Respectable Number…

…of foreign readers, so it seems only right to reproduce and comment a bit upon this flash of insight about Americans. It’s from Charlie Brooker, in The Guardian.

Greetings from America, where everyone's so bloody friendly and laid-back and nice it makes you want to puke blood in their faces. [My only complaint about this fine sentence is that the repetition of “blood” weakens its punch.] Earlier today I found myself sharing an elevator with one of the bellboys, and, to make conversation, I asked him whether they had any celebrities staying in the hotel.

"Every guest is a celebrity to us," he replied, without pausing. [The writer has a good ear for the inane.] And then he smiled.

A few minutes later I'm standing in a corridor, when an engineer walks by.

"Hello there," says the engineer. "My name's Frank." He taps his nametag. It is indeed. He smiles. "You need anything fixing, any trouble with the TV in your room, computer problems, anything - just call the front desk; ask for me."

"Um, OK," I say. "Thanks Frank."

"You're welcome," says Frank. "Have a great day now." Then he taps his cap and ambles away, whistling.

I almost have to pinch myself. I've just experienced precisely the sort of benevolent human encounter that only occurs in pre-school children's programmes, except it was real. [I like the way the writer combines pleasure at our friendliness with a recognition that much of it is infantile in nature.]

In the afternoon I visit a high-street clothing store. Nothing posh; part of a chain. I examine a pullover, but I'm not sure if it's my size. XXL appears to be the only one available. I turn to look for an assistant, and discover one's already beside me, standing at precisely the right distance - close enough to be of use, not so near as to seem invasive.

"I think we still have those in other sizes," he says. "Want me to check?"

A few minutes later, I'm buying the pullover. While he's folding it perfectly, the assistant (whose name is Milo) asks if there are any cool bands in England he should know about. He'd been holding out hope of seeing the Libertines, but they split up, which sucked. [The Brit correctly registers the rapid process whereby American salespeople and other sorts of employees turn to personal chat.] I rack my brains, but can't think of any cool new bands. Not one. Lamely, I offer the Arctic Monkeys. It turns out Milo's heard them, and thinks they're pretty good, but something about his manner implies he's a touch underwhelmed.

In an excruciating bid to curry favour with my new friend, I say I hear there's this new girl called Lily Allen who's been getting a lot of coverage. Milo writes her name down on a piece of paper and tells me I'm awesome. I walk out of the shop feeling young and fashionable. But I've never heard Lily Allen. What I just did was almost unbearably pathetic; somehow Milo made it seem OK.

Everywhere I turn, members of the service industry are smiling at me, holding doors open, straining to help. I know most of the time they're angling for tips [Actually, I doubt that‘s true], but I don't care. Sometimes they're just being nice. In London, Frank the engineer would've told me to piss off. The clothes shop guy wouldn't have said anything. I'd be nothing. I'd be less than dirt. Here I'm treated like Sir Lordship of Kings. [This is very nicely written.]

Now it's getting late. I'm in my room, typing this. There's a problem with the TV. But I don't call reception and ask them to send Frank up. We've already built a rapport in the corridor. Now he's my buddy, I'd feel uncomfortable expecting him to do chores for me. So I don't call him. He doesn't fix the TV. He doesn't get the tip. Spin on THAT, Frank.
Sound obsessed,
a bit bonkers.

Sweet account of one person’s Bloomsday in the Guardian. The writer signs him/herself only “Culture Vulture”:

Last week I went to an Irish friend's Bloomsday celebration, writes John L Walters. Food, drink, music and readings from the work of James Joyce (Bloomsday, June 16, is the day of the fictional Leopold Bloom's odyssey through the Dublin of 1904 in Ulysses). I didn't know quite what to expect, having only ever attended one Bloomsday event in the past, an afternoon lecture by Anthony Burgess at University College.

This was more relaxing, but also stimulating, as guests dug out their copies of Ulysses and Dubliners and read out extracts. Someone played a fiddle; another played guitar. There were jigs and songs such as She Moved Through The Fair. There was even a pub-style Bloomsday quiz. I felt a bit out of depth, having read Ulysses when I was too young to understand it, but it was a privilege to hear people take delight in words in this way.

My contribution was to read a couple of poems from Chamber Music. I feel quite possessive about these works because I once set four of them to music. When Susan Abbuehl's album Compass (ECM) turned up for review in the Guardian I had mixed feelings. One of Abbuehl's settings is Chamber Music number II, the one that begins: "The twilight turns from Amethyst, to deep and deeper blue," but I can't help thinking of that as mine.

Joyce's words are a gift for musicians - in metre, timbre, meaning and "singability" - which is why they are so often turned into songs. Chamber Music I, which begins "Strings in the earth and air," was set by Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band; also Syd Barrett, Luciano Berio and Samuel Barber. And it's possible that the catchiest piece John Cage ever wrote was The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs, for "voice and closed piano" (the pianist thumps the instrument). Robert Wyatt, Cathy Berberian and even Joey Ramone recorded it once. And there's Samba do Joyce, a charmingly non-avant-garde homage to the writer by his namesake, the Brazilian singer-songwriter Joyce.

I suspect that musicians like James Joyce because they recognise him as one of their own. Sound obsessed, single-minded, a bit bonkers. His words are more than mere words.

In his lecture, Burgess said that Joyce wrote like a composer: a phrase used early in the book might become a motif that could be repeated, developed, inverted, transposed and re-used later in the work. With Joyce, it's not about words and music - the words are music. That's why we love him. Even when we're baffled, he sounds great.

But next year, if I get invited to a Bloomsday party, I'll be more adventurous. I'll play Samba do Joyce. Or maybe I'll track down that Joey Ramone recording ...
Mr. Smiley and the Order of the Wormholes

Cast your mind back to UD’s post on Hampshire College and Princeton Theological Seminary educated, Martha’s Vineyard ensconced, E. Forbes Smiley, who carried out his elegant trade -- the sale of rare old maps -- with the help of X-Acto knives.

It turns out there are lots of valuable old maps in valuable old books. All you have to do is go to various libraries’ rare book rooms and rip them out.

Smiley did this for years until someone at Yale’s library caught him doing it. "A video surveillance system showed him removing a map valued at $150,000 from a book," reports the New York Times. He'll go to jail for five years. He's returned a lot of the maps.

'At one point, Judge Arterton asked [the prosecutor] to detail the evidence the government was prepared to bring had it tried Mr. Smiley. The prosecutor said he had experts to testify that wormholes in the maps found on Mr. Smiley lined up with wormholes in the books on Yale's shelves that contained the maps.'

Perp walk

'Gawd. No cameras.'

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I’d just gotten off the phone with a very nice reporter from the Chronicle of Higher Ed who wanted to know what I think of Rate My Professors (here’s what I think). I went outside to the deck, where Mr UD was writing, and I started describing what the interview had been like, when he said: “I take it you’ve already blogged about the David Brooks thing in the Times this morning.”

“What? The thing on soccer? Why?”

“It’s not really about soccer. It’s about American versus European universities.”

“You’re kidding. The title was, like, 'World Cup Edge' or something. Didn’t sound interesting.”

“Read it.”

Our World Cup Edge

Going into today's World Cup match against Ghana, no American player has managed to put a ball into the back of the net, but the U.S. team does lead the world in one vital category: college degrees.

Most of the American players attended college. Eddie Pope went to the University of North Carolina, Kasey Keller attended the University of Portland and Marcus Hahnemann went to Seattle Pacific.

Many of the elite players from the rest of the world, on the other hand, were pulled from regular schools at early ages and sent to professional training academies. Among those sharp-elbowed, hypercompetitive Europeans, for example, Zinedine Zidane was playing for A.S. Cannes by age 16, Luis Figo was playing for Sporting Lisbon at 17, and David Beckham attended Tottenham Hotspur's academy and signed with Manchester United as a trainee at 16.

The difference in preparation is probably bad for America's World Cup prospects, but it's good for America's economic and political prospects. That's because the difference in soccer training is part of a bigger phenomenon. American universities play a much broader social role than do universities elsewhere around the world. They not only serve as the training grounds for professional athletes, unthinkable in most other nations, they also contribute more to the cultures and economies around them.

The American university system was born with expansionist genes. As early Americans spread out across the frontier, they created not only new religious sects, but new colleges, too. The Dartmouth College case of 1819 restricted government's efforts to interfere in higher education. As the centuries rolled on, government did more to finance higher education, starting with the Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862, but the basic autonomy of colleges and universities was preserved. They remained, and remain, spirited competitors in the marketplace of ideas, status, talent and donations.

The European system, by contrast, is state-dominated and uncompetitive. During the 19th century, governments in Spain, France and Germany abolished the universities' medieval privileges of independence. Governments took over funding and control, and imposed radical egalitarian agendas. Universities could not select students on merit, and faculty members became civil servants.

The upshot is that the competitive American universities not only became the best in the world — 8 out of the top 10 universities are American — they also remained ambitious and dynamic. They are much more responsive to community needs.

Not only have they created ambitious sports programs to build character among students and a sense of solidarity across the community, they also offer a range of extracurricular activities and student counseling services unmatched anywhere else. While the arts and letters faculties are sometimes politically cloistered, the rest of the university programs are integrated into society, performing an array of social functions.

They serve as business incubation centers (go to Palo Alto). With their cultural and arts programs, they serve as retiree magnets (go to Charlottesville). With their football teams, they bind communities and break down social distinctions (people in Alabama are fiercely loyal to the Crimson Tide, even though most have not actually attended the university).

State-dominated European universities, by contrast, cast much smaller shadows. A Centre for European Reform report noted "a drab uniformity" across the systems. Talented professors leave. Funding lags. Antibusiness snobbery limits entrepreneurial activity. Research suffers. In the first half of the 20th century, 73 percent of Nobel laureates were based in Europe. Between 1995 and 2004, 19 percent were.

The two systems offer a textbook lesson in how to and how not to use government. In one system, the state supports local autonomy and private creativity. In the other, the state tries to equalize, but merely ends up centralizing and stultifying. This contrast might be worth dwelling upon as we contemplate health care reform, K-12 education reform and anything else government might touch.

The dynamic American university system is now undergoing yet another revolution — globalization. More foreign students are coming to the U.S., and more want to stay after they get their degrees.

This is bound to be great for American society. It will probably do almost nothing for our future World Cup prospects.

Brooks here echoes much of what UD’s been writing about European universities (see a variety of recent posts). I think he overlooks more than a few negative elements (excessively high costs; corrupt sports programs) of the American system, but he’s generally correct.

Two Stanford professors have a silly exchange about college sports in the latest Chronicle of Higher Education.

If it’s silly, UD, why are you heading up today’s post lineup with it?

Because it tells you something about the way some professors think, that’s why, and this is a blog about universities and the sorts of people who populate them.

So let’s start with the first combatant, intellectual historian Hayden White. White’s take on college sports is representative of what UD calls the EVERYTHING IS SHIT orientation of some American university professors. The ES orientation emerges not from careful consideration of the world, but from despair coupled with grandiosity, a combination that produces sweeping, shocking statements of Spenglerian intensity.

In this era of “openly consumerist capitalism,” White writes, the “entertainment-media-business complex,” of which college sports is a part, is killing us.

(Notice that “openly.” Should consumerist capitalism be coy?)

To the ES orientation, White adds what UD calls “going cosmic.” He takes a small subject -- college sports -- and says nothing about it, but zoom-zoom-zooms off into the death to capitalism stratosphere:

All three traditional domains of higher education — sports, teaching, and research — as well as that new, distinctively modern monstrosity called "administration," replicate the same processes that have subverted the honor of the professions of law, medicine, the ministry, the military, politics, and business. All show what happens when commerce is substituted for morality and ethics throughout society.

Here’s the deal on being a curmudgeon. If you’re going to be one, you have to be a witty, corrosive writer. If you’re not a witty, corrosive writer, you’re just a piss-off artist.

Performance is all that counts in society, in politics, in the arts, in business, and in our entertainments. …As in most large-scale business enterprises, such as, say, Halliburton or Bechtel or Microsoft, NASA, the pharmaceutical industry, Big Oil, Morgan Stanley, the military, the prison system, and the police, there is not much chance of reforming the college-sports scene — as little chance as there is of reforming the education "business" that needs its athletes the way the entertainment business needs its "idols."

Forget the Duke scandal -- this is about Halliburton.

Professors are supposed to explain to their students that going cosmic -- the more common word for this is “over-generalizing” -- is a miserable polemical tack.

White winds up at the place voted Most Likely Place to Wind Up If You Go Cosmic: Nazi Germany:

Likening watching sports to a religious experience, as Gumbrecht [White’s colleague and sparring partner] does, diverts attention from the sleaziness and ugliness of the institutions of college sports — in much the same way that certain ideologues in the 1930s distracted attention from the violence of war by celebrating the "sublimity" of battle.

And what of Mr. Gumbrecht?

He goes cosmic in the other direction. White is right that he does, absurdly, turn watching sports into a religious experience. His is a gentle, beautiful world, in which

…the most obvious explanation for the widespread popularity of sports is their aesthetic appeal, as powerful as the experience of a beautiful work of music or art. A perfectly executed double play in baseball, a quarterback's pass to an open receiver, or a complex routine in women's gymnastics are epiphanies of form and of bodily grace. Experienced as such, they can help us recuperate a positive feeling for the physicality of our existence in a physical universe — and in this potential effect, they converge with the effects of a Mozart opera, a painting by Jackson Pollock, or a novel by Toni Morrison.


Here’s Professor Gumbrecht approaching a group of fans at an Oklahoma University football game. He seems to be trying to ask them a question… something like: “Are you recuperating a positive feeling for the physicality of your existence? I mean, given a physical universe?”

His question cannot be heard because the stadium is screaming KILL THE FUCKERS HIT THE FUCKERS YOU EAT SHIT DIE DIE.

Wait, he says, louder and with more urgency: Isn’t this experience rather like a Mozart opera?

A drunken fan shoves him off the bleachers to his death.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

UD is ALSO proud... be one of the websites the embattled feminist Linda Hirshman reads, "whether they agree with me or not" on the "Mommy Wars."

UD does agree with her. Here's Hirshman's website, Get To Work Manifesto.
UD is proud to say…

…that University Diaries has begun popping up with some regularity at Real Clear Politics, a bigtime political website.
Why UD Despairs
of English Professors


"As for the $135 million [paid for the Klimt portrait], the price seems low to me. Most art prices seem low to me. What's a reasonable price for a one-of-a-kind masterpiece? If the Texas Rangers once paid Alex Rodriguez twice that amount to play shortstop for 10 years, hasn't Lauder gotten his Klimt, which he owns in perpetuity, for a steal?"

Christopher Benfey
English Professor
Larry Stood Up By Larry

'Harvard University has been left in the lurch by Larry Ellison, chairman of software group Oracle, who has failed to make good on a $115m (€91m, £62m) donation 10 months after academics believed they could count on the money.

The Ellison Institute for World Health, which was gearing up to employ 130 staff by the summer of 2007, has been put on hold. Twenty research fellows and five top academics had been all but appointed, while three senior managerial staff who had been hired have now been dismissed.

The delays come amid uncertainty at Harvard following the imminent resignation of Larry Summers, its president, although fund-raising during his leadership fell to a 16-year low in 2005.

The planned Ellison Institute, which was to study and disseminate ways to assess health policies around the world, would have marked a big increase in philanthropic support by Mr Ellison, estimated by Forbes to be the world's 15th richest man with $16bn in net assets.

It would also have marked Mr Ellison's second foray into global health, an area of increasing interest to wealthy businessmen led by Bill Gates, the head of Microsoft, who last week said he would step down in 2008 to devote himself principally to philanthropy.

Prof Christopher Murray, head of Harvard's Global Health Initiative, who was set to run the new institute, confirmed on Tuesday that he was still awaiting $115m first promised by Mr Ellison in March 2005 and set to be paid last September. He said: "I remain hopeful that Ellison will follow through on his commitments."

Individuals involved in the discussions say Mr Ellison first offered $100m in December 2004 in talks with Prof Murray, and then increased that to $115m after conversations with Mr Summers.

But, after exchanging draft contracts, drafting a press release and saying the money would arrive in days, Mr Ellison's advisers last autumn began linking payment to final settlement of an insider trading suit brought by Oracle shareholders, which was to include a substantial donation to charity. Mr Summers and others have been unable to discuss the matter with him since November.

The idea was to spend the money over three years, after which Mr Ellison said if he was satisfied he would donate a further $500m over the following decade with the aim of building a sustainable centre to study effective approaches to health.

"He was enthusiastic and I am deeply committed to this project," said Prof Murray. "Right now we just don't know whose health systems are working and what should be done to improve health, which is one of the largest sectors in the economy globally."

A spokesman for Mr Ellison at Oracle refused to comment yesterday.'
Gesualdo Madrigals
And Ligeti Atmospherics

Regular readers know that the New York Times music critic, Anthony Thommasini, is one of UD’s favorite writers. Informed, witty, straightforward, and verbally inventive (In his latest review, he describes one composer as producing “12-tonish works for large casts.” At first I read this as 12-tonnish, as in heavy, over-elaborated; then I realized he meant in the manner of the twelve-tone scale.), Thommasini assumes you know more, rather than less, than you do.

Unlike the writer UD quotes a couple of posts down there (A Haze of Praising), who thinks you’re dumber than you are, Thommasini assumes you’re smarter than you are. Reviewing a new opera based on Alice in Wonderland, he writes:

Whenever the soprano Jennifer Winn, who portrayed Alice, sang a relatively unaccompanied vocal line, her pitch was true, despite the angular leaps in the vocal writing, and her diction clear. But for the most part she had to fight to be heard above the sustained, high-pitched singing of the chorus, which often sounded like some curious mix of Gesualdo madrigals and Ligeti atmospherics.

This is the kind of writing that makes UD stretch. Angular leaps she gets, with a little thought -- it's twelve-tone music, after all, so there's no traditional rhyme or reason; and the singer’s doing it unaccompanied… Thinking about it, I can even hear it in my mind, having been brought up on Alban Berg and other atonals…

But my favorite part of the paragraph is Thommasini’s description of the choral singing as a “curious mix of Gesualdo madrigals and Ligeti atmospherics.” To quote UD’s eloquent spawn, “I’m like, what?” …Okay, Gyorgy Ligeti, who died recently… I don’t really have a sense of what his music sounds like… I’ll have to listen to some… Madrigals I know intimately, but Gesualdo madrigals?…

A writer like Thommasini, in other words, assumes a high level of understanding on your part, and because his attractive writing makes you want to be part of his world, you may well make the effort to attain that level, tracking down some of his allusions and learning a thing or two you didn’t know.
Outside Agitators

In an article in today’s paper, the New York Times notes that at Dartmouth

dissidents are trying to get a foothold on the governing board through alumni elections. The unfolding controversy is being watched closely by other universities.

"The old way of doing business, where people get their degree, lead their lives and the only source of information about their institution is the alumni magazine, that's just gone," said Peter Robinson, Dartmouth class of '79, a speechwriter for former President Ronald Reagan and a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, who was one of the insurgents who won election to the board last year.

