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

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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Extreme Heat Warning

Extreme heat's okay at the beach; but back here in 'thesda it's bad.

It's important to protect yourself. I recommend

Back in 'thesda After the Beach...

...I'm adding a few revisions to the manuscript -- The Return of Beauty to Literary Studies -- that a colleague and I have written. And I'm preparing to leave muggy DC once again in a few days, this time for our place in the wilds of upstate NY.

Slightly lighter posting, then, for a day or two.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Vegetable Production

'In his latest salvo, Gundlach told The Birmingham News the courses he found on the transcripts he checked included weight training, organic gardening, vegetable production, performance techniques for the camera, keyboarding, adult education and sports in America.

Gundlach said athletes made higher grades in the courses he mentioned than they did in others.

"Their transcripts don't look like somebody's trying to get them an education," Gundlach told The News. "Their transcripts look like they're trying to keep them qualified. There's no coherent, intellectual development theme in this." '

-- the hunstville times --

Saturday, July 29, 2006

With the University of Minnesota
in Mind, Kansas Expresses Anxiety

'...Chances are, many athletic directors across the country are studying the Minnesota stadium situation and trying to figure out whether they might be able to swing a similar deal. Could KU’s Memorial Stadium, for example, soon be named for some bank or generous contributor? It’s not out of the question; look at the situation at Oklahoma State, where the naming rights were tied to the $125 million gift of Boone Pickens!

Considering the importance KU’s athletic director places on money, surely he is thinking about ways to put the name of some individual or company on the side of Memorial Stadium or maybe even Allen Fieldhouse. For $25 million, $50 million or $100 million, who knows?

...What is the sales value for the KU athletic department or the university itself? How long will it be before corporate naming rights are granted in the Big 12 Conference, and how soon will there be corporate names on KU’s Memorial Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse or Kansas State’s Bill Snyder Family Stadium and Bramlage Coliseum?

Look at the extortion tactics in Allen Fieldhouse and the skyrocketing price for basketball tickets. It doesn’t matter what a person may have given last year, because there is an annual re-evaluation of seat prices, and the highest bidder gets whatever seat location he or she wishes.

Increasing numbers of longtime KU academic and sports supporters are saying enough is enough. Some are known to have changed their wills and long-range giving plans to KU, but apparently, the administration sees nothing wrong with the high-pressure tactics. Who knows what the eventual damage to KU will be? Of course, most of those responsible for the gouging on KU athletic tickets and those who approved the plan will be gone when the next major KU capital campaign comes along. The damage will be done for others to try to repair.'

Friday, July 28, 2006

Here's One that
Made Me Sit Up
and Take Notice

From Oregon Public Broadcasting:

An Eastern Oregon University professor and a student say they were raped by a university administrator.

The alleged victims are suing the man, the university and the board of higher education for more than $200 million.

Director of Undergraduate Studies, Robert Davis, allegedly raped the two women on successive nights at a conference in Atlanta.

The plaintiff's stories are similar. They say that Davis forced himself on them after they'd fallen unconscious, possibly after being drugged.

Both say they woke up during the attack but were unable to fight back.

University officials say they've placed Davis on paid administrative leave during an internal investigation.

Attorney Martin Dolan is representing the plaintiffs. He says the suit names the university and the board of higher education because they ignored previous complaints and were lax in enforcing sexual harassment policies.

Martin Dolan: "At least in the case of one of the plaintiffs' cases, the allegation is that those rules were not sufficiently implemented."

The student plaintiff is suing for more than $107 million. The professor for just over $100 million.

Of course, this is the unofficial, insider, blog version (the comment thread is amazing). The major media version is in the Boston Globe, from the marvelous education reporter, Marcella Bombardieri. She's currently lobbing missiles at one of MIT's most powerful scientists, Susumu Tonegawa.

He is the sort of target bombardiers dream about.

For there sits he in his extravagantly funded lab, intellectually astute and emotionally infantile, typing intimidating emails to a first-rate junior woman appointment whose research and presence he finds threatening. Could he not have known that Bombardieri would find a way to get hold of his little notes warning this woman she'd better not accept the offer because it'd make him feel all icky inside? Your "recruitment process was bulldozed," he tells the woman. If you come to MIT, "unpleasant competition will be unavoidable." But there's a bright side! "Fortunately, you have great offers from two other prestigious institutions. As someone who is fond of you, and as a senior member of the neuroscience community I honestly recommend you to take one of these positions rather than plunge into the hot pan."

The woman, who knows a member when she sees one, took a job elsewhere, but the story, which could not have been scripted better if it'd been assigned to Andrea Dworkin, has become public, leaving the senior member sizzling on the hot pan, and MIT, with its unimpressive record of hiring and retaining women scientists, constituting investigative committees and making official statements of distress, etc.

It's one to watch. Will MIT have the integrity to punish a man who brings in so much research money? It'll be interesting to follow this one, alongside the Shleifer case at Harvard.
There'll Always Be An England

American holders of bogus degrees are hunted down and punished; but in England it's still quite safe to pass yourself off as a PhD-holder, even if it's from a diploma mill like Lasalle University of Louisiana.

Hell, over there you can collect a great deal of money in court damages if anyone says boo about your doctorate, as hypnotist extraordinaire Paul McKenna just did.

Although there's abundant evidence that Lasalle is a mill, and that McKenna knew it, the judge, "who heard the case without a jury, said he could not accept that the newspaper had discharged the burden of proving that the sting of the words complained of was substantially true."

So if you're thinking of buying your next degree, buy it in the States, move to England, and all will be well. If you're lucky enough to attract some negative comment, you may even make your fortune.
From the Albuquerque Tribune

When it comes to New Mexico university presidents - two of whom were forced to resign this year before their contracts were even close to ending - isn't the silence just deafening?

Yet aren't New Mexicans entitled to some explanations?

Here we have, earlier this year, former University of New Mexico President Louis Caldera and now, this past week, former New Mexico Highlands University President Manny Aragon forced to empty their desks and take contract buyouts. But we don't really know why.

Obviously, there were unresolved conflicts between the two presidents and their respective boards of regents.

Obviously, the regents aren't talking, and neither are their institutions. Personnel issues are confidential, they plead.

Obviously, both of these men got attractive golden parachutes to make sure their exits had nice, soft, well-heeled landings.

And, obviously, the public - which pays the bills - doesn't have a clue what went wrong.
University of Wisconsin Professor
Contacts Police Over 'Sinister'
Grocery Cart

"[Kevin] Barrett ... claimed to police an abandoned grocery store cart on his front lawn was the work of [a neighbor] and amounted to a sinister 'message' to Barrett and his wife."

Thursday, July 27, 2006


An excerpt from a Herald Tribune article about the enormous popularity of blogs among the French:

The French distinguish themselves, both statistically and anecdotally, ahead of Germans, Britons and even Americans in their obsession with blogs, the personal and public journals of the Internet age.

Just why the French have embraced blogs more than most is anyone's guess, but explanations range from technical to historical and cultural.

Sixty percent of French Internet users visited a blog in May, ahead of Britain with 40 percent and little more than a third in the United States, according to Comscore, an Internet ratings service.

Likewise, French bloggers spent more than an hour in June visiting France's top-rated blog site, far ahead of the 12 minutes spent by Americans doing the same and less than 3 minutes for Germans, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

More than three million Internet users, or more than 12 percent of those online in France, have created a blog, according a study released in June by the ratings agency Médiamétrie.

"You cannot be elected president of France without a blog," said Benjamin Griveaux, director of Web strategy for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former finance minister who in 2004 was among the first politicians to start a blog. "Blogs have not replaced traditional media, but they are absolutely necessary for every politician."

Some even harbor a faint hope that flourishing online discussions might curb the French population's penchant for taking to the streets in protest.

"With so many blogs, I'm hoping for fewer protests and strikes in Paris this fall," said Loïc Le Meur, a pioneer French blogger and European managing director of the blog-hosting company Six Apart. "If people can express themselves online, then maybe they don't need to block the streets."

French blogs stands out in other measurable ways. They are noticeably longer, more critical, more negative, more egocentric and more provocative than their U.S. counterparts, said Laurent Florès, the French-born, New York-based chief executive of CRM Metrix, a company that monitors blogs and other online conversations on behalf of companies seeking feedback on their brands.

"Bloggers in the United States listen to each other and incorporate rival ideas in the discussion," he said. "French bloggers never compromise their opinions."

They also passionately debate why they blog so much. One common explanation in the blogosphere is that there are so many French Internet surfers to begin with. Last year the number of French people online passed the halfway mark of the total population of 61 million, with 85 percent of Internet users in May using high-speed broadband at home, according to Médiamétrie.
Of Course UD Thinks it's Ridiculous...

...for students to refuse to read something their university has asked them to read. The group of freshmen at Clemson who, offended by the sexual content of Truth and Beauty: A Friendship, by Ann Patchett, are refusing to read the book (the all-freshmen reading selection for this fall) are being silly. And they've forced upon the university a silly solution, which is to insist that all students take part in the discussion of the text and submit assignments based on it... but, er, not read it if they don't want to.

UD finds the selection itself, and the justification for it, however, almost as silly. In choosing a way up-to-the-minute pathography of the booze-, heroin-, and sex-addicted writer Lucy Grealy (she died of an overdose), the university ignores centuries of better, more reflective, books that touch on its subjects.

Worse, in choosing the book because, as the head of the selection committee comments, "It's a book about a friendship between two young women that are just a few years older than the college students themselves....It causes (students) to think about issues that they are likely to be confronted with in the near future, and it offers the opportunity for some serious intellectual discussion," the university makes the mistake of pandering to the identities of students. The professor simply assumes it's commendable on the committee's part that it found a book that features people students will find similar to themselves.

Though, if you think about it, this impulse is itself misconceived in the context of the book. Truth and Beauty features the pumped up arena of hyperextremist personalities, gruesome psychoses, and intimate psychic violence that we've come to expect from pathographies. At most one or two unfortunates among the Clemson freshman class will confront such a horror.
From the sympathetic...

...but strongminded response the president of Duke University wrote to a letter he received from an organization of defenders of the lacrosse players:

"You also voice the perception that the University has been complicit in scapegoating members of the lacrosse team. I recognize the gravity of the charge, but I do not agree with it. It was the party that the men’s lacrosse team held on the night of March 13 that precipitated the subsequent avalanche of publicity and notoriety."
Realism and Surrealism

If you want to know why Europe's universities are a shambles, and ours are pretty good, it's partly because of people like David Brooks.

Brooks, on view in today's New York Times, is a realist. He doesn't think you should - like most European countries - throw money at your university system and then look firmly away from the results. He thinks Americans, for instance, should notice that despite all sorts of government money, the college graduation rate remains unchanged:

Over the past three decades there has been a gigantic effort to increase the share of Americans who graduate from college. The federal government has spent roughly $750 billion on financial aid. Yet the percentage of Americans who graduate has barely budged. The number of Americans who drop out of college leaps from year to year. ... Tuition tax credits and grants have not produced more graduates in the past and they will not do so in the future. Bridget Terry Long of Harvard meticulously studied the Clinton administration’s education tax credits and concluded that they did not increase enrollment. Sarah E. Turner of the University of Virginia concludes, “Very broad-based programs such as tuition subsidies or across-the-board grants to low-income students are likely to have minimal effects on college completion while imposing large costs.”