Conservative alumni at Colgate University and Hamilton College in upstate New York have also tried to reach the board as petition candidates, so far unsuccessfully.

At Hamilton, the dissent flared after a campus club issued a speaking invitation to Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who has called victims of the Sept. 11 attacks "little Eichmanns," and after the college invited Susan Rosenberg to teach a seminar on memoir writing. As a leftist in the early 1980's, Ms. Rosenberg was linked to the armed robbery of a bank in which two police officers and a security guard were killed.

At Colgate, the opposition reached critical mass over the college's efforts to curb Greek life by taking over ownership of fraternity houses.

"What we're seeing at Dartmouth, Colgate and Hamilton are alumni who are profoundly troubled by the direction of those institutions," said Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council for Trustees and Alumni, a group whose founders in 1995 included Lynne Cheney and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut. "It's time for those looking in from the outside to provide some input."

The article goes on to note that it’s simplistic to see this as a right/left issue. Similar attempts to infiltrate universities and colleges from the outside have in the past come from the left; and a number of recent infiltrators haven’t been political so much as institutional -- they’ve wanted higher salaries for professors, or have worried about the relative importance of undergraduate and graduate education at a particular school.

UD sees this trend, in any case, as an unmitigated good. Universities and colleges should welcome these events. They should be happy that alumni care enough to put themselves forward. And as self-reflective institutions, they should embrace the intellectual provocations the outsiders offer.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Haze of Praising

A sociology professor at UD’s alma mahler, Northwestern, defends hazing in an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune. UD comments parenthetically.

'Hazing is good for America. Those of us who have been through fraternity (and some sorority) initiations, at one time a hallowed part of campus life, know that they develop shared feelings of honor and pride. [Warning light. “Shared feelings of honor and pride” is major blahblah. Let us see if the writer can be more precise.] But such rituals have been toned down in today's no-risk, litigious, surveillance society. [The surveillance that brought the recent hazing cases to light was the students’ own Face Book activities. The writer seems to want us to think that the FBI’s been filming our kids.] Where once we accepted the rough-and-tumble of youth culture, now everything is examined through the thorny eyes of lawyers. [Thorny?]

Recently, Northwestern University suspended some members of the women's soccer team from some 2006-07 regular-season games for hazing. Some players also received probation and others unspecified "additional disciplinary action." The men's swim team and the Northwestern Wildcat mascot squad also were punished in separate incidents.

The truth is that in almost all instances hazing is not harmful. Girls will be girls (and boys, boys) and any punishment will be ineffective. [These happy vapid cliches tell you that the writer thinks you‘re really dumb.] And hazing rituals have real benefits.

Initiations require mutual support and bonding [I think he means bondage] among members. The initiates give up some of their dignity, smudge their reputations [This professor is keen, by the way, on the subject of “reputation.” “My research focuses on negative or difficult reputations, and at the moment my attention deals with the reputation of Adolf Hitler,” he tells us on his research page.], because they know that others in the group will have done the same. [Logic seems lacking here. Why would you debase yourself because other people debase themselves? Isn’t this simply the most pathetic conformism?] They gain a confidence that their mates will support them through college and after. [Why? Because their mates have humiliated them?] Those more senior know that the initiates wish to join with such intensity that they are willing to let themselves be humiliated. [“Wish to join with such intensity.“ More and more pathetic.] You agree to become the butt of a collective joke, shrouded in secrecy. No one will ever know, so one's public self is preserved. [Particular fraternities’ hazing procedures are broadly known on most campuses.]

Being told that you're going to eat worms, strip to your skivvies, or chug a few beers while being paddled is not everyone's idea of fun. But it is precisely the willingness to put up with these uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) antics that indicates you care deeply about membership. [Wish to join with such intensity. Care deeply about membership. If debasing yourself in order to join a group is so attractive to you, why not become a Moonie?] The group matters. Initiates give up part of their personal reputation to acquire the benefits of the reputation of the team. And this strengthens the group and the person. [Straight out of the Hitler Youth training manual.]

Indeed, what is striking about the women's soccer initiation at Northwestern is that all reports suggest the women participated voluntarily and considered it fun. [Right.]

Granted, initiations can go too far. Some rules are essential (no sexual contact, reasonable boundaries on physical punishment, and, most significantly, demands that the organizers refrain from alcohol). Excessive practices often occur when authorities prohibit initiations. [Note that “excessive practices” -- lovely phrase -- do not originate with students who come up with the idea of adding alcohol or sadism to the proceedings all by themselves. They originate with the authorities.] When we do not teach teenagers how to drink responsibly, they learn to drink rapidly and to excess. When initiations are pushed underground, they are re-created without tradition [I think we’ve all been moved by the traditions we've seen represented in the recent photographs of hazing.] and sometimes without boundaries. When universities do not learn that bonding rituals are valid and valuable, they respond with fear and create foolish rules that encourage violations.

Initiations were once tied mostly to the doings of college men. Perhaps the sexist idea that this rough sport was acceptable for boys led to a greater acceptance of these rituals. However, female athletes and sorority members are now quite as wild as their male counterparts. And good for them. Bonding used to be a male activity, but now female bonding serves the same valid purposes as they did for their brothers.

However, one rule should be inviolable. No Internet pictures. Today the tut-tut images of young adults romping in their panties, downing brews, being bound with tape or giving lap dances on Web sites such as combine smarmy voyeurism with unctuous morality, the worst of both worlds. [I don’t understand this sentence. The fellow’s a bad writer, yes; so bad that reading him feels like a sorority initiation. But I’ve at least understood his words up to this point.] For hazing to have its positive effects, it must separate the group from those outside to create a powerful connection among members.

College administrators may want to punish students for their violations, but these are rules that no one needs or wants.

Left alone, these students will create connections that will serve them for life. Just ask President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and their Skull and Bones brothers.' [Reread this piece’s first sentence. The writer turns out to be a keen George Bush fan.]



What is it with professors of pharmacology these days?

First Marcello Arsura , of the University of Tennessee, turns out to have been dealing meth; and now Jerry R. Smith, in the same field at the University of Montana, is out on $25,000 bail, awaiting trial on two counts of assault with a weapon:

He told police he was driving on Highway 12 on Sunday when a passenger in another vehicle -- Brady Donaldson -- mooned him, court documents said. Smith said he was infuriated and pointed a rifle out the window, court records said. [Note to Bluesters: We’re not in ‘thesda anymore.]

But Donaldson and the man he was riding with, Charles Tuttle, said they were merely trying to pass Smith when he started pounding his fist on the console and making an obscene gesture.

The men said Smith sped up and held a "shiny metallic object" out the window, according to court records.

Tuttle said he turned off the highway to put some distance between them. But when he and Donaldson approached the highway again, they saw Smith waiting for them, court records said.

The men said Smith was aiming a rifle at them and yelling threats, court records said. The two then stopped at a Lolo convenience store and called police.

Smith later told officers that he didn't point the rifle directly at the men. [Case dismissed!]
A Remembrance of Paul Zweig…

…by Lee Siegel.

He makes him sound a lot like the poet Jack Gilbert.

Zweig may have spent much of his life in the academy [Zweig was a professor at Columbia University], but he wished to throw himself into the world and test his ideas against experience, and then measure himself against the results. He wanted a destiny, not a career.

…[He saw] narcissism as a private stronghold against a hostile, mechanized modern world. For Zweig, withdrawal into the self wasn't necessarily an isolating pathology; it could provide essential strength and sustain one's original nature. [His book] The Adventurer … explored the idea of travel and action, from Homer to Nietzsche, as a movable fortress against dehumanizing reality — a kind of portable narcissism.

The idea of individuality was Zweig's intellectual passion: individuality either as buttress against impersonal forces or as portal to a more meaningful life. Yet he feared that this grand obsession derived from his inadequacy. "An experience became real for me only when I identified and shared it by giving it a name," he observed ruefully in Three Journeys. The impossibility of having an experience and making sense of it in words at the same time tormented Zweig. He wanted to live out dramatic thinking.

Zweig took off for the Sahara, where he spent a month driving through sandstorms, encountering Christian ascetics, camping at desert oases and trying to plunge beyond words into indescribable experience. Later, though, he confessed that adventure had escaped him in North Africa.
Via Andrew Sullivan

... an unveiled woman in Iran.

Sullivan writes:

It's a simple picture of a woman
on a bus. But she's wearing no
headdress or veil and a
Western haircut in Iran.
…The MSM does not provide
enough glimpses into the
struggle of Iranians against
their dictators.

Years ago, UD was walking with her young daughter through the Pentagon City Mall (malls have odd names around here) when her daughter began to stare at two women walking slowly toward them. They were veiled from face to foot. You could barely see their eyes.

In an interesting visceral reaction, UD tightened her grip on her daughter’s hand and turned her quickly around in the opposite direction. She didn't want her daughter to see them.

Monday, June 19, 2006

"The Madness of Today's Universities"

From Kathimerini, Greece's English Language Newspaper:

'From the reactions, and from the fact the larger political parties cannot hinder the Left Coalition Synaspismos and other, smaller leftist parties, from driving the universities into an impasse, one could reasonably conclude that our education system is already doing so well that the only thing it needs is to be left alone. Of course, those manning the barricades will tell us they are demanding better schooling and more money for the universities, and that the government is trying to destroy public education by allowing the establishment of non-State universities.

The simple answer is that more funding is indeed necessary, but that the problems which have left our universities being held in such low regard are not related directly to funding or the possible establishment of private and non-profit universities. The problem is that the universities have been taken over by petty political interests. There is also a lack of evaluation and accountability that affects both teachers and students, not to mention the institutionalized anarchy (or rather, the institutionalized handover of power to organized minorities) stemming from an uncontrolled and misguided system of “academic immunity.” And there is a general sense that the university is not a temple of learning and research but rather the backdrop for a battle of personal and political desires and demands.

This concerns teaching staff, who, in the predominant chaos and lack of accountability, are not obliged to do their best for their students. It concerns students who in this way escape the more rigorous demands of a system that would be based on equal opportunities and personal accountability. And it concerns the small political groupings which, in the madness of today’s universities, find they are able to play a far more prominent role there than is commensurate with their standing in the rest of society.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the above outline of the situation, one need only compare the level of studies at Greek universities with that in other European countries and, more significantly, to look at what efforts have been made to change the situation in Greece. The results are disheartening, with every effort to end the slide of our universities collapsing in the face of almost universal protests.'
Let Us Not Be Snowed…

…by the Association of Governing Boards of University and Colleges. Recall one university trustee’s description of this group, which UD has called “the official national trustee party planner":

“[The Association’s] overwhelming message is for trustees to cheerlead for the campus administration. It has been my experience that AGB too often adopts the proposition that any disagreement with the administration is micromanaging or intolerable failure to support the president. If there were any doubt, recent problems at American University, where the board essentially gave a blank check to the president, should surely settle the matter: American University has been a member of the AGB for decades.”

But now Richard D. Legon, the president of this do-nothing group, has roused himself to produce an opinion piece in the Examiner in which he attempts to deal with congressional fury at Ladnerian events at AU, events fully enabled by a corrupt and/or indifferent board.

The Association’s president calls the AU trustees’ decision, under incredible pressure from the government and from national ridicule, to reform itself a little (recall that it’s been unwilling, despite demands from politicians and others, to remove even one trustee from the board, even though everyone knows who the dirty players are), an example of “courage and dedication.”

In Orwellian fashion, the president decrees that the still-shameful behavior of AU trustees demonstrates that “college and university boards are capable of tapping their own resources to recover from a crisis. Consequently, proposed federal remedies aimed at the congressionally chartered AU are unnecessary and could inappropriately affect the wider nonprofit world.”

I’ve read and listened to a lot of arguments, but I’ve never seen a person get to consequently quite this fast. This sort of polemical high-handedness, founded upon a conviction of other people's stupidity, is what you'd expect from a clueless, self-preening organization like President Legon's. He should stick to party planning.
State to North Carolinians:
For Twenty Million in Taxes,
You Get 300 Fewer SAT Points!

From the News Observer:

'Billed as a way to lure top scholars to UNC campuses, a new law will hand out taxpayers' dollars to 456 out-of-state students. But fewer than one-third are whiz kids.

Most are jocks.

The tuition tab for the non-North Carolinians will cost the state $5.2 million in the coming year, including $3.4 million for athletes, according to UNC estimates for the 2006-07 school year. Out-of-state students on full scholarship will be granted in-state status under a provision that was slipped into last year's state budget with little debate.

…The number of non-North Carolina scholarship students will increase as the policy is phased in. The cost to taxpayers is expected to swell to more than $20 million annually in four years.

The law benefits private foundations that pay for the elite Morehead Scholarships at UNC-Chapel Hill and the Park Scholarships at N.C. State. Because in-state tuition is cheaper, their scholarship costs will decrease, and those schools will be able to offer more student awards.

But the bigger beneficiaries are universities' athletics programs and booster clubs, which stand to save millions in scholarship costs year after year. The law essentially shifts a large chunk of the cost of each scholarship from the private foundations, sports programs and booster clubs to North Carolina taxpayers.

…Former UNC President William Friday, a critic of the growth of big-time college sports, said it is unreasonable for the state to pay for athletes, whose SAT scores and grades are well below those of qualified North Carolinians. In 2005, the average SAT score was 1076 for athletes accepted to UNC-CH, compared to 1335 for all students accepted, according to a university report last year.'

June, 2004:

"The present commercialisation of the art world, at its top end, is a cultural obscenity. When you have the super-rich paying $104m for an immature Rose Period Picasso - close to the GNP of some Caribbean or African states - something is very rotten. Such gestures do no honour to art: they debase it by making the desire for it pathological."

June, 2006

"A dazzling gold-flecked 1907 portrait by Gustav Klimt has been purchased for the Neue Galerie in Manhattan by the cosmetics magnate Ronald S. Lauder for $135 million, the highest sum ever paid for a painting."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

There's no escaping universities...

...for University Diaries. Went to see Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida last night, featuring my cousin Karen as dried up old prune professor Lady Blanche.

(This is Contralto Evelyn Gardiner, a much earlier Lady Blanche.)

I didn't know this operetta -- I know Patience, Pirates of Penzance, and Pinafore pretty well, but I didn't know Princess Ida. The plot revolves around the princess's effort to establish a women's university...

As I watched the show, I thought about the many musical types in UD's family - my grandfather was a small-time vaudevillian, my father a member of the Johns Hopkins Glee Club (circa ... what? -- 1940's?), my daughter's got an interesting alto voice, my older sister is a serious singer, and regular readers know I am too.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Press Office at
Texas Southern University
Working Overtime…

…what with all the bad news. They’ve just fired the president for misappropriating lots of money; and now there’s the “former tenured English professor” who’s been sentenced to ten years in prison, also for misappropriation of funds.

Dottie Malone Atkins, 66, pleaded guilty in April to theft by a public servant in connection with fraudulent requisitions she created and consultant fees she was paid as director of the Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace, and two other programs, said Harris County prosecutor Donna Goode.

…[Her lawyer] blamed Atkins' gambling addiction for the thefts. He said he may ask Stricklin to review the case in 90 days and consider giving Atkins "shock probation," in which judges grant probation after they have briefly experienced prison.

Prosecutors said Atkins stole about $76,000 from 2000 to 2002 from the center, the university's anti-tobacco program and the Texas Legislative Intern Program.

She created fake requisitions and invoices for work that was not done, Goode said. Atkins admitted stealing about $38,000.

"Basically, what we have is former professor Dottie Atkins, who was a public servant who became a public disgrace," Goode said during closing statements Friday.

Atkins testified that she lost about $355,000, primarily at Harrah's casino in Lake Charles, La., between January 2001 and December 2002.

"I think the culprit here is, of course, her addiction," Adamo said in closing statements.

Goode said a TSU audit uncovered Atkins' misappropriation of funds at the Leland Center and she was removed as the executive director in 2002.

Financial irregularities later were found at the two other programs she managed. TSU officials fired her in 2004.

The culprit here is, of course, her addiction.
UD has chronicled…

…the amazing story of Utah’s universities and the fierce fight out there to keep guns in students’ hands on campuses throughout the state. Here’s one Utah university student who shows you how to keep your heat close, on campus and off:

Jennifer Lynne Burghardt, 28, a Utah State University graduate student, put her bag on the X-ray conveyer [at Colorado Springs Airport] — thinking the unloaded .357 Smith & Wesson was in the suitcase she’d left in a closet, out of harm’s way.

She was served a misdemeanor summons for unlawful possession of dangerous or deadly weapons at an airport — and sent on her way with a court date.

That’s the sort of commitment to gun carrying you see all over Utah.

UD did a little sleuthing, and thinks she may have discovered a salient fact about Ms. Burghardt. She’s not at all sure it’s the same Jennifer Burghardt, but she found a biologist by that name who spends her time tracking cougars in the Tetons. Utah State seems to be involved in the project, which is why UD thinks it might be the same person.

If you spend your days intentionally pursuing cougars I'm sure you get a little anxious. But cougars do not fly on American airplanes.
Next stop, 'Vagina Monologues.'
Dershowitz Reminds Us
What We’re Missing

A Letter to The Phoenix

'Your “Flashbacks” column, re-running a piece by Anita Diamant about my 1981 “debate” with the late Andrea Dworkin, gives me an opportunity to correct the record and respond to Diamant’s biased and inaccurate report.

I was told by the sponsors that this was “Dworkin’s show” and that I was merely to comment on her presentation. I was told to sit during my response and not to go to the lectern. It is true that I was repeatedly shouted down by 40 or 50 radical feminists, even before I uttered a word. “Down with the pornocrats,” they shouted, whenever it was my turn to speak. “We don’t want to hear from people who support porn.” These women wanted to censor not only pornography itself but those who would defend it on First Amendment grounds. A smaller group — calling themselves “Dykes on Bikes” and carrying chains — threatened violence. The woman who reported the story in the Boston Globe described the event as follows: “What these ... men and women saw — and some of them created — was an ugly collision between about 40 enraged radical feminists in the audience and Dershowitz, who defended free speech and became a symbol for the entire American legal system.”

In the course of our debate, Dworkin urged her followers to take the law into their own hands when necessary — to destroy the pornographic presses. Some time thereafter several gunshots were fired through the window of a local bookstore that carried material deemed to be pornographic.

When it was my turn to speak, I tried to explain — over the booing and hissing — that what I support is freedom of choice about pornography. I informed the audience that a recent law in Iran prohibiting pornography also required all women to keep their faces covered. I reminded them that efforts by the Moral Majority to “clean up” television included feminist programs within the definition of pornography. I told them that the same district attorney who had attempted to ban Deep Throat had succeeded in censoring a beautiful film about lesbianism, by invoking the same anti-pornography statute. I quoted Gloria Steinem to the effect that “the long history of anti-obscenity laws makes it clear that such laws are most often invoked against political and lifestyle dissidents.” I cautioned that if any group of Americans could succeed in taking the law into its own hands it would be the Moral Majority, who far outnumber the radical feminists. They would destroy the presses that publish books they deem offensive: books advocating birth control, abortion, and sex outside of marriage. “Among the first books they would want to ban,” I warned, “are the writings of Andrea Dworkin.” Dworkin scoffed, and then gave me the finger in an obscene gesture.