When Brooks turns to ways to actually increase enrollment and graduation, he gets all moralistic in that pathetic American manner the French are always ridiculing from the perch of their own surreal university system:

You have to promote two-parent stable homes so children can develop the self-control they need for school success. You have to fundamentally reform schools. You have to expand church- and university-sponsored mentoring programs and support groups.


Update: Via Cold Spring Shops, Ezra Klein says something similar:

[T]he obsessive focus on college education bespeaks a certain cowardice and calculation in Democratic circles. College is a cost that primarily affects the middle class and the well-to-do but, particularly in the private context, is hefty enough that it can be burdensome for both. Talk of making it more affordable, while ostensibly aimed at subsidizing the poor, is really a poll-tested way to speak to the politically potent middle- and upper-income quintiles -- it's a way for the Democratic Party to speak up the income ladder, where the votes are.

The whole thing is a basically coded appeal, framed in terms of economic uplift so all can feel progressive while supporting something for themselves. If we spent one tenth the energy working on high school graduation rates, we'd have both a more powerful impact on the truly disadvantaged and a more significant impact on college attendance. The problem is, the middle class and the upper class aren't worried about their kids graduating from high school, and so talk of those problems doesn't resonate with large swaths of the electorate. And that all points to the underlying dynamic here and elsewhere in Democratic rhetoric: Progressives now try to address poverty in the context of the middle class -- they seek out economic issues which could aid the poor but have plenty of relevance up the income ladder. In doing, they ignore the most destructive and entrenched pathologies and problems, as those tend to be rather rare among higher income earners, and for that reason much more damaging to those caught in their grip. The ultimate problem here is that the poor rarely votes, while the middle class does, and it's damn hard for politicians to figure out how to focus the electorate on things that aren't their problem.

See also Matthew Yglesias:

[C]ommenters never agree with my college-skepticism. For starters, let me say I have no objection to increasing the number of college graduates in the United States. One thing I do worry about, though, is this. Right now a hefty proportion of kids do go to college. When you try to increase the number of college-goers by subsidizing college attendance, the tendency is for the vast majority of the subsidies to accrue to families that would have sent their kids to school anyway rather than to the marginal families who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford it. Since college-bound kids come, as a rule, from wealthier families than do non-college kids, these schemes can often resort to upward wealth redistribution. The specific Clinton/DLC plan mostly avoids these problems, which is good, but I still think it's a strange thing for progressives to be prioritizing given that you can only focus on so many things at once.

The thing of it is that as you can read in Third Way's report (PDF) on "The Politics of Opportunity," Americans are already quite well-educated: "American students spend an average of 13.8 years in formal education—more than any other industrialized nation in the world except Norway" (see also Education at a Glance from the OECD). There's a real education problem in America concerning our large number of high school dropouts who, economically, end up doing quite poorly. But the economic problems we have vis-à-vis other rich nations -- rising levels of middle-class insecurity, enormous inequality, declining levels of social mobility -- aren't plausibly attributable to a shortfall in the number of people attending college. The statistics show that we have more people attending college than other countries do already.
Some of the Letters...

... the New York Times printed in response to Stanley Fish's piece arguing that professors should not advocate for positions in the classroom reveal what are pretty widespread misunderstandings of his point -- a point made by many other writers on universities, among them Philip Rieff in his book Fellow Teachers.

Two of the six letters the Times published, for instance, equate dispassion with lack of passion. They assume that unless a professor reveals her personal feelings about social and political issues, she will be a robot in front of her students. Here's one, from a Yale student (UD's comments are in parenthesis):

Students’ ability to learn from or to form contrary opinions to the teachings of an opinionated professor should not be doubted. (And no one doubts it. But this leaves open the value of the opinions. It is of course easy to form opposing opinions to someone who thinks the government did 9/11; the question is whether such an obviously stupid opinion belongs in the university classroom, represents a good use of serious university students' time. And note the repeated use of the word "opinion" in here. There are significant differences between an opinion and a reasoned belief, and the writer will elide them in this letter.)

Some of the United States’ best teachers have been and will continue to be those who hold and share strong convictions in their beliefs. (Now it's beliefs.)

So long as our professors don’t punish students for opposing views, nothing is lost in professors’ expressing their beliefs: nothing is lost except classrooms dead from intellectual boredom and hallways silent of enlivened debate. (Note that we've decisively moved from opinions -- which don't imply a reasoned ground -- to beliefs; and, more importantly, we've asserted that in fact the withholding of opinions/beliefs in the classroom creates boredom and silences debate. In fact, opinion/belief/conviction neutrality on the part of professors, combined with a demeanor of intellectual seriousness, allows students to feel comfortable contributing to discussion and to question their own insufficiently grounded but often very emotional opinions. Announcing your personal beliefs on your syllabus and then trumpeting them in class diverts the students' attention from the intrinsic value of various beliefs to your particular valuing of a particular belief. It's ultimately a form of narcissism.)

Inquiry without judgment is not the role of the American scholar. (Now we've jumped all the way from opinion to judgment. Reasoned and informed judgment of intellectual and political positions is of course the desired and difficult to attain outcome of education altogether. Maturation out of holding unexamined opinions and toward the holding of considered judgment is the crucial transition of the educated person. It is a difficult, slow process, and it is utterly short-circuited when a professor from the outset tells you what your judgments should be.) If our universities are truly to be places of learning and scholarship, and not of mere training or rote instruction (again the equation of dispassion with death), professors should be encouraged in their diverse and divergent views; college students should be trusted to make their own opinions; and our nation, a nation of ideas, should be left to benefit. (Again, we know students will have opinions; but are they "their own"? The nature of opinions among the young is that they don't represent considered, dispassionate, autonomous thought; and this is precisely the sort of thought that professors should model in the classroom.).

Another letter writer expresses the common view that it's impossible to present ideas dispassionately: "When Mr. Fish discusses academic freedom in the coming semester, will he miraculously be able to distance himself from his opinions, which are now part of public discourse?" It doesn't take a miracle to avoid pressing your opinions in the classroom. Does it take a miracle for a psychiatrist to assume neutrality in the analytic setting? A judge in the courtroom?

A third common attitude about all of this, expressed in a third letter, is the "everybody in -- the water's fine" approach, in which all ideas and opinions are cool: "[Maintaining] diversity within the idea pool ... increase[s] the chance of discovering what is actually true." That's so actually not true. That's the spurious defense administrators at Wisconsin are trying with Kevin Barrett. It's exactly the role of seriously conceived universities to have curricula which reflect rigorous selectivity relative to forms of thought worthy of consideration among educated people.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On Ad Hominem Attacks
as a Sign You're Getting Somewhere

Ann Althouse's current struggle with malicious commenters puts me in mind of this recent take on the Juan Cole controversy, at Chronicle of Higher Ed:

'At first the news that Yale had chickened out on hiring Cole alarmed me as a politically engaged professor who blogs. Fortunately, I got tenure in April, despite having an undistinguished and thus, perhaps, undiscovered blog. True, my scholarly expertise lies far from the life-and-death matters that we depend on Juan Cole to walk us through. Anyone who writes as well as he does about the Middle East, or any other bloody issue, is bound to attract low blows and ad hominem attacks. But my day may come. If it does, I'll know that I have made a difference.'
But hey. You're forgetting
the intellectual benefits.

“To make a long-term financial commitment to a coach whose (financial) benefits to a university may be negligible or zero is unwise.”
The sea is calm tonight...

Really, very Dover Beach out there at the moment, with a generous helping of mist over the water to make it eerie. A cat crept through the dune grasses as I gazed at the coast from the balcony.

Everyone else is deeply asleep after the exhausting Sound of Music Singalong at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. It's a long movie, and you're singing and yelling and waving edelweiss and blowing into a noise-maker a great deal of the time, so by the last third or so of the film you're in a stupor, dutifully booing each appearance of a Nazi, but without your heart in it.

UD's first Sound of Music Singalong, at GW's Lisner Auditorium, was even more physically demanding than this one. You got out of your seat and bowed obsessively along with the third-prize-winner at the Salzburg Music Festival, and you waved not just a bit of edelweiss, but also a swatch of fabric (for when Maria looks at or talks about the curtains from which she makes play clothes), and a popper to set off whenever Maria and the Captain kiss.

This was a good Singalong, though -- pretty well-attended (I'd hoped for drag queens, however, and there weren't any), lustily sung, amusingly costumed. The tension (intrinsic to Sound of Music Singalongs) between rock-serious SoMites and (probably slightly drunk) wisecracking ironists in the audience erupted at one point, when a woman in the row ahead of us shouted "Shut up" to a woman across the aisle who kept calling out lame, satirical things. But other than that, the crowd was friendly and happy and in its element.

Nicest of all, the Baroness was indeed the star of the show. Audience fury at her every appearance made the room feel like one of Orwell's Two-Minute Hates.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Moveable Feast

My pilgrimage site, The Singalong Sound of Music, keeps following me around. Tonight, it's playing two blocks away, at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.

I seem to have talked everyone here -- Mr UD, kid (now safely returned from Brazil and Argentina), kid's friend -- into coming with me.

As always I plan to pay special attention to the evil
Baroness Shraeder. Maybe it's a girl thing, but she's

always been my favorite.

Of course I shall provide up to the minute blogging of this event.
Juan Cole Rules

"The question [in a Chronicle of Higher Ed forum] is whether Web-log commentary helps or damages an academic's career. It is a shameful question. Intellectuals should not be worrying about "careers," the tenured among us least of all. Despite the First Amendment, which only really protects one from the government, most Americans who speak out can face sanctions from other institutions in society. Journalists are fired all the time for taking the wrong political stance. That is why most bloggers employed in the private sector are anonymous or started out trying to be so.

...Being in the middle of [debates on the Middle East], trying to help mutual understanding, is what I trained for. Should I have been silent, published only years later in stolid academic prose in journals locked up in a handful of research libraries? And this for the sake of a "career"? The role of the public intellectual is my career. And it is a hell of a career. I recommend it."

Monday, July 24, 2006


Today's the 150th anniversary of George Bernard Shaw's birth in 1856.

He was as much a music critic as essayist and playwright, and one musical thing he said is: "It was from Handel that I learned that style consists in force of assertion."

The problem with the failed eulogy for William Lash that I looked at a few posts down is its lack of assertion -- its willingness to remain in a timid clinch with cliche.

But verbal and musical boldness is risky, because if you don't work very hard at it, it'll become bombast.
Alex Beam, in today's Boston Globe,
Stirs Sweet Memories for UD...

...of her time at Trump University. Beam writes:

One dreams of returning to the university. The tree-shadowed walkways. The shared goals of learning. The sexual and somatic adventuring. Ah, the student life.