History has proved both Dworkin and Diamant wrong: there is now more porn than ever — much of it watched by women — and less rape than ever in the US. And yes, the US is better than Iran.

Alan M. Dershowitz
Harvard Law School

Friday, June 16, 2006


Time Magazine gets hold of
Herr Junker and … it’s really scary!!!

Time's Color Photo of The Scary Man

'A Monument to Hate
[A monument! Like Mount Rushmore and the Lincoln Memorial! Not a shed with stupid shit in it.]

An 87-year-old retired farmer and former SS member [has the SS thing been confirmed?] has erected a shrine to honor Hitler in the Wisconsin woods. TIME takes a tour. Will anyone else? [Well, let’s see. Since Time Magazine sent their reporter there and took color photos and wrote a scary!!! story about it, do you think Time cares about the answer to that question?]

By ERIC FERKENHOFF [scary last name!!!] /SUGAR CREEK

The setting is deceptively serene [oooooh…] and inviting. Deep in the woods [oooooh…] of southern Wisconsin, past the antique malls and strawberry fields of Highways 12 and A [Everything sure sounds hunkydory… ], a retired farmer stands above a pond and keeps watch over a dozen ducklings and geese. But hanging on a wall behind the gentle 87-year-old man [Gentle, serene… ah, rural America… But wait. What was that movie? Blair Witch Project?] taped in white lettering on a granite façade, is a haunting [The Haunting! It starts!] welcome to a startling shrine. “Honorary Hall for Adolf Hitler: Before You Pass Judgment, Give Careful and Equal Consideration to Both Sides.”

This is Theodore Junker’s life’s dream — a temple of sorts that reaches up a high hill, with brick steps leading to a large landing where visitors can admire — or be repulsed by — Junker’s proclamations about “those German and other European heroes” who perished under the tyranny of “Allied persecution and genocide.”

Erecting a monument to one of history’s most reviled figures is only part of Junker's dream. In doing so, he also wants to teach the truth as he sees it: that Hitler did not start World War II and did not despise other races; that the Nazi regime was not a stifling dictatorship; and that there was no extermination of the Jews. If anyone suffered, Junker says, it was the Germans and the rest of Nazi Europe.

“How can it be that in America, today, when you can get papers, everything, just like that — how can it be that people don’t know the truth,” says Junker, who grew up in a German enclave of Romania and served in the Waffen-SS during the war, then came to the U.S. in 1955, worked as a janitor and handyman in Chicago and became a citizen some five years later. “I’d wake up in the middle of the night and it would hit me. Because for 60 years it was taught one way. I said a long time ago I would do something about it, but I was farming and never had the time. Now I have no fear and I can do this. I said, if I could bring seven people over to the truth, I will have succeeded. I have many more now.” [Why is Time quoting this idiot at length?]

It took Junker three years and $200,000 of his own money to erect the memorial, which was completed rather quietly until it was noticed recently by the local papers. Not surprisingly, it has elicited a storm of outrage [No it hasn‘t. Time‘s coverage would tend to create that, though. In fact it‘s a trivial tale, of interest mainly to amused observers of The Weird.], so much so that the grand opening [The writer uses this phrase without irony, note.] set for June 25 was cancelled on Thursday after police warned that Junker, and his shrine, could be targeted.

Sugar Creek Township Chairman Loren Waite calls Junker “a mixed-up old man ... I hope he’s just confused.” Jewish and anti-hate groups warn that Nazi sympathizers have been known to populate the heavily German areas of southern and southeastern [“Known to populate”? What sort of weasel language is this? Are they out there? How many?] Wisconsin, and decry Junker for rewriting history and teaching evil.

“If Hitler was so right, then why did [Junker] have to come over here to do this?” said Eileen Dempsey, 65, who lives just down the road from Junker. " We knew he had leanings and that he was putting up something back there. But we didn’t know the extreme. If Hitler was in control now, Ted wouldn’t be able to do what he’s doing now, to have the freedom to do it.”

Junker, whose own four children are split on his monument (his wife died in 1993), admits to the conflict. Among the first sights at the memorial is a large rendering of the First Amendment. Behind a vast concrete deck that looks over the pond and features a towering American flag is what Junker hopes will become something of a museum to Hitler. Inside, the vast room is sparse. A long table sits at the entrance and nearly empty bookcases rest against either wall; Junker plans to fill them with writings that illustrate his personal and political beliefs. But it is behind a curtain — one he until recently kept shut — that his real prize sits: a granite pedestal holding two portraits of Hitler, alongside a declaration that Hitler was a caretaker who united a great land and “provided direction for the future.”

Though the official opening has been called off, Junker insists the museum is open to anyone. Junker says he has no fear of being targeted , and that if he is attacked, he will gladly die an old man “who lived his life’s dream."

But who will actually visit his dream? Junker imagines both Nazi sympathizers as well as people who make the long trip to Sugar Creek simply to show how much they hate the idea of a Hitler museum. Either way, Junker says, he’ll greet them with his ready smile and firm grip. “This isn’t about hate,” he says. “Take hate out of it. It’s about understanding.”'
Bloomsday Tribute

After some reflection, UD has concluded that the character in Ulysses that most resembles corrupt, cunning, charismatic Charles Haughey, whose funeral took place today, is Malachi “Buck” Mulligan, the profane and witty bad boy of the tale.

So in honor of Haughey (who knows -- maybe this is the very passage from Ulysses that Haughey is recalled as having drunkenly recited by memory one long-ago Bloomsday) and in honor of Bloomsday, here’s a short bit from the novel, about one of Mulligan’s brilliant ideas:

Our worthy acquaintance, Mr Malachi Mulligan, now appeared in the doorway as the students were finishing their apologue accompanied with a friend whom he had just rencountered, a young gentleman, his name Alec Bannon, who had late come to town, it being his intention to buy a colour or a cornetcy in the fencibles and list for the wars. Mr Mulligan was civil enough to express some relish of it all the more as it jumped with a project of his own for the cure of the very evil that had been touched on. Whereat he handed round to the company a set of pasteboard cards which he had had printed that day at Mr Quinnell’s bearing a legend printed in fair italics: Mr Malachi Mulligan, Fertiliser and Incubator, Lambay Island. His project, as he went on to expound, was to withdraw from the round of idle pleasures such as form the chief business of sir Fopling Popinjay and sir Milksop Quidnunc in town and devote himself to the noblest task for which our bodily organism has been framed. Well let us hear of it, good my friend, said Mr Dixon. I make no doubt it smacks of wenching. Come, be seated, both. ‘Tis as cheap sitting as standing. Mr Mulligan accepted of the invitation, and, expatiating on his design, told his hearers that he had been led into this thought by a consideration of the causes of sterility, both the inhibitory and the prohibitory, whether the inhibition in its turn were due to conjugal vexations or to a parsimony of the balance as well as whether the prohibition proceeded from defects congenital or from proclivities acquired. It grieved him plaguily, he said, to see the nuptial couch defrauded of its dearest pledges: and to reflect upon so many agreeable females with rich jointures, a prey for the vilest bonzes, who hide their flambeau under a bushel in an uncongenial cloister or lose their womanly bloom in the embraces of some unaccountable muskin when they might multiply the inlets of happiness, sacrificing the inestimable jewel of their sex when a hundred pretty fellows were at hand to caress, this, he assured them, made his heart weep. To curb this inconvenience (which he concluded due to a suppression of latent heat), having advised with certain counsellors of worth and inspected into this matter, he had resolved to purchase in fee simple for ever the freehold of Lambay Island from its holder, lord Talbot of Malahide, a Tory gentleman of not much in favour with our ascendancy party. He proposed to set up there a national fertilising farm to be named Omphalos with an obelisk hewn and erected after the fashion of Egypt and to offer his dutiful yeoman services for the fecundation of any female of what grade of life soever who should there direct to him with the desire of fulfilling the functions of her natural. Money was no object, he said, nor would he take a penny for his pains. The kitchenwench no less than the opulent lady of fashion, if so be their constructions, and their tempers were warm persuaders for the petitions, would find in him their man. For his nutriment he shewed how he would feed himself exclusively upon a diet of savoury tubercles and fish and coneys there, the flesh of these latter prolific rodents being highly recommended for his purpose, both broiled and stewed with a blade of mace and a pod or two of capsicum chillies.
Bloomsday '06

After the controversial Bloomsday centennial in ‘04, UD found uncontroversial Bloomsday ‘05 a bit of a letdown.

‘06, though, has managed to generate a bit of heat: Some Dubliners are pissed that official Bloomsday events have been cancelled out of respect for Charles Haughey, whose funeral will take place today (see “Bloomsday Funeral” post below).

From today’s Boston Globe:

In what some see as a mark of respect, and some Joycean purists consider sacrilege, official commemorations marking Bloomsday, the single day in 1904 that forms the narrative in James Joyce’s great novel Ulysses, have been canceled today in Dublin because they coincide with the funeral and burial of Charles J. Haughey, Ireland’s most colorful and controversial prime minister.

Bertie Ahern, a Haughey protégé who is now Ireland’s longest-serving taoiseach, or prime minister, issued a statement saying it was appropriate that Haughey would be laid to rest on Bloomsday.

‘‘His affinity with the arts, his own extraordinary, colorful life were every bit as interesting as Joyce’s fictional hero Leopold Bloom,’’ Ahern said. ‘‘Being buried on Bloomsday is a coincidence I believe that Charlie would have deeply enjoyed.’’

But some, including David Norris, one of Ireland’s leading Joyce scholars, say the decision by the board of the James Joyce Centre in Dublin to cancel its annual Bloomsday festivities, while well-intentioned, is actually doing a disservice to the memory of both Joyce, arguably Ireland’s greatest writer, and Haughey, unquestionably Ireland’s most controversial leader.

‘‘At the end of the day, Charlie was a great Joycean,’’ Norris said in a telephone interview from Dublin, where he is a senator and lecturer at Trinity College. ‘‘I am quite confident that Charlie would never have dreamed of canceling Bloomsday. You can’t cancel Bloomsday. That’s like saying you can cancel Monday or Tuesday. And on the 16th of June, in Dublin, it will always be Bloomsday.’’

Indeed, Haughey was, like many Dubliners, one for keeping the day every 16th of June. A reporter once observed Haughey in a southside Dublin pub, having imbibed considerably more than the one glass of burgundy that Leopold Bloom consumes at Davy Byrne’s pub, recite from memory a long passage from Ulysses. Mr. Haughey’s companions cheered lustily, and he bowed gallantly. [Of course I love this story. Can’t help wondering, though, how accurate Haughey’s drunken recital was…]

Norris noted that Haughey died on June 13 and will be buried on June 16, as did Paddy Dignam, a character from Ulysses whose funeral is the focus of Chapter 6.

‘‘It’s a wonderful example of life imitating art,’’ said Norris, attributing to Haughey the ability to control the timing of his own death. ‘‘I think Charlie did it deliberately.’’

In the book, Bloom suggests Paddy Dignam had a quick death, the best way to die. In real life, Haughey suffered from prostate cancer for a decade, and in 2003 had to sell his beloved 300-acre estate, Kinsealy, in North Dublin to settle the tax bills that arose from disclosures that he accepted at least $12 million in kickbacks from business interests. All the while, tribunals investigating corruption tarnished his legacy, making him a figure more tragic than anything Joyce dreamed up. [There’s plenty more tragic than that in Ulysses.]

Norris acknowledged it was Haughey’s genuine appreciation of Joyce that led him to have a soft spot for Haughey, whose politics swung considerably to the right of his. He noted that Haughey did much to support the arts, creating tax breaks for artists.

‘‘Charlie was many things,’’ he said, obliquely referring to the scandals. ‘‘But he was a great lover of life, and Charlie would be the first to tell you that life must go on, that the show must go on, and that Bloomsday must go on.’’

Norris said he thought it would be more appropriate to hold a moment of silence in Haughey’s memory during Bloomsday festivities. Despite the decision by the James Joyce Centre, Norris said he and others will carry on the annual tradition of dressing up in period costume, holding readings at various spots across Dublin and in Sandycove, the seaside village in South County Dublin where a Martello tower is the setting for the first chapter of Ulysses.

‘‘I am going to perform,’’ Norris said. ‘‘I think Charlie would approve.”

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ralf Dahrendorf on the
Butler/Lambert Report

'But money is not all that is needed. One of the greatest comparative strengths of American universities lies in the nature of human relations.

Teachers take their job seriously. They engage with students rather than eagerly awaiting breaks and holidays to pursue their own projects.

Moreover, the research atmosphere of American universities is characterized by a great deal of informal cooperation.

People meet in laboratories and seminars, but also in common rooms and cafeterias. They are not obsessed with hierarchical status or surrounded by assistants.

Nor are they tied to narrow projects and the project groups formed around them.

Despite fierce competition for academic tenure, for space in journals and in other media, and for advancement in general, people talk to each other as colleagues.'
Squiggly Writers

OMG, this literature map, forwarded to me by ‘thesdan playmate David, is neat. In honor of tomorrow’s big day, here’s the James Joyce page.
University Diaries:
Your Number One News Source
For Retired Wisconsin Farmer’s
Hitler Shrine Coverage

[It Might Not Happen]

'A retired farmer who claims he was a Nazi SS officer has agreed not to open a memorial he built to Hitler, local officials say.

Ted Junker, 87, had planned a grand opening for his shrine June 25 on his farm in southeastern Wisconsin. Word of the opening generated a crush of publicity.

But Walworth County officials met with Junker on Thursday morning and persuaded him to keep the shrine closed, said Mike Cotter, county deputy corporation counsel. No one answered the phone at Junker's farm when The Associated Press called Thursday.'

[Bureaucratic Red Tape to Blame]

'Cotter said county officials used bureaucratic issues to discourage the farmer, saying officials classified it as an assembly hall or museum and that Junker would need permits.

He also warned Junker his farm could not accommodate the hundreds of visitors that could show up because of media coverage, and that the shrine would likely provoke retaliation.'

[Reporters Question
County Deputy
Corporation Counsel’s
Choice of Word “Blossomed”]

'"He understood that this had blossomed into something he was never expecting," Cotter said. "When he saw us today, he made the comment again about how famous he'd become. You could hear the phone ringing constantly. Constantly."

Sheriff David Graves said deputies will still step up patrols in the area on June 25 to stop any trespassers.

Cotter said Junker built the shrine into the side of a hill on his property. He has painted tributes to Hitler on the walls, Cotter said, along with the text of the United States Constitution's First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech. The top of the building features a granite wall honoring Germans killed in World War II.'


UPDATE: Bloggers are outdoing themselves on the Junker’s Bunker story (I got this name for it from one of the selfsame wits). Sample post titles:

Get Your Coat, Honey, We’re Goin’ to the Hitler Memorial

America’s Oldest Anne Coulter Fan!

Paging Hutton Gibson

Damn Immigrants


Crazy Old Dude Plans a Hitler Memorial in Wisconsin

Go to Google Blog Search for details.

UPDATE #2: This just in!

Wisconsin Fight Song
Junker’s Bunker Version

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Dear old Judenrein!
Run the tanks clear down the field,
A blitzkrieg sure this time.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Fight on for her fame.
Heil! Fellows! - Heil, heil, heil!
We'll win this game.

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Stand up, Badgers, sing!
Achtung is our driving spirit,
Loyal voices ring.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Raise her glowing flame
Stand, Fellows, let us now
Salute her name!
Loathing Lawsuits…

…as she does, UD only rarely encounters an action she considers fully justified. But this is one.

Heirs of a major Tulane University benefactor are suing the university, claiming that the school's decision to close the Newcomb College for women violated the terms of an 1886 donation of about $100,000 from Josephine Louise Newcomb.

The gift, adjusting for inflation, would be worth about $2 million now and was meant to establish the women's school, said the heirs' attorney, Shawn Holahan.

"There was no question why she left that money to Tulane, and now there's no reason to thwart that intention," Holahan said.

The lawsuit asks a state judge to prevent Tulane from closing Newcomb and a hearing is scheduled May 30, a day before the school is slated to close.

When she died in 1901, she left to the college her entire estate of $2 million, which would be worth about $46 million today. Newcomb was the first degree-granting college for women in the United States.

Tulane's board included Newcomb in widespread cuts and consolidations adopted in an effort to offset the costs of recovering from Hurricane Katrina, which caused about $300 million in damage and other losses.

In Newcomb's case, the school was to be consolidated with Tulane College, the liberal-arts undergraduate school for men, and renamed the Newcomb-Tulane College.

"The university is actively continuing Newcomb's legacy and traditions," Tulane spokesman Mike Strecker said.

The Newcomb College endowment has grown to $40 million and "continues to support the education and enrichment of women at Tulane University," Strecker said, adding that Tulane had not seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment on it.

A suit filed earlier in federal court also contended that Tulane violated Josephine Louise Newcomb's intention when she established the college.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier denied an injunction that would prevent Tulane from closing the school, saying that in all of Josephine Louise Newcomb's communiques to Tulane, "there's nothing that says Tulane is restricted in any way."

In the current lawsuit filed in state district court, the plaintiffs are Parma Matthis Howard of North Carolina and Jane Matthis Smith of South Carolina. Both are descendants of Eleanor Ann LeMonnier Henderson, who was Josephine Louise Newcomb's sister.

I understand the difficult situation in which Tulane finds itself, but shutting down Newcomb is just grotesque. It’s not only a clear violation of the founder’s intent; it destroys one of the few remaining women’s colleges in the country, a college with a glorious history and an impeccable reputation.

Here’s a website dedicated to keeping Newcomb alive.
Maybe that Snob
John Banville
Is Right: Bloomsday’s
Getting Out of Hand.

Thanks, S.K.
Bloomsday Funeral

Here’s a sample of the activities in Dublin on Bloomsday tomorrow.

Because the state funeral of Charles Haughey will also take place on the sixteenth, the James Joyce Centre has cancelled its own Bloomsday activities.
Selective Culling

From the start of the Ladner mess, American University students have shown themselves to be a principled, focused, and effective lot. Recall that they hired a U-Haul van, put a banner on it that read PRESIDENT LADNER: WE'LL HELP YOU MOVE, and drove it up and down campus all day, attracting most of the local media.

Now the students are making noise again, and again they couldn't be more right. UD has watched, amazed, as all of the AU trustees have retained their seats throughout the debacle that many of them created. The students have watched too.

American University students are asking that 13 members of the university's board of trustees be removed. Their request comes in a letter to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

The committee has been investigating the congressionally chartered private university in a review of tax-exempt organizations. Former university President Benjamin Ladner was forced out of office last fall with a multi million-dollar severance package after an audit questioned hundreds of thousands of dollars of his spending.