In early May, I received an unsolicited invitation to join Trump University, which sounds like the kind of institution you might find parodied on the comics page. (In fact, it has been mocked in ``Doonesbury.") This wasn't like the letters my sons received when they were in high school, inviting them to apply to universities. This was an acceptance letter, a ``personal invite" from Donald Trump, contingent on my coughing up $40. Which I did.

You probably think I've been kicking back at my summer job bagging groceries while classes were out of session, but Trump U doesn't slow down. ``Focus is very important, and momentum," TU chairman Donald tells us in one of his many communications. TU is about learning, 24/7, with no shortage of face time with Himself. If you call watching little streaming video clips of Donald pontificating face time. Which, in a sense, it is. His face. Your time. Your money.

Here's what you get for the initial buy-in at TU: video Trumptalks on subjects like ``Dealing With Failure," ``Creating a Great Brand," ``Career Advice , " and ``Salesmanship." Sample pabulum: ``There's nothing like a great salesperson. I put them up with the greatest people in the world."

You also receive a subscription to ``Inside the Trump Tower," a newsletter chock full of windy little essays. I especially enjoyed the moronic outing, ``The End of the MBA is Nigh!" by business guru and self-promoter extraordinaire Tom Peters . It's a quick piece of nothing fluff that never mentions the author's own MBA from Stanford University.

All over the website -- because that's all TU is, a website ( -- chairman Trump rattles on about the value of extramural ``education" like TU. To recycle the slur often directed at President Bush, Trump is a man who was born on third base who later made much of hitting a home run; his father was a successful New York real estate magnate and Donald has a graduate degree from the Wharton School.

Inevitably, he blogs: ``Britney [Spears] has seen better days. She performed four or five years ago at the Trump Taj Mahal and she was great. Now it seems as if everything's slipping away from her. Britney, don't let that happen. Don't let it slip away. Keep your head on straight." Can you imagine Larry Summers bloviating about Madonna? Maybe he should have.

And, of course, Trump's favorite subject is . . . Trump. In one of his homilies, he celebrates the Top Ten Books on Entrepreneurship. The first six books were authored by, yes, Donald Trump.

Another ``benefit" of matriculating at Trump U is receiving a near-constant stream of e-mails and occasional phone calls from TU staffers trying to sell you more courses. Shortly after I enrolled, TU president Michael Sexton invited me ``to purchase a remarkable audio/video course available exclusively from Trump University. For the first time ever, Donald Trump has created a complete eight-week course on how to get rich." I continue to receive invitations to enroll at TU, even though I am already a student. A slip-up at the dean's office, I guess.

I called Sexton, and he picked up on the first ring. From his office at the Trump Building on 40 Wall Street, Sexton semi-apologized for the blizzard of come-ons I'd been receiving. ``We want to get people to take the first step and enroll for a course," he explained. He said TU had ``perhaps been a little overexuberant" in hyping its exciting new products. ``We've had feedback that we should be cutting down on the touch points," which I am guessing is businesspeak for ``people have been complaining about the spam."

``We don't spam anybody," he insisted. Just hours after he said this, I received yet another spam invitation for me to join Trump University. I forwarded the e-mail to him, with the comment, ``Michael, if this isn't spam, what is?" I have yet to hear back, but I know how busy university presidents are these days.
Lots of Naming of Names...

...and making of lists and drawing up of petitions lately (see Ralph Luker's first two entries at Cliopatria today). There are, for instance, lists of professors who support Ward Churchill, and lists of professors who believe the United States government bombed the Twin Towers.

UD's happy to think and write about what it means that a handful of tenured and untenured professors in this country are tin-foil-hat conspiratorialists. She's happy to harp on the fact that more than a handful of tenured and untenured professors in this country support colleagues who've made careers of plagiarism and misrepresentation.

But not right now. UD woke this morning in a flood of light coming from her ocean balcony that seemed to announce the materialization of one of the major saints. By all that's holy, UD should be on the beach. And that's where she's going.

But she will leave you (before resuming blogging in a short while) with one
Thought For The Day:

University students owe it to themselves to select the best professors they can for their courses. Students are paying a fortune. They only have a few years at college. Their minds are terrible things to waste. Rate My Professors and sources like it are important. But lists and petitions are helpful too.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Great Post at Grad Student Madness...

...a blog I'll be adding to my still unalphabetized blogroll, about Philip Rieff and Susan Sontag. Parenthetical comments UD's:

It was actually no surprise for me when both of them announced that we were living with the first generation of genuine Western barbarians at nearly the same time. There was a deep seriousness and even sternness to both scholars that transcended the simplistic political categories that divided them. Sontag was a leftist, and David Rieff, the son of both Sontag and Rieff, has described his father as being "to the right of Attila the Hun". But that doesn't really get at the truth of it. Rieff was certainly a conservative thinker, and perhaps one of the greatest conservative thinkers that American academia has yet produced. And yet, his strange and aphoristic writing seems to beckon the reader towards a life of patient and slow quasi-rabbinical study of high culture that leads away from all political struggles. Rieff and Sontag were both cultural mandarins... and so shared the same devotions (as the devout), and the same inflections long after their divorce.

Besides, Sontag's work is much more "culturally conservative" than most conservatives would admit, and Rieff's work is less "reactionary" than many on the left claim. It was no joke that he advised us to become 'inactivists' in his last interviews. A large chunk of his book Fellow Teachers deals with the cultural wreckage wrought by scholar/teachers who decided to become activists. [Scroll a couple of posts down for Stanley Fish's dive into this wreck.] And Rieff's style makes it extremely hard to pigeon-hole. Usually, you can puzzle through just what point he's making, but not quite know what his take is on it. He descibes the sacred/cultural world that we have lost, and the abyss we have gained, but you're never quite sure if he thinks we could return, and he says at various points that he wouldn't want to anyway.