The board of trustees has announced a series of reforms to ensure oversight of the school. But student government president Ashley Mushnick says there's still "substantial distrust" for the board. Students are also asking for a vote on the board.

Senator Charles Grassley, the committee's chairman, says he will consider the proposal.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Headline of the Day


‘...[Sugar Creek Town Chairman Loren Waite] said Junker told local officials he was going to build a tractor shed, not a Hitler memorial, and he hasn't applied for a conditional-use permit he would need for the venture.’
Fervid Glop

In her discussion of a book suggesting that James Joyce or his son Giorgio might have engaged in incest with Lucia Joyce, the New York Times reviewer first cites some lines from the book:

"The place where she meets her father is not in consciousness but in some more primitive place before consciousness. They understand each other, for they speak the same language, a language not yet arrived into words and concepts but a language nonetheless. . . . In the room are flows, intensities, unexpressed longings."

She then says:

I quote so much because this sort of fervid glop is served up on many pages. It is a rhetoric that damages the book's credibility, making it read more like an exercise in wish fulfillment than a biography. I lost count of the incidences of "We can imagine" or "It is safe to imagine" or "We can speculate" or "We can picture her" or -- most revealingly -- "I like to imagine": "Among all the letters that were destroyed, there was one, I like to imagine, that expressed Lucia's gratitude to her father for persisting in his belief in her." And then again, perhaps there wasn't.

The reviewer concludes that the book, by Carol Shloss, currently suing Stephen Joyce for copyright misuse, “completely romanticized” Lucia. Another scholar, Luca Crispi, remarks that “Shloss’s project was filled with ‘innuendos’ and was ‘not worthy of its subject.’”

Shloss is sure people would find her book more credible if she’d been allowed to quote from stuff that Joyce’s grandson, Stephen, has kept her from. Stephen Joyce is an ass whose grandiosity has kept many thoughtful Joyceans from doing their work, and one can only welcome legal challenges to him. What a pity, though, that the first significant attack should come from a sensationalizing ideologue. As Daniel Green writes:

I finished this article [about Stephen Joyce, in the New Yorker] feeling some sympathy for his position. When he’s refusing to allow “scholarly” intrusion into the private lives of the Joyce family for gossipy biographies, he’s doing everyone a favor.

Green no doubt has in mind earlier betrayals:

[W]hen the estate registered its desire to keep Joyce’s erotic letters to Nora private, [Richard] Ellmann [Joyce biographer] maneuvered around it. His 1959 biography alluded to the correspondence; his 1966 volume of Joyce’s letters contained expurgated versions of the letters; and his 1975 “Selected Letters” contained every word. In 1909, Joyce had implored Nora to “be careful to keep my letters secret.” Stephen viewed the letters’ publication as a transgression against his family.

The New Yorker quotes a professor at Washington University who specializes in intellectual property: “It would be really bad if Shloss won. If all I need to do to get access to your property is to say that the restrictions that you are using are unfair—and by unfair I only mean unpopular—then anyone who is unpopular loses their property rights.”
Snapshots from Home

Who knew Buenos Aires was the new Paris, the new Prague?

From Slate:

Buenos Aires is the closest thing Americans have to a Paris of the 1920s or a Prague of the 1990s. On a recent night out in New York, I heard four writers mention they were heading to Buenos Aires for a prolonged visit. The reasons are largely economic: In 2001, the Argentine economy collapsed, and the value of the peso went with it. The city is now very cheap for Americans, especially in contrast to Western Europe. A cup of coffee costs about 60 cents. A good bottle of wine at a nice restaurant is about $8. The atmosphere is cosmopolitan: Many of the city's residents are descended from Italian and Spanish immigrants who came here in the late 19th century during the nation's first economic boom, at a moment when the government was especially welcoming to European migrants. Today's residents—known as porteños—are talkative and good-looking (if also enhanced with the aid of a surgeon's knife).

As cheap as it is, Buenos Aires is, relatively speaking, safe—unlike, say, Mexico City—and it looks, in a word, cinematic. This is due, no doubt, to its confluence of vastly different strains of architecture: an Italianate grand plaza, a colonial town hall, the beautiful Palermo parks, the fabulous Teatro Colón, and the Art Nouveau mansions and cafes of Recoleta. In Wong Kar Wai's Happy Together, about a gay couple who come to Buenos Aires from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the city looks nearly as stunning as Anna Karina in a Jean-Luc Godard film.

UD’s kid is going there next month, on a concert tour of Argentina and Brazil.
"I would like to include more poetry of the 17th century."

Our long national Kooser is over. Donald Hall is the new poet laureate. And though his poetry sometimes drifts into indifferent prose, it is for the most part good, and sometimes very good.

And when asked what sort of poetry he’d like to champion as laureate, Donald Hall says things like “I would like to include more poetry of the 17th century.”

The work of his I know best is Without, a spare, wounded account of his wife’s death from leukemia (she was Jane Kenyon, also a fine poet). The peril of raw, of-the-moment narratives of personal loss, as in Paul Monette’s unsuccessful Love Alone, is that the onrush of emotion leaves little metaphor or worked theme in its wake. Without has some of this problem.

But often it rises above the riot of feeling to produce glorious lines:

You know now
whether the soul survives death.
Or you don’t. When you were dying
you said you didn’t fear
punishment. We never dared
to speak of Paradise.

At five A.M., when I walk outside,
mist lies thick on hayfields.
By eight the air is clear,
cool, sunny with the pale yellow
light of mid-May. Kearsarge
rises huge and distinct,
each birch and balsam visible.
To the west the waters
of Eagle Pond waver
and flash through popples just
leafing out.

Always the weather,
writing its book of the world,
returns you to me.
Ordinary days were best,
When we worked over poems
in our separate rooms.
I remember watching you gaze
out the January window
into the garden of snow
and ice, your face rapt
as you imagined burgundy lilies.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

More on England

Conservative William Hague
on EU Universities

The Lisbon agenda – the aim of making the EU the world's most dynamic and competitive economy by 2010 – was supposed to be the answer. At the time the Prime Minister proclaim[ed] a 'sea change in European economic thinking', marked, he said by 'concrete measures with clear deadlines'. It was yet another bold Blair assertion that does not correspond in any way with any observable reality. Romano Prodi described the Lisbon agenda as a 'big failure'. He was right.

…Only two of the world's top twenty universities are still in Europe and they are Oxford and Cambridge. Japan has one but the United States has seventeen. More European PhD students at American universities stay there than come back. And the research and development gap between Europe and the rest of the world is widening further. The increase in corporate research and development investment for 2004-05 was two per cent in Europe but seven per cent in the US and Asia. Europe's economies have lost their cost advantages. If Europe loses its knowledge advantage as well to China, India and others its economies will become utterly uncompetitive within our lifetimes.
More on France

An article in the Guardian about John Keiger, professor of international history and director of the European Studies Research Institute at Salford University. Keiger is a member of La Commission Nationale Universite-Emploi (CNU-E), Dominique de Villepin's commission for the study of France’s troubled universities.

"France has a strange university system in which the guiding principle is non-selection," [Keiger] says. "Any person who passes the baccalaureate has an absolute right to study whatever subject - apart from medicine - at whatever university they like. It's only at the end of the first year that any selection is made, and on some courses up to 75% of students are failed. Those who fail are free to start another course as often as they like; many students have two or three false starts before progressing beyond the first year and 25% leave university without ever getting a qualification.”

… "At the same time, there are the grandes écoles, which run parallel to universities. These grandes écoles, such as the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, are funded separately and are highly selective, taking roughly the top 10% of the most academically able students. The entire French political, industrial and - to a large extent - media elite come through the grandes écoles, so there's both an implicit message not to rock the boat and an explicit statement, however wrong, that university graduates are somehow second-rate."

…Every other western country's higher education system has evolved over the years, but the grandes écoles and the universities work against each other to create a stalemate.

"It's no wonder employers don't value university graduates when all the top jobs go to students from the grandes écoles. There's a snobbery and a stasis that you just don't find elsewhere; it's got so bad that many of the ambitious French middle classes would rather their children went to a university abroad if they failed to get into an école, than to one in France.”

… "The knock-on effect is morale is desperately low amongst French academics and pay is much worse than in the UK. Just as bad, students get no support. There is no careers advice, no understanding of the importance of transferable skills and students can't get help from their tutors, because there is no framework of support. Most French academics don't even have an office at the university; to get hold of them, you have to ring them at home."

… The irony is that everyone - apart from die-hards from the grandes écoles and the formerly communist-led CGT union, who have colluded to maintain elitism for the one in exchange for tough labour laws for the other - recognises that something significant has to change. The students feel infantilised and academics are desperate to introduce selection.

"The cost of so much failure must be crippling to the French economy," says Keiger. "No system can support such wastage indefinitely. Everyone knows what must be done, but is afraid to even say so, let alone do it. Every French political party has been terrified of either tampering with the grandes écoles, or breaking the republican idea of non-selection.”
More on Italy

From Time Europe, April 10, 2006 Vol. 167 No. 15

Quoted in

‘[N]epotism and favoritism run rampant in academia. Universities ought to be open to new faces and new ideas. Yet while the system of assigning teaching jobs is based on apparently open and competitive public exams, in practice, positions are divvied up by ranking professors to favor their own chosen protégés. The result is the very opposite of competition, a system where old university barons wield power over up-and-coming scholars. Italy has the world's highest percentage of professors over 60 (43%), while the average age of a university postdoctoral researcher is 40. As a result, much of the young talent heads abroad to more receptive societies, like the U.S. and Britain, depriving Italy of the new minds it needs for innovation: a recent Eurispes survey found that more than half of all university graduates would like to work elsewhere. After earning a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University, Parma native Andrea Coscelli returned to Europe — but not to Italy. Now a London-based antitrust consultant, he wouldn't mind returning to the Italian lifestyle and weather. But back home, advancement in his field is based on politics, he says, not competence: "We're missing basic meritocracy and generational turnover."'
Long Churchillian Twilight

Denver Post:

'Ward Churchill, the professor who called some of the World Trade Center victims "little Eichmanns," should be fired because of "repeated and deliberate" infractions of scholarship rules, a University of Colorado committee said today.

The recommendation, which came on a 6-3 vote, now goes to university officials for a final decision.'
TCS Daily on
a Bad EU Idea

Proponents of a new EU academic research Mecca -- chief among them is the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso -- believe a new "European Institute of Technology" will help improve the climate for innovation on the continent and plug up the brain drain that has let its brightest young scientific minds flow to America. This, in turn, will spur ailing economies and help the EU fulfill its goal of becoming the world's most dynamic knowledge based economy by 2010.

...Is the EIT really the way to grow a new class of innovators in Europe?

There's no doubt something needs to be done. If its Lisbon agenda to create the world's most dynamic knowledge-based economy were a sort of ten-year doctorate in political economy, the EU would have already failed its midterms and be on its way to a final exam flameout.

So, like a student cramming desperately before a crucial test, Barroso hatched the EIT proposal and, to be fair, it's not a bad one. Even in Europe, few argue against the importance of innovation, and politicians always like to say they're spending money on "improving education."

But it's an idea that, to quote a university report card, "needs improvement". Even though it's being pitched as Europe's answer to MIT, the Barroso proposal does not actually envision a single home for the institution, even if it does set up shop in the Parliament (which will depend on France agreeing to end the Strasbourg sessions -- a long-shot). Rather it will be a virtual campus, a loose affiliation of existing academic institutions across Europe. "Light and flexible," Barroso calls it.

There is something so naïve -- college-freshman naïve -- about thinking it's possible to just conjure up a research institution of the caliber of MIT or Stanford or even Ball State. These fine institutions did not just appear out of the sky, fully formed and preheated for instant success, like, say, the iPod or Jessica Simpson. They grew over decades and even centuries. Some government prodding helped them along but mostly they built reputations for research and innovation the old-fashioned way: they were endowed it.

Then there is the electorate -- sorry, the student body. If European students want to be as successful as their American (or Asian) counterparts, they wouldn't have spent spring break on the streets of Paris dodging tear gas canisters, singing the Internationale and demanding that their first job after graduation be guaranteed for life. They'd have been doing beer bongs in Daytona (or would have long ago dropped out of college to develop the Next Big Thing).

Europe has had mixed success trying to foster innovation through central planning diktat. Consider its efforts to create a European technology cluster à la Silicon Valley. Most feature clever names that play on the original idea (just as EIT echoes MIT): Silicon Glen is in Scotland, Silicon Fen in England, and the Côte du Silicon in the South of France.

But aside from Silicon Fen, home to hundreds of small companies clustered around Cambridge University, few world-shaking innovations have come from these places. (The popular wireless technology Bluetooth is a product of Silicon Fen.) Those that have succeeded have done so because they have been allowed access to venture capital and are largely the result of private initiative, developing organically rather than through what Europe likes to call "Research Framework Programmes."
Number Six:
Don’t Go to Duke.
Or, If You Do Go,
Stay Off the Roads.

Jay Mathews at the Washington Post has an amusing discussion of a recent bloated edubook which includes activities seeming to correlate with graduating from college in a reasonable period of time and not dropping out.

Despite its absurd price and thick-lying statistics, the book, says Matthews,

…turns out to be a page-turner, at least for those of us worried that nearly half of students who start college still haven't graduated six years later. [The chapter] "Pre-College and Institutional Influences on Degree Attainment," uses some of the survey data, and research by others in the field, to identify factors most likely to lead to failure to get a bachelor's degree. I know this may offend these fine scholars who have done all this hard work, but I think the clearest way to present their most intriguing findings is to render them as a list.

The list of do's and don'ts includes: Go to a Catholic college, don’t smoke, don’t read for pleasure, and don’t major in engineering. I want to talk about number four, though:

4. Don't consider yourself artistic, creative or understanding of others.

[A] rigid focus on your upcoming exams and papers seems to improve your chances of getting a degree. Being aesthetic and empathetic does not. …[S]uch results have been noticed by other researchers. All I can say is, try not to go overboard with the watercolor painting and song-writing when you get to college.

Before I get to this intriguing entry, I’d like to add a sixth of my own: If you go to Duke University, stay off the roads. They are swarming with drunken sportsmen. You can’t graduate if you’ve been flattened by a guy like basketball star J.J. Redick as he’s performing his U-Turn to Avoid a Checkpoint maneuver [thanks to Mike for sending me this story]:

Life after Duke has turned infamous for J.J. Redick.

According to a report by television station WTVD, the former Blue Devil star was arrested early Tuesday morning for driving while impaired.

Citing a police report, WTVD said that the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time leading scorer was arrested shortly after 1:00 a.m. EDT after Redick committed an illegal U-turn to avoid a police checkpoint.

An officer followed Redick and reported a strong smell of alcohol on Redick's breath and glassy eyes when he was pulled over.

Redick, who was released on a $1,000 bond, is scheduled to appear in a Durham court on July 17.

The 2006 Wooden Award winner, Redick averaged 26.8 points and made 139 3-pointers as the Blue Devils went 32-4 this past season. He is expected to be a first-round pick in the NBA draft on June 28.

People say that the Duke lacrosse story is breaking up into a bunch of hopeless tiny bits and it’ll all be over before we know it. Fine. But you can’t say Duke doesn’t keep ‘em coming.

Longtime readers know that UD considers Creative Writing majors to be major wastes of time for anyone serious about a college education. The injunction up there against thinking of yourself as artistic if you want to graduate amuses and gratifies UD. With certain really remarkable exceptions like Harvard’s Kaavya Viswanathan, you are not an artist -- probably not even a fledging artist -- in college. The aesthetic imperative in college is to learn about the work of people who are artists, not to read the stuff your classmates write.

Monday, June 12, 2006


I’ve now read the entire report (you have to pay to have them send it to you online) about European universities written by Richard Lambert and Nick Butler for the Centre for European Reform, and I want to say a few things about it.

The report doesn’t bother with a polite opening paragraph about the glory of Europe’s intellectual past, and the impressive bits of that past that persist despite present “crisis” conditions. It barrels right into the truth -- “Europe’s universities, taken as a group, are failing…” -- and keeps going.

State-controlled, compelled to accept almost everyone who wants to attend for as long as they want to attend, lacking autonomy, perennially underfunded, top-heavy with research universities (which do little significant research) instead of diversified into colleges and universities, poorly governed, lacking many of their smartest students and faculty because these people have left for American academic institutions, profoundly averse to competition, peer review, and excellence, unable to charge tuition, liable to generate violent political opposition if they mount even modest reforms… It all tells “a grim story for Europe.”

How can it hope to become “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world” - the strategic goal of the EU’s economic reform (‘Lisbon’) agenda - when most of its best universities are so clearly in the second division? And how is it possible that such a rich and diverse set of countries should have found it so difficult to build and sustain world-class institutions?

An important part of the answer appears toward the end of the report:

Elite universities … cannot develop within a funding system which is primarily geared to regional policy or to general ideas of equality and fairness rather than to excellence.

So long as you think of universities primarily as generators of social justice and distributors of jobs, rather than as generators of knowledge, the authors argue, you will never “create future global winners.”

Lambert and Butler accuse European universities of grandiosity and self-delusion: “Too many European universities believe that all that stands between them and the status of Harvard is a large bundle of cash.” These universities don’t recognize that the larger impediment is that aspect of contemporary Europe that Robert Kagan isolates in his book Of Paradise and Power -- the withdrawal from the world political stage and the embrace of quietism. Many of Europe’s universities simply want to be left alone.
A Most Ill-Timed Alarm…

…coming, as it does, on the same day the absolutely scathing report on European universities (I’ve quoted parts of it in various posts below) was released.

Inside Higher Ed discusses a paper by John A. Douglass, a Berkeley professor, The Waning of America’s Higher Education Advantage: International Competitors Are No Longer Number Two and Have Big Plans in the Global Economy.

The author, with heap big scary rhetoric, warns us that the American higher education system is well on its way down shit’s creek. For instance, fewer and fewer Americans are going to college:

“Douglass says that other nations are using government policy to match or exceed U.S. participation rates.”

Yeah, trillions of French and Greek and Italian people are in college right now. But it matters what they’re doing there. Many are doing nothing forever, like some of their professors. See the stuff about Greek universities and failure rates and completions directly below. Participation rate in itself is meaningless. (In any case, in IHE's Comments section, the president emeritus of the American Council on Education writes, “ I would question Douglas’s statistic on US participation rates. His figure is much lower than other studies I have seen. Also, it is not the case that state support of public institutions has declined in absolute terms. The problem is that higher education’s share of state budgets has declined.”)

“Douglass says that interventionist efforts of national governments in the European Union to direct their institutions of higher education illustrate that lawmakers abroad often view higher education as a major policy issue in a way that U.S. politicos do not."

Love the word “interventionist.” While the EU clearly regards education as a major issue, it’s not at all clear that particular national governments, having over the last few decades intervened their state systems to death, have the will to go up against their rioting students and professors (see, currently, France and Greece) to intervene in the right way.

“…While EU countries are engaged in national and international debates regarding the future of higher education, setting goals for expanding access, considering and implementing alternative funding schemes, and negotiating cooperative initiatives between nations, such as the Bologna Agreement, American higher education remains a second-tier political issue.”

A certain sort of policy wonk thinks it means something if a talky turmoil's going on about stuff -- they’re debating things and setting goals and considering changes in Europe, so this must mean something. But in fact there’s little movement on the proposed EU changes. The only thing moving with any alacrity in response to them is the European street, which is on fire.
Almost Ten Percent of Greek Students
Desert the Country’s University System

Useful summary of the situation so far in Greece, at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some excerpts:

The violence on Thursday followed weeks of unrest that have hampered operations at universities across Greece. In what has been called the most significant student protests in the country since the 1970s, when universities were a focal point of opposition against the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1967 to 1974, students have been mobilizing against education reforms proposed by the government.

…The proposals would allow the establishment of private universities in Greece, which the prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, has said would help the economy by encouraging more students to remain in the country.

According to a recent Unesco report, Greece has one of the highest rates of student mobility in Europe, with 9 percent of students going abroad to pursue higher education.

The proposed changes would also strengthen oversight of universities, requiring them to be more financially accountable.

…By some estimates, failure rates in some subjects are as high as 80 percent, and students are currently able to retake exams as many times as they wish. The government proposals would limit the number of times students can retake exams in a subject and would also limit the number of years they are able to pursue their degrees.
Drab Uniformity

Richard Lambert, one of the authors of the just-issued report, The Future of European Universities: Renaissance or Decay? (Centre for European Reform), in the Financial Times:

...European institutions are not well placed to compete in what has become a global competition for talent. In countries such as Italy, France and Germany, there is a kind of drab uniformity across a sector that is struggling to cope with too many students, and delivering uninspiring teaching in dilapidated buildings. Across Europe as a whole, higher education is crying out for reform in six important areas.

The first is governance. The best universities in the world all have the autonomy needed to manage their own affairs in an efficient fashion. Universities that are an emanation of the state, as is in effect the case in France and Italy, have very little control over their resources and are unable to set relevant academic priorities.

Second, higher education needs to be properly funded. The European Union countries currently invest about 1.2 per cent of their gross domestic product in this area. A figure nearer to 2 per cent would be required to make the EU an effective competitor with the best in the world.

The important difference between Europe and just about every other developed economy is that private finance plays a very modest role in its university funding. Thus public funding for higher education represents about 1 per cent of GDP for the 25 EU countries; roughly the same proportion as in the US. But private funding in the US amounts to a further 1.4 per cent of GDP and the average in countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is 0.8 per cent, compared with only 0.1 per cent for Europe.

Given their fiscal constraints, all the big countries in Europe will sooner or later have to introduce tuition fees. The UK has started the process and Germany is moving in the same direction. The political challenge in France will be enormous.

Third, European countries are going to have to become much more selective in the way they allocate resources. There are nearly 2,000 universitiesin the EU, most of which aspire to conduct research and offer postgraduate degrees. By contrast, fewer than 250 US universities award postgraduate degrees and fewer than 100 are recognised as research intensive. No wonder the US dominates the league tables of the world's best research universities, given this concentration of resources.

Selectivity is also important when it comes to accepting students. World-class universities have to be free to pick their own talent rather than to take what comes - as happens now in large parts of Europe.

Fourth, Europe needs to develop a much more diverse system of higher education. Rather than attempting to make them all equal, the aim should be to create a rich mix of institutions - some offering world-class teaching and research, others concentrating on regional or local needs. Germany recognises this challenge with its plans to fund a small group of elite institutions.

Fifth on the list comes curriculum reform. This is already under way in more than 40 countries across the Continent, through what is known as the Bologna process. The idea is to establish easily recognisable and comparable degrees based around a two-cycle system of studies, starting with a bachelor degree and moving on to a masters. It is essential that universities manage this change efficiently - and that employers recognise the value of bachelor degrees, rather than insisting that recruits should spend five or six years in higher education.

Finally, Europe needs to avoid the temptation of top-down initiatives, which invariably turn out to be expensive distractions. The European Institute of Technology proposed by José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, is a classic of this type. Much better to devote any extra funding to the new European Research Council, which will allocate its money solely on the basis of peer-reviewed excellence.

This is a long shopping list. But all the countries in Europe are at last beginning to recognise the need for change. What they need now is a sense of urgency.
Pseudo-Egalitarian Drivel


Gordon Brown signalled a willingness to re-examine the £3,000 cap on tuition fees and to consider tax breaks on endowments for universities.

He spoke at the launch of a pamphlet warning that European institutions must act to stop lagging behind the US.

Britain spends 1.1% of national income on higher education, compared with an EU average of 1.2% and 2.6% in the US.

Mr Brown told an audience of academics and industrialists at 11 Downing Street that this was "not a figure that can stay at that level".


He said he was ready to "enter into the debate" on how funding could be increased from private and public sources.

As part of this he indicated that he would not rule out an eventual reassessment of the £3,000 tuition fee cap, which is set until 2009 but which some universities regard as too low.

He said the principle of top-up fees, which come into effect this autumn, was "the right one", because it ensured that students who benefit from higher education must make a financial contribution towards its cost.

The pamphlet from the Centre for European Reform (CER) says many of Europe's universities are "under-funded", "unreformed" and "stuck in the past".

It calls for improved standards in teaching, more resources for research and more autonomy for universities.

The report also backs the charging of tuition fees, saying this cost forces students to value their education.

'Filling time'

"People do not value free goods or services," say report authors Richard Lambert and Nick Butler.

"It will be less easy for young people to think about higher education as a convenient way of filling time.

"Instead, they will have an incentive to complete their course at a less leisurely pace and they will have to think harder about the costs of dropping out."

The report is critical of Europe's performance on the global market, saying the continent is slipping behind its competitors.

Taken as a group, Europe's universities are "failing to provide the intellectual and creative energy that is required to improve the continent's poor economic performance".

Mr Lambert, who takes over as director general of the Confederation of British Industry in July, and Mr Butler, group vice-president for BP, urge governments to allocate more money to higher education.

EU universities also lacked the tradition of raising money from alumni.

The report says elite universities must be fostered, and calls for the business sector to receive greater incentives to become more involved in higher education.

'Strong track record'

Students and academics should also be encouraged to "move around Europe", strengthening competition among universities and encouraging top researchers to work together, it adds.

Mr Brown said that, as well as driving economic growth through research, universities could become a major earner for the UK by attracting more overseas students.

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: "Universities throughout the EU do need to innovate and reform and we have been at the forefront of making that case within Europe.

"UK universities do have a strong track record in terms of diversity of funding, quality and autonomy which are the kind of innovations we need to see across European universities.

"Our universities are world class. They are rightly renowned for their excellence and attract 200,000 students from overseas making the UK the second most popular destination for students after the USA."

Shadow Higher Education Minister, Boris Johnson, responded: "This is a welcome blast of common sense from Gordon Brown on the question of university finance. It is a blessed relief after the pseudo-egalitarian drivel of his intervention in the Laura Spence affair."

"He is finally getting the message that universities need more freedom, not less."

Joan McAlpine
The Herald, UK

It is a European crisis. The continent which invented the university and developed it as a crucible for knowledge and unashamed excellence has fallen behind in whatever academic league table you care to study.

These days, all the best universities are in the US. It is no coincidence that they are also the best funded and pay their staff wages which match their heavyweight intellects.

The Times Higher Educational Supplement's respected "Top 200 World Universities" places Harvard number one and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology second. England's Cambridge and Oxford make it to third and fourth place respectively, but along with France's Ecole Polytechnique, they are the only Euro stars in a top 10 dominated by America's Ivy League and its newer, private universities such as Stanford in California.

Scotland, in case you are interested, squeezed in at number 30, courtesy of Edinburgh University. Glasgow was 101.

We like to be snooty about America's educational achievements, confusing the country with its syntactically-challenged president. We imagine its campuses are peopled by well-scrubbed Christian fundamentalists, bashing centuries of scientific achievement with their Bibles.

In fact, the 21st-century US is a country which values high-end knowledge. It spends $26,000 per student on tertiary education, including research and development. The figure in this country is $12,000 and in France a mere $9000. America spends 2.6% of its GDP on higher education, more than double our 1.1%.

Show them the money and academics will show you glittering prizes. America has picked up 60% more Nobel awards than the whole of Europe since 1970. Many of the most recent recipients are not American by birth, but Europeans who have moved across the Atlantic for the better salaries, good facilities and old-fashioned prestige.

There is no Nobel prize for history, but if there was, Niall Ferguson would doubtless be a contender. The Scot has touched a broad new readership with his combination of narrative flair and fearless originality. Glaswegian by birth and schooling, he is now based at Harvard, commuting home to see his children in this country. He can afford it, as a celebrity intellectual who is well rewarded by an American system he would have Britain emulate.

He agrees that Britain underpays its academics but sees the industrial action as part of the overall malaise. In a recent article, he declared himself "disgusted" at British dons downing tools like some sort of "academic proletariat who conceive of their institutions as nothing more than degree factories". He asks where British institutions would get the money to fund a 23% rise.

Ferguson believes they should seek more private funding and become less reliant on the state. They would then be free to pay staff on merit, rather than some one-size-fits-all pay scale. He points out that Harvard's endowment – £26bn – allows it to take in poor students on generous scholarships.

These comments will come as no surprise to those acquainted with Ferguson's robust, right-of-centre views. He recently had a controversial pop at his native Scotland, provoking a national debate which involved our own leading historians. However, his critique of higher education has a sound factual basis and will ring true among educationalists who do not share his politics. There simply isn't enough cash to meet our aspirations.

Britain has expanded its higher education sector rapidly without offering a commensurate increase in funding from the state or the private sector. We have replaced quality with quantity. Even if the pay dispute is settled in Scotland, say, with a 13% offer, we will only succeed in standing still. Academics will remain less well-off than lawyers, doctors and now even schoolteachers.

So no-one is happy and the customer suffers. Students already see little of their teachers, even at institutions with good reputations. Many are busy on research papers which are needed to improve university ratings and so help income.

Can America really show us the way forward? One lesson we could learn is the value of elitism, in the best, classless definition of the term. We can provide the majority of our people with a thorough, good quality education. But we must also capitalise on the brilliance of our best minds.

Scotland has a reputation for educational excellence on which we can still capitalise. We have some of the world's oldest universities, undertaking the most cutting-edge research. That must be funded; not adequately, but with generosity.

America does offer examples of recent fund-raising which could be emulated. In particular, Stanford, near San Francisco, has transformed itself since 1970s from a small teaching institution to the best in the world for bio-sciences. In the 1980s, Stanford pulled off the largest-ever fund-raising effort in the history of higher education. Its centennial appeal raised a staggering $1.26bn. This doubled the value of the campus infrastructure and has attracted 16 Nobel laureates on to the staff.

It could be argued that the university's location in the sunshine state, surrounded by silicon trillionaires makes fund-raising somewhat easier. But we should not forget that Stanford itself has been an engine for the economic boom in the surrounding region. This is a two-way process that a small country with big ambitions – yes, that means Scotland – should study with care.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


People everywhere are absorbed in conversation. Seated under trees, under striped canopies in the squares, they bend together over food and drink, their voices darkly raveled in Oriental laments that flow from radios in basements and back kitchens. Conversation is life, language is the deepest being. We see the patterns repeat, the gestures drive the words. It is the sound and picture of humans communicating. It is talk as a definition of itself. Talk. Voices out of doorways and open windows, voices on the stuccoed-brick balconies, a driver taking both hands off the wheel to gesture as he speaks. Every conversation is a shared narrative, a thing that surges forward, too dense to allow space for the unspoken, the sterile. The talk is unconditional, the participants drawn in completely.

This is a way of speaking that takes such pure joy in its own openness and ardor that we begin to feel these people are discussing language itself. What pleasure in the simplest greeting. It’s as though one friend says to another, “How good it is to say ‘How are you?’” The other replying, “When I answer ‘I am well and how are you,’ what I really mean is that I’m delighted to have a chance to say these familiar things - they bridge the lonely distances.” [52-53]

This is Don DeLillo’s American narrator in The Names, walking among the cafes of Athens and taking it all in. Music, especially choral music, is like this too -- what’s moving to me in choral performance is the depth of that same gesture, which is also a communal gesture as large numbers of people delight in the sound they all make.

Mahler’s Eighth is lightly, not darkly, raveled, and it is no lament. To the corporate bliss of choral voices it adds content about the power of the creative spirit and the salvation of souls. The piece is in fact “a thing that surges forward, too dense to allow space for the unspoken.” It’s too populous, too harmonic, too fortissimo, for night thoughts.

To the hundreds of singers onstage were added, last night, two lines of singers on either side of the concert hall. From our orchestra seats, we looked up at them as they stood along the second tier, their sound from either side a sonic embrace.

Again and again Mahler marshaled his forces -- impossibly high sopranos, dual harps, hard percussions, soft pizzicatos -- all for the ardor of existence.
La Spawn's Brush With Greatness
on the Way to Her Mahler Performance

"Condoleezza Rice was here."

"What? How do you know?"

"I bumped into her."

"What do you mean?"

"I was walking into the Kennedy Center with a bunch of other choristers when this guy with wires hanging out of his ear told me to stop. He said, 'Hold up, please.' But I didn't know why I should stop, so I kept walking. He said 'Hold up' again but I kept walking. Then all of a sudden Condoleezza Rice appeared and kind of bumped into me and I said 'Whoops, sorry,' and she said 'That's okay.'"

Saturday, June 10, 2006

June Sky, Afternoon, Foggy Bottom

Live and work here long enough, and you begin to read the sky. I'm in my university office, waiting for my little family unit to pick me up for dinner and then a show (you know... THAT show...), and suddenly there are contrails everywhere in the pale blue sky stretched alongside my windows. Military jets in formation? I didn't see them as they flew across, but I'm watching for their return now, as I type.

Also sounds of helicopters (we're so close to the White House that they're almost certainly presidential).

And now clear sounds of ... fighter jets? The passenger jets are behind me, taking off from and landing at Reagan National Airport.

Sirens too, but that could mean anything -- an entourage in motion, a fire at a townhouse...

Maybe it was a training exercise. Maybe an errant private plane just passed over with an escort.

I lean out of my open window and on top of many nearby buildings I see American flags waving in the breeze. It's an absolutely beautiful day.

And calm now. No siren. No jets. No helicopters. A cool late afternoon, early summer, Washington DC. Birdsong.

Better than Life

By this point, if attending tonight’s performance at the Kennedy Center of Mahler’s Eighth, Anna Livia Soltan front and center with the Washington Children’s Chorus, doesn’t totally terrifically transcendently transform my life, I’ll demand my money back. Talk about a build-up!

"We're all excited in a way we don't normally get," says Mr. Slatkin, music director of the NSO. "This is a piece that's bigger and better than life."

'There are no tickets left at the box office, so you will have to be creative if you want to attend. If you can get in, it will be worth your time to be lifted out of this lowly earth by the redeeming power of love for 80 transcendent minutes'.


'But just preparing for the Mahler Eighth can cause some incipient panic on its own. It's a work that is a good deal more difficult to sing than say, a Poulenc "Gloria" or a Handel "Messiah," requiring doubling of parts and independent musical lines that appear and disappear like so many will-o'-the-wisps floating around the Concert Hall.

"I had to go through with a highlighter," says Mr. Kanakry [a member of one of the adult choruses], showing his score. "I've never had to do that before."'

My kid’s score is indeed all highlighted up. The director of her chorus hoped the singers would be able to memorize the piece for the performance, but it was too hard. "We've memorized all the notes," says the kid. "It's the entrances that are killing us."

UD’s Two or Three or Whatever Degrees of Separation

UD’s father in law succeeded Walter Gropius

as architecture chair at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Mahler’s wife Alma had an affair with Gropius, marrying him shortly after Mahler’s death.

The Rest is Silence

"In obedience to his last wish, [Mahler] was buried in silence, with neither a word spoken nor a note of music played."

YearlyKos 2006 Convention

'Gathering Highlights Power of the Blog

...The floors were filled with people, laptops perched on their legs, typing away.

…As became clear from the rather large and diverse crowd here, the blogosphere has become for the left what talk radio has been for the right: a way of organizing and communicating to supporters. Blogging is nowhere near the force among Republicans as it is among Democrats, and talk radio is a much more effective tool for Republicans.

"We don't spend a lot of time in cars, but we do spend a lot of time on the Internet," said Jerome Armstrong, a blogging pioneer and a senior adviser to Mr. Warner, who has been the most aggressive among the prospective 2008 candidates in courting this community.'
Taking it to
the Next Level

The ongoing mess at Duke seems to have led to the formation of a faculty group insistent that all campus sports be examined and reformed:

[D]ozens of faculty, including senior members and department chairs, agree generally that athletics at Duke have been exalted beyond their true measure.

…"My own feeling [says a member of the faculty group] is that college sports has grown into a very big commercial, entertainment business with literally billions of dollars at stake, and TV contracts and coaching salaries and recruiting, and I think that's wrong."

Duke athletics pulled in about $42 million in revenues for the year ended October 2005 and spent about $2 million less than that, according to reports filed with the U.S. Department of Education. Men's basketball accounted for more than $12 million of that income, with $7.4 million in expenses. Football's $9.3 million in expenses contributed to a net loss in that sport of about $1.6 million.

…The discussion may have additional urgency at Duke because of the lacrosse scandal, but it's one taking place on campuses across the nation, said Eugene Tobin, program officer for liberal arts programs at the Andrew Mellon Foundation and director of the College Sports Project, a consortium of 130 Division III colleges and universities dedicated to integrating sports programs with other collegiate activities and values.

College sports, like much of the rest of education, have become more specialized, Tobin said.

"So what we're talking about ... is trying to take an entity like athletics, which has grown in many cases to be almost semiautonomous in its relationship to the rest of the institution, and try to re-conceptualize how it can play a positive role, a complementary role, but with all sides focused on the totality of a student's experience," he said.

UD strongly advises against the use of words like reconceptualize and phrases like positive role, but you get the idea. The Duke professors weren’t happy about athletics before the lacrosse story broke (note, for instance, that 1.6 million dollar loss in football); the lacrosse thing gave them an opportunity to organize and speak up.

Friday, June 09, 2006

UD Prepares,
in her Pedantic Way,
for Mahler's Eighth

From Andante, describing the response of the audience to Mahler as he took a bow after conducting the premiere of his Eighth Symphony:

His whole career hitherto as a composer had been an almost uninterrupted sequence of setbacks and dubious successes, with the result that he was both astounded and moved to tears to see the entire audience screaming, stamping their feet and applauding wildly in a collective frenzy lasting some twenty minutes. The children's choir in particular, on whom he had lavished endless care and attention during the rehearsals, kept on applauding and waving their handkerchiefs and scores. They rushed down from their seats and leaned over the balustrade to give him flowers and shake his hand, shouting 'Long live Mahler! Our Mahler!' at the tops of their voices and presenting him with the only laurel wreath of the evening, a gesture that moved him profoundly. For Mahler, these children represented the future that he felt was slipping inexorably away from him. When he left to return to his hotel, he found a group of applauding admirers waiting for him outside the hall and had to force his way to his car.