Sontag's writing suffers from the same problems as Rieff's; it can be willfully obtuse and frustratingly self-contradictory. At times, one wonders just what she is getting at as well. Overall, I would say that she was the sloppier writer, and that nothing after Against Interpretation was quite as significant as those essays. But, when she was "on", she was one of the best essayists we had, and well worth studying still. I do think that his writing will be more important in the academy, but hers will probably have the wider influence. [Here's how I'd put it: Sontag's writing was often spectacular -- infused with intense life, like Jan Morris's. Even if her content was -- call it what you will -- elitist, hyper-serious, conservative -- the main thing conveyed was a rush having something deep to do with personal liberation, with an enviable, sensual, intellectuality, able to lay down long gorgeous verbal tracks. Rieff's writing, for all its social intelligence, lacked this quality.]

Kant once wrote that the genuine savage was not only unmoved by the sublime and the beautiful, but actively offended by it. Watching bored American tourists snarking at the sublime and beautiful art in the Louvre today, I was reminded of that line, and more amused than deeply offended. Both Rieff and Sontag would have been deeply offended: this is their charm and what can frustrate about their writings. But it's worth the frustration to read their works, preferably together.
"I'd be much happier if his American literature grade was higher."

Careers are at stake because winning is far more important to a coach's job security than graduation rates. In some places, those are not just the jobs of the coaches, but of the college presidents as well.

The idea that the football team wants to have a college of which it can be proud once was meant to be something said as a joke.

These days, there are times when it's difficult to see the humor.

Compromises are made. Athletes who are forced to be students are pushed through classes and leave their colleges ill-prepared for the real world.

Graduation rates don't change that.

What needs to be changed is the idea that every player in a college uniform is a true student-athlete. The NCAA needs to understand that it's OK to admit this.

No one in the stands for the Auburn-Alabama or Texas-Oklahoma game or even the Virginia Tech-Virginia game is going to watch a player score a touchdown and then say, "I'd be much happier if his American literature grade was higher."

Universities should pay these athletes or provide them with a vocational education or permit them to work somewhere on campus. They still would be part of the university community and still could represent the school on the athletic fields.

---richmond times-dispatch---

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Excerpts from Stanley Fish on Kevin Barrett

"...It is perfectly possible to teach a viewpoint without embracing it and urging it. But the moment a professor does embrace and urge it, academic study has ceased and been replaced by partisan advocacy. And that is a moment no college administration should allow to occur. ...

...[T]he number of viewpoints Mr. Barrett presents to his students is not the measure of his responsibility. There is, in fact, no academic requirement to include more than one view of an academic issue, although it is usually pedagogically useful to do so. The true requirement is that no matter how many (or few) views are presented to the students, they should be offered as objects of analysis rather than as candidates for allegiance.

There is a world of difference, for example, between surveying the pro and con arguments about the Iraq war, a perfectly appropriate academic assignment, and pressing students to come down on your side. Of course the instructor who presides over such a survey is likely to be a partisan of one position or the other — after all, who doesn’t have an opinion on the Iraq war? — but it is part of a teacher’s job to set personal conviction aside for the hour or two when a class is in session and allow the techniques and protocols of academic research full sway.

...[T]he question should be: “Do you separate yourself from your partisan identity when you are in the employ of the citizens of Wisconsin and teach subject matter — whatever it is — rather than urge political action?” If the answer is yes, allowing Mr. Barrett to remain in the classroom is warranted. If the answer is no, (or if a yes answer is followed by classroom behavior that contradicts it) he should be shown the door. Not because he would be teaching the “wrong” things, but because he would have abandoned teaching for indoctrination.

...While there should be no restrictions on what can be taught — no list of interdicted ideas or topics — there should be an absolute restriction on appropriating the scene of teaching for partisan political ideals. Teachers who use the classroom to indoctrinate make the enterprise of higher education vulnerable to its critics and shortchange students in the guise of showing them the true way."

New York Times
After the Deluge

Professor William Lash's murder of his son and then suicide left everyone who knew him stunned and speechless.

Now that a week or so has passed, one of his friends has written a failed eulogy. It is a noble failure, but it is a failure. The reasons may be instructive for those who care about writing.

Here's the piece, which appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. UD's comments appear in parenthesis.


[Already we're in trouble. It can and it should and actually of course it will. Most people never knew who Lash was. They will remember him only because he took a shotgun he had in the house and killed his son and then himself. Also -- the word "tragic" will be used quite a bit in what follows, but I'm not sure it's used legitimately. Calling something tragic sheds a sort of cosmic inevitability upon it, removing agency from the person who after all did the thing.]

Last week something so terrible, so senseless, and so tragic occurred that when I learned of it, I gasped for air. [Though a cliche, "gasped for air" is good, because it probably accurately describes the punched-in-the-gut reaction the writer had to this event. The larded up list of adjectives, however, does not work well, especially as an opening gambit in this essay, which clearly wishes to recuperate the memory of a man who was very good before his homicidal act. The redundancy on tragic weakens the impact of the word, and "senseless" is rather weak too. "Terrible" is good, and the sentence would have been stronger had the writer simply used that word, alone.]

In an apparent act of desperation and what I can only think was temporary insanity, one of the kindest, brightest, most articulate and effective policymakers I have known took his life and the life of his young son at their home in McLean, Va. [The problem with this sentence lies squarely in one word: "policymaker." After the shining list of adjectives, we expect something like "gentleman" or "friend." Policymaker is almost absurdly wonky, a rhetorical as well as emotional letdown.]