One of UD's independent study students last semester took advantage of GW's proximity to the Library of Congress, and read the correspondence between Saul Bellow and his friend Ralph Ellison.

Most of Bellow's papers, however, have long been housed at the University of Chicago's Regenstein Library, which will now be getting yet more of them.

The University of Chicago said Thursday it has bought the uncollected papers of the late Saul Bellow from his estate, a trove that includes unpublished material and is likely to reinvigorate scholarship in one of Chicago's greatest novelists.

The acquisition, the terms of which were not disclosed, ends speculation that the papers would be sold at auction and scattered. Instead, the papers will be placed alongside those that Bellow long ago had donated to or deposited for safekeeping at the U. of C.'s Regenstein Library, creating a single repository for scholars.

"We already have more than 200 boxes" of Bellow documents, said Alice Schreyer, director of the library's special collections research center. "We think we'll be adding another 100."

She said the newly purchased papers cover the years since 1968. They include notebooks in which Bellow jotted down ideas and early drafts of works, typescripts and manuscripts that he amended, and correspondence with friends and colleagues.

"You can see the evolution of his works and creative process," she said. "And in the age of the word processor, this is one of the last great literary archives of one who did everything by hand on paper."

Bellow, Montreal-born but raised in Chicago, had been a student at the U. of C. and had taught there for more than 30 years. He disappointed Chicagoans when he left in 1993 to join Boston University. He lived in New England until his death, at age 89, in April 2005.

Walter Pozen, the executor of Bellow's estate, said Bellow told his family late in life that he would like his papers to go to the U. of C., although he didn't stipulate that in his will.

"There's a wonderful symmetry that his papers would end up [at the U. of C.]. I think it would make him very happy," Pozen said.
Greek University System
Not Going Quietly

From Kathimerini:

Police fought running battles with youths along Panepistimiou Street in Athens after protesters tried to break through a police cordon and reach the Education Ministry. Four banks, two shops and the Titania hotel were damaged by rioters. Two cars were also firebombed. Riot police fired tear gas as rioters set fire to garbage bins.

University teaching staff demanded the resignation of Education Minister Marietta Giannakou yesterday as violent clashes in central Athens during a student rally led to more than 40 people being detained and 14 others being injured.

The Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP) called for the minister to step down over the government’s refusal to reconsider its reforms for tertiary education. POSDEP claimed yesterday’s violence was provoked by riot police.

“Mrs Giannakou cannot continue after what happened today,” POSDEP General Secretary Yiannis Maistros told Kathimerini. “Students were hit without provocation during a peaceful march.”

The march, attended by some 10,000 people, had been organized by left-wing student groups which are unhappy with the reforms being planned by the ruling conservatives, especially their intention to allow private universities to operate in Greece. They want more money invested in public education.

POSDEP said that 219 university departments around the country and 127 departments at technical colleges had been taken over by protesting students. The standoff is likely to lead to this summer’s exams being postponed.

The government, which says it has given students and teaching staff every chance to have their say, insists it will not back down.

“The government has a responsibility to make law,” said government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. “The tertiary education bill will be given for consultation and when that is over it will be submitted [to Parliament].”

Antonaros said the protests were carried out by small groups.

The violence that followed yesterday’s rally led to 10 riot police officers being taken to hospital and another four people being injured. Some 2,000 students later marched toward police headquarters on Alexandras Avenue, demanding the release of the youths who had been detained during the disturbances.
First, are you our sort of a person?

"And NCATE, realizing that its attempt to use dispositions theory to create an ideologically homogenous generation of public school teachers could badly backfire, retreated," writes Robert KC Johnson in a smart, useful narrative of the rise and fall of the dispositions empire.

At least we can hope it has fallen. Dispositions enthusiasts express what Todd Gitlin calls “the pathos of the academic left,” “the downright peculiarity” of a “meager,” “helpless” band, a remnant “force… of purification” which, having withdrawn from any actual politics, flounces about denouncing traitors.
Probably a bit of luck…

…we got tickets for the last performance.

“[E]ven a middling Mahler Eighth is something pretty special and it will not do to be too hard on Slatkin, for conducting this work is rather like trying to run a medium-size city while standing in one place. Last night, nobody seemed entirely ready to go. The two remaining performances -- tonight and tomorrow night at 8, both of them sold out -- may well be more comfortable.”

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bloody Blog

Too tired to talk about universities today -- donated blood at NIH, as usual, and then walked all over DC on a hot afternoon. Result: I’m turning in.

But first!

Snapshots from Home…lessness
‘thesdan Style…

From the Washington Post:

‘Marianne and Marc Duffy say their dream home renovation in Chevy Chase has turned into a suburban nightmare. Their neighbors say the Duffys intentionally flouted building rules when they expanded their $725,000 house on Thornapple Street and have no one to blame but themselves.

Yesterday, a Montgomery County appeals board reaffirmed an earlier ruling that the Duffys had rebuilt their house too close to the street and to neighbors. The Duffys say the decision leaves them two choices: Move the house a few feet at a cost of $100,000 or continue an expensive battle in court.

…The case has pitted the Duffys, both securities lawyers, against a group of prominent opponents, including two journalists -- Mayer, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and her husband, William Hamilton, a Washington Post editor -- as well as lawyer Michael Eig and his historic preservationist wife Emily Hotaling Eig, former ABC News reporter Jackie Judd and real estate agent Kristin Gerlach. Both sides had lawyers but recently decided to represent themselves. [Quick: How many lawyers in that paragraph?]

…The dispute has roiled the neighborhood, sparked contentious discussions at Town Council meetings, generated letters to local newspapers and debates on talk radio, and fueled discussions about liberal conspiracies. Marianne Duffy says someone recently left a bag of dog poop in her mailbox. The neighbors say they are sympathetic and had nothing to do with it. [Bit of ambiguity there. Sympathetic with the gesture? Or do they feel sympathy for the recipients of the shit?]

…[Duffy] recently planted a sign on the front lawn with a photo of the couple's two young daughters [classy!], urging neighbors to support their effort to complete the work and move in. She has spoken with county officials, members of the County Council and neighbors. She has begun a petition drive and collected 60 signatures from people who say the Duffys should be able to finish their house. She pleaded yesterday with the Board of Appeals to consider the effect on her family. "No one should have to endure what our family has suffered this past year," she said. [Puts Darfur to shame.]

"We are literally being made homeless," she said. "It's not in the public policy interest of Montgomery County to have this situation occurring with my family." [Is that a threat? Are you planning to become a band of brigands?]'
More on Greece
From the blog Stigmabuster:

'Diverse social groups united against any change for [the] better. Universities that produce paper-toilet [yes, it should be toilet-paper, but I like it his way] degrees. Ancient programs of studies. Students that retain their student ID for decades. Professors that show up only during strikes. Student minorities of 5% that block and destroy everything. Illegal occupation of public buildings. Staff that gets paid while on strike.

All united against evaluation - the fundamental value of education. And the "liberal" press supporting these deeply conservative movements.

It is conservative to want to keep everything bad unchanged.

And then the same people wonder why the graduates from US and some EU universities rule the country. Sad.

Go Marietta Go! [She’s the Minister of Education.] At last a politician with guts.'

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Snapshots From Home

Starting tomorrow night, UD’s Joyce-themed spawn has a run of Kennedy Center performances with Jane Eaglen.
Eaglen, “the great Wagnerian of her generation,” has a slightly larger singing part in Mahler’s humongous Eighth Symphony than la spawn, who’s an alto with the Washington Children’s Chorus, but UD and Mr UD will be thrilled nonetheless to watch the kid on that stage, in that company, in that music.

UD gets a kick out of the kid’s insider gossip about the eminent conductors under whose batons she’s worked - “Maestro Temirkanov is nice but vain. Between bows, he combs his hair back just so… Slatkin’s okay but it’s sometimes hard to understand what he wants… We never sing loudly enough for him…”

All three concerts sold out before we had a chance to make a move, but we managed to score some returned tickets for Saturday.

Eaglen “prepares for her performances by listening to the pop music singer Meat Loaf.”

English Professor Angle: Eaglen sang the pretty little tunes that everyone liked so much from the soundtrack of the film Sense and Sensibility.


Update: Hot stuff.

If you've been taking your time getting tickets to performances of Gustav Mahler's colossal Eighth Symphony -- more famously known as the "Symphony of a Thousand" -- you're out of luck: Seats for all three of the National Symphony Orchestra's performances this week have been sold out for nearly a month.

"It's a spectacle -- it's larger than life," says NSO Music Director Leonard Slatkin, explaining how the famously neurotic Mahler has become the hottest ticket in town. "Because of its sheer size, it just isn't done very often -- and for a lot of people, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

But even Slatkin and company have been caught off guard by the interest in the work, which opens tonight at the Kennedy Center. For the past few weeks, they've been furiously pulling the massive piece together, and while there won't be literally a thousand performers onstage (the nickname was a gimmick cooked up by an early impresario), the assembled forces are still staggering: eight soloists, an adult chorus of 314 singers, a children's chorus of 60 and a beefed-up orchestra of about 120 (including multiple harps, a pianist and at least one mandolin), for a grand total of roughly 500 musicians -- one for every five members of the audience.

All those performers, meanwhile, are being arrayed throughout the Concert Hall, from the onstage risers to the chorister boxes and up into the first tier, and the stage itself has been extended a full 20 feet into the audience -- the better to unleash a sonic tsunami that hasn't been heard here since 1988.

"There's no wilder ride than the Mahler Eighth!" says Robert Shafer, sounding partly elated and partly terrified. The Washington Chorus music director has been in rehearsals since March, going over a complex score in which as many as 24 different parts are sung simultaneously. "And in this performance the big parts are going to be incredible," he adds, "because the audience will be surrounded with the music."

But make no mistake -- the music, not the sheer numbers, is the real draw. Passionate, transcendental and unabashedly joyous, the Eighth is a full-throttle affirmation of life -- on a par, many believe, with Beethoven's Ninth. Mahler himself certainly thought so. "It is something the world has never heard the likes of before," he wrote to a friend in 1906, shortly after finishing the work. "Imagine the universe beginning to ring and resound. There are no longer human voices, but planets and suns revolving in their orbits."

Megalomaniacal? Not really, says Mahler biographer Henry-Louis de La Grange, who has spent more years studying Mahler's life than Mahler spent living it. The splendor of the Eighth, La Grange says, embodies an optimistic side of the composer that was almost never seen -- but is just as real as his more notorious dark side. "He was in a state of real ecstasy when he wrote that symphony," says La Grange in a telephone interview from his home in Switzerland. "And it's a great spiritual statement -- a message of hope for humanity as a whole. Some people find it hard to understand, because they feel that Mahler has to be morbid or he isn't Mahler -- but that is just simply wrong!"

---washington post---

English Professor Angle: Thomas Mann was in the audience for the 1910 Munich premiere.


UPDATE: Well, excuse me! Thomas Mann, PLUS "Gerhart Hauptmann, Stefan Zweig, Emil Ludwig, Hermann Bahr and Arthur Schnitzler."
Illuminating Editorial…

…over at the Harvard Crimson. It tells you a lot about the divide between students and professors.

There’s the well-known divide over Larry Summers: Undergrads liked him a lot, found him “the most undergraduate-friendly Harvard president in recent history,” and remain pissed with the faculty for having ousted him.

Then there’s the curriculum. Far from having any interest in a regenerated “core,” students (I’m basing this only on the Crimson editorial, so don’t know how representative it is) simply look forward to the faculty getting its act together and making Harvard’s curriculum look like everyone else’s, with a bunch of distribution requirements and electives aplenty:

Professors and students alike have long recognized that the Core suffers from an arbitrary pedagogical philosophy and a needlessly restrictive set of courses, and the CGE has rightly advised FAS to repair these flaws by broadening and liberalizing distribution requirements while developing an innovative catalog of interdisciplinary courses.

And then there’s faculty evaluation:

Amazingly, professors are not required to distribute CUE surveys to their students, nor are they required to allow the results of those surveys to be published in the following year’s CUE Guide. Even more amazingly, the FAS failed to modify this policy when the issue was discussed at a Faculty meeting this spring. The comments of some professors at that meeting demonstrate the gaping disconnect that exists between the Faculty and the student body. Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield ’53 offered a comment that was as notable for its arrogance as it was for its disregard for undergraduate education: “Course evaluations introduce the rule of the less wise over the more wise, of students over professors.”

UD’s thing on course evaluations is well known to regular readers -- Americans, at least in organizational settings, rarely do things in rational, modest ways. They tend to pump good ideas up into bigger and bigger and bigger things, until they explode into nothingness. So with the evaluation of professors’ teaching, which could be done in a reasonable tidy way by providing public online forms for students at the end of the semester -- one’s own local Rate My Professors. This way, the procedure would take up no class time, and would be voluntary for the student, who could edit her evaluation later if she thought of other stuff to say, etc.

Instead, faculty are constrained to take twenty minutes or more of precious end-of-semester class time, which should be about reviewing for final exams and summing up the course, and hand out what may be a most insipid set of questions and directions. (UD’s fond of one evaluation form she saw that said “YOUR PROFESSOR’S SALARY IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO YOUR EVALUATION. PLEASE BE THOUGHTFUL.”) Professors are often instructed to announce to the class something like “I won’t see these until after grades are in, so don’t worry about my being vindictive.” This is degrading to everyone.

And Mansfield’s right. I wouldn’t use the loaded word “wise,” but I would say, as other commentators have noted, that the national fad for every-course, totally-required, ten, twenty, thirty, forty question (many of them emotional: How did this professor make you feel? Did she make you feel cared about as a person?) professor evaluation, the Big Thing it’s all become in the context of education as consumerism, is now an official disaster. Rampaging course evaluation has contributed more than its share to grade inflation and dumbing down, as professors run from the possibility of professional retribution because of students who don’t like Bs.

It’s not arrogant to say that professors know more than students. It’s true. Professors who say “My students know just as much as, or more than, I do. In fact, the way I teach is, I just sit back and listen to them talk,” should be recognized for the cynics they are. Professors who like to describe their classes as a purely horizontal conversation, as it were, are almost as bad. If you don’t think faculty have something to teach students, don’t start a university.

None of this means that faculty should ever be arrogant; it means that a basic ethical imperative for faculty is to take seriously the transmission of knowledge.

Further, because students are younger and less mature than most faculty, their comments on course evaluation forms need to be taken with a grain of salt. Yet because higher education is a buyer’s market, these comments can do serious damage to professors, and the professors’ knowledge of this corrupts the classroom.

Mansfield’s remark suggests just the opposite of a “disregard for undergraduate education.” As with his well-known railing against grade inflation, he is demonstrating a principled commitment to the essential character of the legitimate academic setting: The serious transmission - through lecture and discussion - of valuable knowledge by a well-educated person who has high standards for her students’ performance.


Update: "It's probably safe to say that more than two-thirds of college teaching is now done by people who are routinely punished for maintaining standards."

Cosmic convergence between UD and Thomas H. Benton, regular columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education, today. UD takes issue with some of what Benton has to say in his opinion piece. She's not at all sure, for instance, that

College students seem more immature than ever before, and, as a consequence, more likely to bring disgrace upon themselves and their institutions. Tom Wolfe was not exaggerating in I Am Charlotte Simmons. You just have to watch the news to know how serious the problem of character has become at American universities. Maybe it's time to restore in loco parentis? I believe most parents would support that, even if it meant granting more authority and protection to the faculty members who would have to fill that role.

I mean, she's not at all sure students are less mature than they used to be; and she's most certainly opposed to that loco parento thing... But Benton notes the same connection between consumer culture and dumbing down that I'm talking about.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

In her fevered search…

…for more on the developing situation in Greece, where sometimes violent students and professors are trying to block even timid reforms of their sordid state system, UD has found Leo.

Leo Irakliotis is a computer science professor at UD’s old school, University of Chicago, and he has this blog called leo i.

Leo tells us that he “spent four agonizing years at a Greek university prior to emigrating to the US in 1990 to complete his studies and earn his PhD.” Then he tells us why they were agonizing. I take the liberty of quoting his post in full:

Idiotic Universities

Idiot, in Greek, means a “private individual.” In classical Greece, a private citizen not involved in the public affairs was considered a bad character, hence the derogatory meaning of the word in the English language. In modern Greek, however, idiotic university means literally the private university.

The constitution of Greece forbids the establishment of private universities. Higher learning in Greece is a state business under the oversight of the Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs. This state business is now in trouble and plagued by unprecedented unrest.

The cause of the unrest is an anticipated constitutional amendment that will allow the establishment of private universities in Greece. The amendment is supported by the center-right governing party and the center-left major opposition party.

Together the two parties represent nearly 90% of the Greek electorate.

The federation of university teacher unions in Greece (POSDEP) has called an indefinite strike, but only a small number of academic departments have been affected. A much larger number of academic departments, however, have been shut down by student sit-in protests against the prospect of private universities. As of this writing, over 200 academic departments have suspended their operations because of the sit-ins.

The Greek government claims that the student sit-ins have been instigated by the teacher unions. Faculty, says the goverment, are achieving their goal of shutting down a department, without going on strike (and losing a portion of their salary). According to the Greek press, no evidence of student-teacher union collusion exists. However the website of the Greek federation of university teacher unions maintains a detailed account of the sit-ins and related student activism.

A student sit-in has paralyzed the medical school at the University of Athens since early May 2006. Student patrols are keeping professors and staff away from their offices. It is worth noting that the Greek law governing student unions and their role in university governance is quite arcane. Student unions are not required to establish a quorum during their meetings. A very small minority (less than 10% of the student body) can enact a sit-in occupation of a department or entire college.

As the semester draws to an end, there is a real risk that students will miss their final exams. The student union at the medical school in Athens is considering a proposal from the school’s administration to allow faculty access to the school to administer final exams. Some professors have objected to this because students have missed over a month of classes. Professors Moutsopoulos and Roussos wrote an op-ed in the daily Kathimerini, questioning if the university is reduced to an examination center granting degrees without much regard to teaching or research.

More than 30 years of goverment and political meddling with academia has left Greek universities in a lamentable state. Greek schools rank very poorly in comparisons with other countries. In the Shanghai ranking of the best 500 universities in the world, only two of Greece’s 21 universities appear (in the 200s and 300s respectively). Public funding for research and higher education in Greece ranks among the lowest in the European Union and the OECD.

An arcane legal framework gives student unions an absolute majority in the academic electorate that elects the university rector (president), deputy-rectors, deans, and department heads. As a result, candidates’ political affiliations carry more weight than their academic accomplishments. At four universities professors with fewer than 5 publications in peer reviewed journals were elected rectors.

This arcane framework also grants university campuses a unique asylum status, forbidding law enforcement agencies from stepping foot on campus. The asylum can be suspended for brief periods only after a faculty senate vote and it’s usually too late by then. Campuses become havens, not only for free speech, but for petty crime and, occasionally, for more serious crime. Intruders often take advantage of a student sit-in to break into university buildings and loot computer and other equipment while police watch from a legally proscribed distance, unable to intervene and protect the property of the public university.