William H. Lash III should not be remembered for this terrible last act. [Again, this approach is rhetorically tricky. It comes very close to simply commanding the reader to do something, when, especially in cases like this one, you've got to do the hard work of reconstructing a character for a person.] In an all-too-short but brilliant career that took Bill to the halls of academia, corporate governance and government service, he left a mark on everyone and every effort he touched. [In general, this essay has too many cliches -- phrases like "the halls of academia" -- and they just won't do when the circumstances are so horribly out of the ordinary.]

Bill distinguished himself effortlessly. In the 1980s, after receiving undergraduate and law degrees from Yale and Harvard universities, and clerking for a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, Bill served as counsel to the chairman of the International Trade Commission in the Reagan administration, beginning his successful and important work in public policy that would span the next two decades. As a law professor in the 1990s at both St. Louis University and George Mason University, he was known by students and colleagues alike for his engaging, accessible personality and his exceptional legal scholarship. In 2001, Bill was appointed assistant secretary of commerce in President George W. Bush's administration, where he served with distinction until last year when he returned to George Mason to resume his duties teaching law. [This reads like the blandest resume summary. Again, the writer is trying to do something important -- to resuscitate the good of a man -- but he hasn't been able to make his writing important.]

He also served as a senior fellow at Washington University's Center for the Study of American Business (now the Weidenbaum Center), where it was my privilege to work with him for several years on the center's international research. At the center, Bill's research in the area of international trade received wide attention both in the media and policy circles, leaving an indelible mark on the policymaking of the day.

Every individual that I have spoken to this week who knew Bill has expressed the same stunned sense of disbelief over this terrible tragedy. [Again, note the recycled words.] Everyone who knew him remembers Bill's incredible devotion to his son, Will, making this event all the more difficult to accept and comprehend.

There is no understanding Bill's last desperate act. Anyone who was lucky enough to know him can only hang their head in sadness and pray for him, his young son, his wife, Sharon, and their entire families.

But William H. Lash III also led a good and decent life [This is by far the best phrase in the piece - simple, powerful, right to the point. Slightly rewritten, it should have been the first sentence.] before his final, inexplicable and terrible moments. He enriched and touched the lives of many with his brilliance, character, and easy charm.

That is the Bill Lash that I will try to remember.
"He's the kind of guy who never lets anyone forget he has a Ph.D."

"Such vitriolic ranting is over the top, even by the ever-declining standards of talk-radio decorum. Yet, in this time of war fever and hyperpatriotism, inflammatory rhetoric draws conservative ditto-heads and liberal rubberneckers alike," wrote a Salon reporter a couple of years back about Michael Savage, and, whatever the politics of UD, she is indeed, from her Rehoboth Beach apartment, rubbernecking.

More broadly, when she's on vacation in the US, or when she's at her house in upstate New York (where she'll be soon), UD watches a little tv (longtime readers know UD has no tv in her 'thesdan house) and listens to a little talk radio (but only when making meals, and only when she can't get NPR to come in clearly).

It's true that UD has gasped and laughed a lot, listening to Savage, who sounds like every neurotic Jewish blowhard UD ever dated or had in her family....Neurotic? There's a psycho-something in Savage that distinguishes him from this group...

With her interest in universities, UD has taken note of Savage's quest for intellectual respectability:

'He currently gripes that no institute of higher education would hire him, despite his qualifications. "I discovered I could not gain a professorship even after applying many times," he writes in The Savage Nation. "My crime? I was a white male."'

UD's stumbled over a lot of white males at universities. Savage's problem is he's one dumb fuck.
Erin O'Connor's...

...fascinating series of posts on boarding schools continues this morning. She talks about important differences in motivation among parents who put their children in these sorts of schools.
More on Auburn

"Gundlach's whistle blowing [he's the Auburn professor who uncovered the sociology department's Directed Reading scam] attracted the attention of a congressional committee. He claims committee members are looking at doing away with the tax exempt status of college sports because there seems to be evidence that athletes who get scholarships don't get a college education."

Well, who knows if Gundlach's on to anything at all in this claim. What interests UD is the simplicity of the thought:

1.) Taxpayers are paying for college educations.

2.) College educations are not being received.

3.) Congress will therefore stop asking taxpayers to pay for college educations.

Sure, a certain percentage of taxpayers doesn't give a shit about this, happy to subsidize jocks who are enrolled by universities and jollied along, rather in the way Barney the dinosaur jollies along the kids who dance and sing with him in his tv studio. But other people can be made to see and resent this use of their money.

Anyway, now that Auburn's again been caught with its head up its ass, it must try to assume a more dignified posture. Its interim president is quoted:

"Dr. Richardson says the university is not waiting until the [internal] investigation is complete to take action. He says, 'I want to ensure that every course at Auburn is taught with the academic rigor that students should expect and they deserve.'"

It takes a lot more than a weak interim president at a place proud of being a sports factory to inaugurate academic rigor. As Auburn bids a sad farewell to Professor Petee's directed readings, it will soon enough find another way to game things.
"Fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education... In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re searching for truths."

A Baptist theologian, quoted in today's New York Times, makes the essential distinction between education and indoctrination.

Growing numbers of Baptist colleges, reports the Times, are severing official and monetary ties with the church, as the church, more and more fundamentalist, attempts to control course content. It's like that rebellion at Patrick Henry College -- despite caricatures of religious colleges from the left (colleges on the right have their matching caricatures of the left), there's in fact plenty of evidence that many self-respecting religious colleges and universities -- the type that'd like a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and that sort of thing -- tend to evolve toward becoming more secular institutions out of simple respect for the truth.