A few months ago a student who was patroling a building seized by a sit-in was seriously injured when he tried to stop looters who attacked him while carrying away laptops and other high-tech equipment from the facility. Ironically, the asylum status was instituted as a free speech measure by a dictatorship in the early 1970s to appease mounting international pressure for human rights in the country.

In recent years, the Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs has opened several new schools and departments around the country. In Greek-style pork barrel, these schools have their departments scattered over several towns in a region. For example, the University of Thrace has its engineering school in one town, its medical school in a town 80 miles to the east, and the law school in a town in between.

The government in Greece expects that the proposed constitutional amendment in favor of private universities will boost the quality of higher education in the country by making public universities more competitive. Maybe so. Still, the state will continue to be responsible for the welfare of public universities, where the vast majority of Greek students will pursue their educational endeavors. The government must develop a competitive and realistic plan to support and improve higher education at public schools.

In the same issue of the newspaper Kathimerini where Professors Moutsopoulos and Russos published their op-ed, Mr. Andreas Petroulakis, one of Greece’s sharpest cartoonists, portrays the absurdity of university asylum in a caustic cartoon. A Turkish fighter jet rests on the rooftop of a Greek university building where the students are having a sit-in, while the pilot radios back to his base: “Don’t worry, they [Greeks] cannot intercept me … they have something here called university asylum”.
Justice is Done

The president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Arthur E. Wise, has wisely agreed to drop "social justice" from its organization's list of things they're scanning teachers' "dispositions" for. It happened at a U.S. Education Department panel, on which sat a group of people ready to state the obvious -- that the notoriously vague phrase "social justice" can operate as a political litmus test.

But Wise knew who was behind him, both in physical proximity and in order of speech — a small group of third-party witnesses ready to pick apart NCATE’s practices.

So Wise preempted his detractors. “I categorically deny the assertion that NCATE has a mandatory ’social justice’ standard,” Wise testified. “We don’t endorse political and social ideologies. We endorse academic freedom, and we base our standards on knowledge, skills and professional disposition.”

And then, Wise threw the witnesses a bone, announcing that NCATE had decided to eliminate references to “social justice” from its current glossary because “the term is susceptible to a variety of definitions.”

Anne D. Neal, of ACTA, is right, however: “Removing social justice doesn’t eliminate the issue of imposing disposition on teacher candidates.” IMHO, dropping the whole "dispositions" thing is the way to go. A person's social views are none of NCATE's business.
Snapshots from Home
This is Getting Ridiculous

For the third time in a matter of months, I stood on my ‘thesdan deck late yesterday afternoon and wondered why military planes were screeching way way fast back and forth over my head.

And for the third time, the reason’s the same:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. fighter jets scrambled on Monday to intercept a small plane that had breached restricted airspace around Washington, D.C., a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command said

The Cessna 182 was flying from Philadelphia to Charlottesville, Virginia, before the F-16 fighters guided it to an airport in Maryland, said Sean Kelly, the spokesman for NORAD, which monitors North American airspace.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Michael Riffaterre…

…who wrote wonderful essays on French literature, has died at the age of 81.

With Charles Newman’s NY Times obit fresh in my mind - especially the detail about his having been married five times - I noted with interest the paper’s formulation in the case of Riffaterre:

Professor Riffaterre was married several times. He is survived by his wife, Hermine, also a scholar of French literature…

Does this mean that Riffaterre was married more than five times? Does the Times go to “several” when it’s over five? Or does it mean that no one can remember how many wives he had?
Speaking of Drinking…

…the story of a nineteen year old Cornell freshman, visiting friends at U Va and drinking himself to death at a fraternity party, inspired some good, thoughtful writing in the Cornell newspaper. Occasionally the writer is sort of pompous; but his basic honesty, directness, and careful style come through (I've made a few parenthetical suggestions).

Adventures with Campus Ghosts

In truth, I know nothing of Matthew Pearlstone. I never saw him. I never met him. If we crossed paths, he was nothing more than one of the hundreds of anonymous faces I pass on this campus every day, blurring together like leaves viewed through the window of a moving car. I have no memory of him. He was nothing to me.

And then, suddenly, on Monday morning, he was something.

Of course, he was not himself. What I and every other reader of The [Cornell] Sun Monday morning came across was little more than a vague approximation of a human being. If Matthew Pearlstone was once perceptible or real, by the time I had been introduced to him, his presence was nothing more than its own simulacrum.

A 500-word effigy [the writer means elegy or eulogy, I think] was the only trace of an entire being that I could glean, the only intimation of who Matthew Pearlstone was before he died in a University of Virginia dorm room on March 17. And sadly, for most of us at Cornell, this is how he will remain, the only index of his persona being the indeterminate outline offered through newsprint.

Newspapers have an almost Orphic propensity for awakening the dead. They are the place where the specter of what is passing is posited, recorded in blocks of text and still images, as if time could be compressed and suspended. And whenever we need to revive what is past and what is dead, we need only turn to newspapers to find these snapshots so that our imaginations can animate them. That is their remarkable capacity, that with only minimal detail they can formulate a resurrection, no matter how temporary it may be.

Many of us learned early on that Cornell was a place where more than GPAs go to die. For whatever reason, Cornell has the pejorative [I’d drop this adjective] reputation of being a school with a high suicide rate, even though, by comparison, [drop “in comparison”] it hardly leads the nation in such a morbid category [drop this last phrase - end with “the nation.”] Perhaps it is because we have the bridges that span themselves over the depths of the gorges, those ominous signifiers of a liminal point between life and death. [Getting a bit wordy and pompous here.] Perhaps it's because our prelims are so maniacally stressful. Either way, death is part of the culture at Cornell. In any student's time here, several of his classmates will die. Nevertheless, that knowledge still fails to blunt the impact of hearing about a fellow student's passing.

The Sun, by turn, has the rather dubious distinction of reporting on student death whenever it occurs. As a paper, The Sun isn't exactly well-equipped for recording death - it doesn't have an obituary section and no staff writer specializes in such writing, so the eulogizing of a student must unfortunately be incorporated into the bare-bones, objectified reporting of their death. But when such a death is reported, The Sun becomes the grotesquely fetishized object of our collective curiosity (in fact, it might be the only time that some people read The Sun). I don't think that anyone can deny that their interest in the paper is piqued ten-fold when they see a headline pronouncing the passing of another - we need to know who, what happened, where it was, when and most importantly, how. And so those essential aims of news writing, the five Ws, become synonymous with our voyeuristic desires. But where in this process is the image of that person elucidated?

There is certainly something to be said of the effect that such an article has on those who read it. I don't honestly think that anyone here is so cynical so [drop the second “so”] as not be troubled and saddened by such news, and I think that it gives us all the most uncomfortable of pauses. But how ephemeral is that impact? I think that, as a campus, we are all unified in a feeling of pathos, both for a life lost and for the family and friends who must carry on with only the void of that life. But how long does that sympathy persist before it becomes transient? A week? A day? Until we realize that its time for our next class, or our friend turns to us and changes the subject?

And more importantly, how long does our process of remembrance endure? If our sense of that person exists only so long as we have the paper open, then it vastly too short. But at the same time, can we expect anything more? Is it really in our nature to care more deeply about those we have never encountered, or have never even heard of until we glossed through the paper on our way to class? Sometimes I wonder where the ghosts of this campus go when everyone turns back to their daily routines. [Lovely sentence.] Do they disappear, vanishing just soon as they arose? Or does this campus open itself, pulling them up inside of it and holding them there in a great repository of past history? [Past history is redundant.] At The Sun's office there are bound volumes of every issue of the paper that has ever been published. Every single issue, even the most mundane and inconsequential, from the 125 years of its existence, is held there, some of them torn, some of them crumbling like rotted fibers. Paging through these bound volumes is like experiencing a temporal suspension - a backward movement through time becomes possible, and we can access, at least in our imaginations, all that was.

The problem is that, outside of whatever bureaucratic, administrative records exist in Day Hall, The Sun may be the only actual archive of Cornell's dead, recording and reporting each one as they pass. I don't know if there is a better way, if it is possible for this institution to remember its dead in a format that won't be discarded to the trash can at the end of the day. But if The Sun is to be the only record, then I hope it can be cherished as that.

I will never know anything more of Matthew Pearlstone, or any other student that has died during my time here, than what I read in this very paper. And while that may be horribly inadequate, I am still thankful that, at the very least, I had that one textual incarnation of them allowing me to approach some level of familiarity, even [if] it was only in my imagination.

Zach Jones


Pearlstone, another newpaper reports:

[L]eft behind dozens of online messages that delved into his drinking habits, providing a rare glimpse into the thinking of a boy on the cusp of being a man. He was well-versed in the dangers of alcohol. He clearly did not drink thoughtlessly. He intellectualized it. He defended and defined it with the same brilliance he brought to academics.

…One of his Cornell housemates, Philip Chow, recalled how impressed he was by Pearlstone's intelligence and his dedication to following a strict marathon-training diet of protein shakes, energy bars and pasta.

"The whole thing feels really weird, but we still miss Matt here," Chow said in an e-mail interview. "He was a nice kid, who livened up parties and always had stories to tell, but loved drinking a little too much."

The students who apparently gave him alcohol -- he was underage -- have been arrested.


From Today's Duke University News Conference

'The Duke University men's lacrosse team will resume play next fall under a strict code of conduct and tighter oversight by administrators, President Richard Brodhead said Monday.

"I am, I know, taking something of a risk in reinstating men's lacrosse," Brodhead said at a press conference announcing the move. "On the other hand, if we did not allow these players the chance to take responsibility for creating a new history for their sport at Duke, we would be denying another fundamental value -- namely, the belief in the possibility of learning through experience."

...A committee studying campus culture, including the use of alcohol by students, is expected to make recommendations in the fall, including possible changes to the student code of conduct and judicial process, he said.

"You don't change a culture by means of regulation and punishment," he said. "To make the changes we need, Duke needs to find ways to promote its values in a positive fashion and to create an atmosphere where students have frequent opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the choices they make and to internalize an ethic of responsibility and mutual respect."'

UD's all for this. Duke is right to reinstate the game.

The main thing Duke's president conveyed was the new direct responsibility he'll take for sports generally at the university, and the new code of conduct all the lacrosse guys have signed on to.

But there's "campus culture," with its astounding and basically tolerated alcohol consumption, and there's Duke's effort to promote "its values," which I guess means the values the administration and faculty hold. My sense is that at Duke, as at a lot of other campuses, the larger "values" world looks the other way while students are at play. That averting of the eyes sends its own signal, of course; and it will be difficult, after all this time, for universities to adjust their focus.
In About an Hour...

...Duke will hold a press conference about lacrosse, during which they'll probably announce the reinstatement of the sport. Which I think is a good idea.
Snapshots from Home
Foggy Bottom

Bland, blandly titled (“Town vs. Gown”) editorial about UD’s university in today’s Washington Post, which notes, as UD already has, that GW intends to use Square 54, a large, currently empty space on its Foggy Bottom campus, “for investment purposes to fund the university's future needs.” That is, not for anything related to university life.

For a variety of reasons, the residential Foggy Bottom neighborhood is fighting this one in the courts. “[I]t is the lack of trust between GWU and the community that has landed the university in court on other occasions and is once again taking the school back before a judge," says the Post. "It need not keep coming to this. City leadership has a stronger and more conciliatory hand to play than it has thus far. Surely there's a constructive role here for Mayor Anthony A. Williams.”

More background from dcist.
Cheesy Exploitation
[Parentheses Mine]

'Bloomsday Cheese

By Robin Raisfeld & Rob Patronite [Joyce would have loved the name Patronite]

Attention, fromage-loving Joycean scholars [Shouldn't it be either Joyceans or Joyce scholars?] : Cato Corner Farm’s Bloomsday cheese aged one year will arrive on schedule next week at Greenmarket (younger specimens are available now). The raw-milk farmstead cheese, which has a rich, Gouda-like flavor and nice round finish, was a happy accident that occurred a few years ago on June 16, the date immortalized in Joyce’s Ulysses -- cheesemaker Mark Gillman was going for something else, but realized he had stumbled upon perfection. Every year since, Gillman has made a batch on the 16th, unveiling the previous year’s results that same day. In celebration, we asked ’wichcraft’s sandwich czar Sisha Ortuzar [another great name] to concoct a sandwich, below. He recommends pairing with a rosé, but why not do as Leopold Bloom would, and wash it down with a glass of Burgundy?

Sisha Ortuzar’s Grilled Bloomsday Sandwich

1/2 -lb. Cato Corner Farm Bloomsday cheese, shredded (available at Union Square Greenmarket, Wednesdays and Saturdays)
1 small bunch pencil asparagus, bottoms trimmed
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
4 basil leaves, roughly chopped
8 slices rustic country bread
1 clove garlic, peeled
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to broil. Place asparagus and sliced onion in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and (1) toss with the olive oil.

(2) In a hot skillet, cook asparagus and onion or place them on a sheet pan and broil until they are slightly charred, about five to ten minutes. Return asparagus and sliced onion to mixing bowl and season with the vinegar and chopped basil; set aside. Toast the bread in the broiler until golden brown on one side only. Set the slices on a plate toasted side up, and rub the garlic lightly on each slice.

(3) Sprinkle approximately one ounce of the shredded cheese on four slices of the bread. Distribute the roasted asparagus and onion over the cheese, and then sprinkle another ounce of cheese over the asparagus and onion. Cover with the remaining slices of bread, toasted side toward the inside of the sandwich. Place sandwich on a hot press or griddle and cook until cheese is melted. Slice each sandwich in half and serve.'
'Harvard Law School , the world’s self-described “premier center for legal education and research,” may ban Internet use in the classroom this fall because so many students are frittering away time surfing the Web.
The school’s faculty has yet to vote on the proposal. But several professors, fed up with students shopping online or checking Red Sox scores when they should be heeding lectures, have gone so far as to outlaw laptops in class.

“They interfere with discussion,” Harvard law professor Bruce L. Hay said. “When you add to that the fact that many students have trouble resisting the temptation to check their e-mail or cruise the Internet, laptops become intolerable.”

The electronic paper chase has become enough of a problem that Harvard Health Services has added “computer and Internet distraction and overuse” to its list of leading health concerns, alongside depression, stress, eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.

In a 2004 National College Health Assessment, in fact, nearly 1 out of 4 Harvard undergraduates reported that computer or Internet use was an impediment to their academic performance.

In this respect, Harvard is hardly unique.

“Students on the Web in class is a bane of professors everywhere,” said David Olson, a 2000 Harvard Law School graduate and fellow at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society. “Stanford professors would love a ban. But as one faculty member said, they’re afraid of the riot that would ensue if they tried to impose one.”

In a recent survey by the Harvard Law School Student Council, nearly 2 out of 3 students opposed a ban. And nearly 1 in 4 said they would actually attend class less often if the faculty instituted one.

“People are already talking about how to get around it,” said council President Michael Sevi. If all else fails, he said, they could always fall back on that old standby: passing notes in class.

“People will always find something to distract themselves,” said Regina Fitzpatrick, 26, who just finished her first year at Harvard Law. “If they aren’t paying attention, that’s their own fault. We’re adults, and people should be free to make their own choice.”

But while the majority of students may not like the idea of having to give up the Web during class, 39 percent of those surveyed admitted they would probably pay more attention in class.

“For the most part, I think the widespread use of wireless takes away from the learning experience,” said Erin Canavan, 25, who will graduate this month. “People are addicted to checking their e-mail.”

“I think enabling wireless access is only a distraction,” said Robert C. Bordone, Thaddeus R. Beal lecturer on law at Harvard. “In my own class, I’ve banned laptops.”

Not all faculty members, however, agreed.

“Wireless can also be useful,” said visiting professor Michael Stein. “It’s a way that students have learned to learn.” '

---boston herald---

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Alumni News

UD finds this alumni note in the latest issue of the University of Chicago Magazine charming:

'39: Robert R. Reynolds, SB '39, is "still married after nearly 62 years and in good health for my nearly 90 years." He lives in "an upscale retirement community" in Arizona and is "active in our Nerd Club, an association of academics, science professionals, etc." He has written two books in the past three years. The latest is An Airplane was My Burro or the Memoirs of a Venturesome Geologist.
June 16 Looming

"Bloomsday is no longer a one-off party – it has become part of annual local cultures in so many cities around the world,” says the director of Ireland’s James Joyce Center.

(Make that Centre.)

Along the same lines, UD finally saw the film Nora, which focuses upon Joyce’s wife, Nora Barnacle. The dvd was a present from an independent study student at GW, a woman who’s writing a paper about Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.

UD was delighted with the gift, but found the film somewhat disappointing. Film’s visuality means that efforts to get at the depth and specificity of philosophical/literary works and relationships (as in the adaptations of Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Lowry’s Under the Volcano) tend to be failures. In Nora we are riveted by the peculiar sexy beauty of the actress who plays Nora -- her pre-Raphaelite locks; her burning brown eyes; her heavy lips -- and by her lusty life with Jim, but at a loss as to the point of the film, beyond its being an Irish love story. The film is unable to convey the thing it’s trying to convey -- the inner qualities that made Nora Barnacle James Joyce’s muse.
Paul Klee and
the Saluki Way

The wonderfully named Paul Klee, a sportwriter for The Southern Illinoisan, discusses the “proposed $45,000 raise for Saluki men's basketball coach Chris Lowery.” (For background on the amazing Saluki Way, go here. And here.) It’d bring his salary up to $255,000. People are divided about it. Here are some of the negative emails he got:

"I can't believe the SIU Board of Trustees is so insensitive as to jack up student tuition by 9 percent and then hand out a $45,000 raise to a basketball coach, which is more than most campus employees make in a given year. Is this the new "Saluki Way"?"

“Just what sort of lifestyle does an SIU coach need to maintain these days? What happened to coaches being coaches because they loved the work?

"With the other needs facing SIU, it is immoral for the athletic dept. and the Board of Trustees to be paying the present salary and now a single raise of $45,000 is being offered? It is also immoral for a coach to accept that and a poor example that he sets for his players."
“The Professor”! Cute!

A federal judge could decide Monday whether a Memphis cancer researcher accused of possessing and dealing methamphetamine is a flight risk.

Marcello Arsura, an associate professor of pharmacology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, will appear again before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tu Pham.

… [A]uthorities presented Pham with several telephone call recordings and witness testimonies that painted Arsura as a violent dope dealer and addict, nicknamed 'Mo' and 'The Professor,' with no family in the country.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Larry, Larry you bastard, I’m through.

Hokay, I’ve finished Harry R. Lewis’s Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education, and I have a few concluding things to say about it (I’ve blogged about it a little already, as I’ve made my way through it.)

The only real interest, nay motivation, of this book, waits until the very last chapter to appear. Before that, it’s a blandly written (“A college should teach its students to develop and use their potential to the highest level of which they are capable.” This from a writer who derides the ‘pabulum’ one finds in college advertising brochures.), intellectually muddled claim that universities are above all about moral suasion and character formation, and that therefore, for instance, they should institute systematic “judgment of [the] personal character” of each of their professors. [265]

That’s mere prelude, though, to the fugue that plays out Mr. Lewis’s disgust for Harvard’s deposed president Larry Summers, with whom he clearly had unpleasant dealings. Summers is “an economist who sees the actions and decisions of men and women as governed by rational choice and power, not by belief and commitment.”

Note the mushy words “belief” and “commitment.” At no point in this book does Lewis do the heavy lifting that Allan Bloom, however you judge his conclusions, was willing to do in order to give those words substance. Instead, Lewis plucks words like “soul” and “spirit” from the air and scatters them about his book in a gesture rather than an expression of meaning.

For the rest of his conclusion, Lewis lets fly. Summers was a “bully,” full of “contempt,” “impatience,” “harshness,” "thoughtlessness,” and “lack of candor.” His “lack of sustained attention” made for an “incompetent administration,” characterized by “ham-handed management” and “chaotic lurching.” He failed “to bring honor to the institution.”

But honor’s another one of those words. When a marine sings “keep our honor clean” -- an awkward bit of language in itself, I admit -- I actually know what’s meant. There’s a history and a literature there. When an unimaginative dean, brimming with the accumulated irritations with everyone -- professors, students, parents, other administrators -- that deans are obviously going to have, portrays himself as an honorable man in a sea of dishonorables, a man who can renew a college’s honor, I need a good deal more substance and clarity about all that than this book is willing or able to give me.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Snapshots from Home

‘thesdans Behaving Badly

From the Washington Post:

One is a high school football star, already courted by 20 colleges. Two others are talented athletes in their own right. Few in the community believe that the students -- now dubbed "the Whitman Five" by their classmates after being charged in connection with an armed robbery -- would have done it for the money. So the question remains: Why?

Pat Lazear, the football star, and wrestlers Justin Schweiger, Tommy Ashley and Alex Krouskas, all 17-year-old juniors, were arrested at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda on May 19. Robert Warren, also 17 and a junior, was arrested April 27. In March, police say, the teenagers allegedly hatched a plan to rob the Smoothie King in downtown Bethesda at gunpoint. After committing the robbery, they drove down the street, divvied up the money and treated themselves to pizza, police say.

Two of the five teenagers -- Lazear and Ashley -- appeared in court yesterday, although neither spoke. During the preliminary hearing, Montgomery County District Court Judge Mary Beth McCormick agreed to delay the cases against Ashley, Lazear, Krouskas and Schweiger until June 16. Warren's case had previously been set for that date. The state might move to indict the defendants before the court date, assistant state's attorney Thomas DeGonia said.

Lazear, dressed in a blazer, sat with his father, an assistant football coach at Whitman, in the rear of the courtroom and left as soon as his attorney arranged for the case to be continued. Ashley, dressed in a coat and tie, appeared with his parents and left without comment.

Ashley's attorney, Barry H. Helfand, said after the hearing that his client is innocent and challenged the account of the crime given by the girlfriend of one of the defendants. He said he will seek to have the case heard in juvenile court and will ask for a trial on the charges.

Warren's attorney, David Driscoll, said in an interview yesterday that "details will emerge that will shed a different light on this. There's more to it than meets the eye."

The incident is fueling much gossip and speculation on the 1,800-student campus, where Lazear is already a heavily recruited college football prospect, and two of the other students, Schweiger and Ashley, are considered gifted athletes. On Wednesday, Principal Alan Goodwin posted a message on the school's electronic discussion forum cautioning people not to get "involved in speculation" and to "allow the judicial process to run its course."

Still, the question of what might have motivated the teenagers -- students at one of the county's most highly regarded campuses -- to do such a thing seemed to be on everyone's mind.

"I think it's insanely stupid,'' said Alex Dembski, 18, a Whitman senior, "just a bad decision all around."

"I think it will hurt Whitman,'' added Alexander Borman, also a senior. "Whitman is a very good school, and people are very disappointed about this. Pat is extremely well known."

But some in the community suggested the incident was being blown out of proportion.

"I think children are often guilty of youthful indiscretions, and they make mistakes," said Pat Elder, the parent of a freshman at the school. "Whitman has a stellar reputation as a stellar academic institution. You have five boys who did something stupid, and the school will play its role in helping them recover and move forward."

Whitman football coach Eric Wallich added, "All these kids are pretty good kids. Allegedly, they made a bad decision. Even though they are charged with pretty serious crimes, I don't know if the media is portraying everything accurately."

According to the charging documents, the five allegedly discussed robbing the shop during their tech-ed classes March 30 and later that day met at Warren's house, where he prepared a bag to carry robbery gear -- mask, goggles and hooded sweat shirt. Lazear drove Warren's vehicle and dropped him off by the Smoothie King, the documents say. Two employees were working, one of whom was Krouskas, when Warren allegedly entered the shop carrying a gun. He allegedly showed the gun and left with $463.

The documents then state that Warren met up with the others, who were waiting in the car at nearby Bethesda Elementary school. The group then drove to Uno's Pizzeria, where they were joined by Krouskas and Warren's girlfriend and ate dinner. Warren is said to have divided up the money, giving his girlfriend $5, Schweiger and Ashley each $10. Krouskas allegedly received $40. It was not clear how much money Warren or Lazear might have received.

Driscoll, Warren's attorney, said the weapon allegedly used was "inoperable. . . . It was a gun that was not capable of firing a round."

Police and prosecutors do not dispute the claim, but they say it's irrelevant.

"Fake gun, real gun, it's still armed robbery," said Cpl. Sonia Pruitt, a Montgomery County police spokeswoman.

In yesterday's edition of the high school's newspaper, Warren said he had no intention of committing a felony or harming the employees. "It's not what it seems. It was just a dumb prank that went wrong. I'm not saying it wasn't serious, but it was just something really stupid. It [the gun] was fake. It was just a toy gun."

Although school officials say the students were never involved in trouble at school, at least three have police records.

According to court papers, Warren "was recently charged as an adult with possession of a firearm by a minor, discharge of a firearm in an urban area, and reckless endangerment." The case was sent to juvenile court. Warren also has a juvenile record that includes theft and burglary, according to the documents.

Police reports also noted that Schweiger and Lazear have juvenile arrest records that include theft under $500, credit card misuse and conspiracy.

Wallich, the football coach, said Lazear "is definitely a leader in the school, just on sheer athletic ability." Schweiger and Ashley also are talented athletes. This season, Schweiger started at wide receiver and linebacker; Ashley started at offensive guard. Warren, who transferred to Whitman from John F. Kennedy High last summer, was a reserve running back and linebacker and did not play much, Wallich said.

"It's tough answering all the questions, feeling like everyone is coming down on our program, when it's a good program," Wallich said. "We run a clean program, and we try to do a good job with kids. And we do for the most part. It's been difficult."
Stopped Reading After the First Line
[A New UD Feature]

From Star News Online, The Voice of Southeastern North Carolina:

'If you don't believe angels are real, then say hello to Dawn Marie Grindle.'
We tend to focus on France...

...but professors and students are just as surly in Greece when you suggest establishing a private college or two, having admissions and graduation rules, and charging some money.

Watch for the story out of Greece to get more play -- to get noticed in the rest of the world -- as street violence of the sort Athens had yesterday continues over government efforts to wake up a dead university system.

The cradle of democracy's best showing in the latest world ranking of universities is one institution coming in at number 282. Its highest listing among European universities is # 92.

'Despite violent clashes between protesting students and riot police in central Athens yesterday, the government insisted that it would not go back on its planned education reforms which include the introduction of private universities.

Police in Athens blamed student organizers for not marshaling their rally properly and allowing a group of some 30 anarchists to join the protest and lead attacks on banks, cars and stores in the city center.

Four banks, six cars, two stores and the Titania Hotel on Panepistimiou Street were damaged during the rampage, police said.

Several student groups had organized the march to protest against the changes that the government wants to make to tertiary education. They are particularly opposed to plans to allow private universities to operate in Greece. Some teaching staff are also against the plans.

The government insists that it will not be put off by these protests as it feels that it has the backing of a substantial section of students and teaching staff. New Democracy is also buoyed by the fact that it believes it has the support of PASOK over many of the reforms.

“The government held a long dialogue on education and allowed many viewpoints to be heard,” said government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos.

The ruling conservatives aim to soon make public their draft law on changing the way universities operate in Greece.

“We accept that there are some students and university employees who do not want any change,” said Education Minister Marietta Giannakou. “But we know that changes need to be made. Our universities and students could and should be able to stand up to the best academic standards in Europe.”'


Update from blogger-who's-there Ted Laskaris:

"So, the universities are shut, the students are in the streets, and protest organizers are eagerly regurgitating 'lessons from France 'o6.' What is not being addressed, naturally, is the advanced sepsis of the Greek university system and the impasse defining Greek higher education today."
Hey, if you have a problem with it,
look up R-E-G-E-N-T in the dictionary:

“One who rules during the minority, absence,
or disability of a monarch.”

UC Regents Get Driven Around in Luxury Cars
At Board Meetings, Cost was 10 Times that of Hailing a Cab

The University of California spent more than $90,000 last year to shuttle members of the governing Board of Regents around town in a caravan of chauffeur-driven luxury cars during five meetings in the Bay Area.

The cost to taxpayers was roughly 10 times that of hailing the regents a cab, a Chronicle analysis found.

"The number is a bit flabbergasting," said Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "Nobody would expect these people to take the Greyhound bus or stay at the Motel 6, but it raises the question of whether this is appropriate for a public institution, for the people who are the stewards of the public's money. It raises the question about whether the regents are part of the pattern of lavish perks and compensation."

Since November, the 10-campus UC system has been swept up in a controversy over tens of millions of dollars in hidden perks and compensation being paid to employees at the same time student fees were dramatically increased and services were slashed.

It turns out some members of the 26-member Board of Regents, which oversees UC operations, have received some pampering themselves.

A typical example is the May 2005 regents meeting in San Francisco when the university spent about $18,000 for cars, hired by the hour from Bauer's Limousine Service, for the two-day meeting, according to travel expense records reviewed by The [San Francisco] Chronicle.

One portion of that bill came to $6,000 and covered one evening when 10 Lincoln Town Cars transported 15 regents and some chancellors and vice presidents 2 1/2 miles from the meeting at the UCSF Laurel Heights campus on California Street to the Pan Pacific hotel, where they were staying. The cars and drivers then waited until their passengers were ready to go to dinner, and drove them less than a mile to the upscale Hawthorne Lane restaurant. The cars and drivers waited several hours more while the regents and UC administrators dined, before driving them back to the hotel.

The bill shows UC spent another $1,113 on individual cars for Regents Gerald Parsky and Peter Preuss, who were not staying at the Pan Pacific hotel with the rest of the out-of-town regents.

The car service cost did not include transportation from the airport to the hotel before the meeting because regents arrived at different times and took taxis for which they can then get reimbursed.

UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said the logistics of transporting the regents, "who give considerable time, energy and effort to the institution," any other way would be inefficient.

"Due to the unpredictability of meeting end times, it is difficult to get enough taxis in a timely manner after meetings," a UC statement said. "It is more efficient to pay a flat rate for a car service, and have its services for the entire day, than to pay high fares associated with long taxi wait times. Car services allow UC to move groups of people more easily than taxis."

…UC could have saved thousands of dollars by using taxi cabs, van service or even rental cars. At its only meeting outside the Bay Area last year, for instance, UC spent less than half as much as usual -- $7,403 -- using a campus van service to ferry the regents around for the three-day meeting at UCLA.

UC's spokesman, Schwartz, said that at UCLA and most of the other campuses, the regents use campus vehicles -- or a combination of campus transportation and an outside vendor for ground transportation.

UC uses the Bauer's car service for meetings in San Francisco because UCSF does not have enough large vehicles to accommodate them, he said. However, almost all the meetings are held in San Francisco. In the year reviewed by The Chronicle, only two meetings were held out of town -- at UCLA and UC Berkeley. And when the regents met at UC Berkeley in November 2005, UC still used the Bauer's car service at a cost of $19,340.30.

Using taxis for the in-town transportation and to take the regents back to the airport would cost about one-tenth of what UC now spends, a Chronicle analysis concluded. In May, for example, a taxi ride from the hotel to the meeting would have cost roughly $12 plus tip each way in a Yellow Cab. The ride to the restaurant would have been about $8 each way in a Yellow Cab. A ride to the airport would cost at most $50 with tip. The total cost for taxis, including tip, would have been about $120 each.

Even renting each regent their own Jaguar X-Type from Hertz and paying $100 in parking for the three days would cost about half of what UC currently spends, the analysis found.

In comparison, California State University spent $8,686 during all of last fiscal year on car services for its 25-member board of trustees, who meet seven times a year at CSU headquarters in Long Beach. It will spend about $5,545 this fiscal year.

'Another Duke men's lacrosse player is facing legal trouble allegedly involving alcohol.

Matthew Peter Wilson, 21, of 26 Oak Drive in Durham, was charged with driving while impaired and possession of marijuana last week in Chapel Hill.

Wilson, a midfielder on the 2006 Duke lacrosse team that saw its season cut short by allegations of a gang rape, was stopped May 24 on East Franklin Street near the intersection of Boundary Street after he allegedly ran a red light about 2:50 a.m., according to police documents.

Wilson twice registered a blood alcohol level of 0.21 on a breath test, nearly three times North Carolina's legal threshold for impairment.

Chapel Hill Officer Jason Belcher wrote on the documents accompanying the citation that he suspected Wilson had been drinking because he smelled a strong odor of alcohol and because Wilson performed poorly on a field sobriety test, according to documents.

After arresting Wilson, police searched the 2002 Lincoln that he was driving and discovered "less than one half ounce" of marijuana and a glass pipe, according to Jane Cousins of the Chapel Hill Police Department.

In all, police charged Wilson with driving while impaired, possession of marijuana, running a red light and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was released on a written promise to appear in court on Aug. 1.

…Court records indicate that Wilson was charged with speeding in Cumberland County in 2004, but the charge was dismissed. He was charged with possession of a malt beverage under the age of 21 and urinating in public in two separate incidents in Durham in 2004, but both of those charges also were dismissed.

He pleaded responsible to speeding in Durham County in 2002 and was fined $35, the records stated.'

Thursday, June 01, 2006


In today’s Inside Higher Ed:


In Paula Tavrow’s book, $26 billion is a lot of money.

So much that the Harvard University alumna, class of ’81, who has worked on international development issues, wasn’t exactly inspired by the idea of donating more money for such traditional uses as renovating a building or endowing a new chair.

Nonetheless, with her 25th reunion — an occasion that can net Harvard tens of millions from the celebrating class — in the offing, Tavrow saw an opportunity too good to pass up.

She started contacting classmates who supported the idea of giving money for scholarships for graduate students from Africa who would not otherwise be able to attend Harvard, and to form a partnership with a university in Tanzania.

It began as the most base of grassroots efforts. In September of last year, Tavrow started Googling classmates and contacting those for whom she found e-mail addresses. By November, she had 37 classmates publicly supporting the establishment of her proposed fund. By December, she had 100, a few of them with deep pockets.

Now, there are 358 members of Harvard Alumni for Social Action, all from the about 1,500 alums from the class of 1981, and Harvard has officially joined forces with them on the part of the fund that goes toward scholarships for African students. To the dismay of some HASA members, Harvard refused to be a partner on the fund to support Dar es Salaam University’s College of Education, so contributions for that cause will not be counted as official contributions to Harvard.

Organizers of the new approach to alumni giving cited Harvard’s extreme wealth. In his farewell address as president, Lawrence Summers said that the endowment has grown by billions more than predicted just a few years ago — and that with great wealth, comes great responsibility that extends beyond Cambridge.

John Lippincott, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, said that the push at Harvard for helping African students reflects a “growing interest among donors in not simply making the gift and feeling good about it, but wanting to have some ongoing engagement so they feel they really are making a difference with their contribution.”

Tavrow, who has worked in Africa and is director of the Bixby Program in Population and Reproductive Health at the University of California at Los Angeles, said her initial attempts to work with Harvard were rebuffed. In January, William Kirby, outgoing dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wrote Tavrow an e-mail that said that “while I admire your efforts, I cannot approve your proposal.” He added that money “that we raise each year from our reunion campaigns are critical for Harvard to continue to fulfill its mission, and raising money for anything else would be an inappropriate use of our fundraising efforts.”

He might have given it a second thought when Marco M. Elser, class of ’81 and CEO of an investment banking firm, threatened to donate $100,000 less than his planned $100,000 donation.

Elser, president of the Harvard Club in Italy, said that his father – “he was much wealthier,” Elser said – donated $500,000 to Harvard in the 1950s and 60s to aid poor black students from Manhattan, where he lived. Elser said he feels “a very strong umbilical affiliation to Harvard,” but told Kirby that “if Harvard doesn’t let us do this, I’m not going to give any donation.”

In February, Harvard approved the part of the fund for graduate student aid, and Elser contributed $250,000.

“That put us on the map,” Tavrow said, “and endowed the scholarship.” To date, HASA has raised about $315,000, about $300,000 of which has gone to the scholarship fund.

Harvard’s official approval of the scholarship allowed donations to be tax deductible, and for gifts to be counted as official donations to Harvard.

Elser said he’s disappointed that Harvard didn’t approve the partnership fund with Dar es Salaam. “That shows Harvard’s unfortunate, myopic stance in charitable contributions,” he said. (Harvard officials did not respond to questions about their decision.)

The Carnegie Corporation of New York has agreed to work with HASA to manage that fund.

With the class of 1981’s reunion coming up this month, HASA members hope that efforts like theirs will become a tradition for 25th reunions at Harvard, and that the university will set a precedent for how institutions with more money than they can shake a laser pointer at should behave.

“The question I ask is: has Harvard’s contribution to the world increased in proportion to its wealth,” said Joe McDonough, a member of the HASA steering committee.

“Otherwise, they’re not using their endowment sufficiently.”

McDonough, a venture capitalist turned photographer, said that with Harvard’s resources and modern technology, the university should be thinking bigger than the planned expansion into the Allston section of Boston. “Here’s a situation where they could expand Harvard learning into Siberia,” McDonough said, “and the vision is to cross the Charles River into Boston?”

Some alumni have been inspired by the project. David Rothman, who is a member of the HASA steering committee and has managed nonprofit groups, said that he’s “not particularly wealthy,” and didn’t feel like his relatively small gift “to Harvard, to an unrestricted fund, would make the slightest bit of difference in such a big pot,” he said.

In his parting remarks, Summers said that history will judge Harvard by whether with “all of our wealth, did we do all we could to blaze new paths for higher education and change the world … or did we continue to do traditional things in traditional ways, enjoying the greater comfort that increased resources provide?”

“I’m not a big fan of Larry Summers,” McDonough said. “But I agree with him on that one.”