Or, as a student at a now-independent Baptist college says in the article: “It’s good to go to a college that’s religious, but it doesn’t really matter to me.... What matters to me is getting my education."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Scenes from the Argentine

This is the tango performance UD's kid took in
last night (very late last night) in Buenos Aires.

Note the bright young heads bobbing about
in the photo's foreground. She's in there

“Boarding school enrollment dropped from about 42,000 in the late 1960’s to 39,000 in the last school year - even though, according to the Census Bureau, the population of 14- to 17-year olds was more than 1.5 million higher in 2004 than in 1968," wrote an opinion writer in the New York Times awhile back. (Here's an earlier UD post dealing with the piece in greater detail.)

Erin O'Connor, who recently spent a year teaching in such a school, helps explain the decline:

The boarding school where I taught during the 2004-05 school year was accredited--but this was hardly a guarantee of quality, or even of responsibility on the part of the school. This school cost more than $32,000 a year, which is the going rate for boarding schools in New England and elsewhere around the country. That's a price tag that creates some entirely reasonable expectations; one imagines, if one is mortaging one's future to send one's child to such an institution, that for $32,000, one's child will have access to one hell of an education, one that far surpasses, in quality and variety, what's available at the free public school just down the road. But in schools as in other commodities, price tags are really only price tags, and all they tell you is what the market rate is for the commodity at hand. That's one of the many things I learned during my year teaching at a very expensive, but very academically weak school.

I won't name the school, since it's not my goal to cause problems for the school itself, and since it is my goal here to use my experience at the school to point to larger issues with the private school system. But I will give some particulars, just to explain what I mean when I say the school was academically inadequate. I say that the school was academically inadequate because it employed teachers to teach subjects that they were not able to teach. There were some excellent teachers there--but they were outweighed by the bad ones. There was a biology teacher who also taught introductory Spanish--but who did not speak Spanish, could not read or write Spanish with any real skill, and had no idea how to teach a foreign language; her worksheets and quizzes were riddled with errors because her own grasp of the language was so weak. There was an English teacher who also taught algebra one and two--but who could not actually explain the principles behind the math, and who, by the end of the year, also could not solve the homework problems assigned in the textbook. Because the school failed to employ a competent algebra teacher, large numbers of students lacked the skills to go on to pre-calculus. There was a U.S. history teacher who taught current events and leftist ideology rather than history proper. Because there was no set English curriculum and no real training in writing (one teacher actually devoted substantial time to having students write and illustrate comic books), the school graduated functional illiterates with depressing regularity. The SAT scores for students at this school were ludicrously low. They did not reflect students' intelligence, but they did reflect the poverty of their educational experience.

For $32,000 a year, parents were paying for a school that probably did more to harm their children's chances of going on to a good college than not. Worse, the parents did not seem to have the faintest idea that this was the case. The students at the school were, by and large, quite happy there (though many of them would tell you, with a frankness peculiar to teenagers, that they knew it wasn't a real school they were attending). There was much that was wonderful about the school apart from its abysmal academics--and parents, seeing their children happier than they had been at their previous school, and admiring the excellent arts program, the work program, the good cooking, and the school's pastoral setting, assumed that all was well. Teenagers don't tend to talk much to their parents about the daily details of their lives if they can avoid it; they especially don't tend to talk much about what they are learning in class; and the parents of boarding school students are exceptionally cut off from those kinds of details. The happiness of the kid and the price tag stand in as proxies for quality of education. It was scary to see how willing this school was to flush students' opportunities; scary, too, to see how trusting parents were, and how misplaced their trust was.

Is it trust, UD wonders, or a kind of benign indifference? The parents can get on with their busy lives without the bother of a kid at home, etc. The New York Times writer points to some other problems:

The self-containment of boarding schools can create terrariums of privilege in which students develop a skewed sense of money and have a hard time remembering that, in fact, it is not normal to go skiing in Switzerland just because it's March, or to receive an S.U.V. in celebration of one's 16th birthday. At, for example, Choate Rosemary Hall - one of many boarding schools starting classes this or next week - room, board and tuition for 2005-2006 is $35,360. If, as Choate's Web site explains, 27 percent of students receive financial aid, that means the other 73 percent come from families that are, by just about any standards except perhaps their own, very rich. Even when these schools hold chapel services espousing humility and service to others, it's the campus facilities - the gleaming multimillion-dollar gymnasium, say - that can send a louder message.

...It's hard not to wonder: in a world of horrifying inequities, at what point do these lavishly maintained campuses go from enriching and bucolic to just obscene? Can a student living on such a campus be blamed if, logically working backward, she starts to think her access to such bounty must exist because she deserves it? It is this line of thought, I suspect, that gives rise to the noxious attitude of entitlement and snobbishness that is simultaneously less common than pop-culture depictions of boarding school would have you believe and also not that hard to find.

For me, the question isn't why parents wouldn't send a child to boarding school as much as why they would. Unless there are either severe problems at home or flat-out terrible local schools, I don't see the point. Even in the case of terrible schools, I'm not convinced that parents can't significantly augment their children's education. Among the advantages of boarding school are opportunities for independence, academic stimulation, small classes, peer companionship and the aforementioned campus beauty - but every single one of these opportunities is available at dozens of liberal arts colleges, so why not just wait a few years until the student will better appreciate such gifts and save $140,000?
Alan L. Contreras... already one of UD's heroes for his diploma mill busting activities. Now he's written a very smart opinion piece for today's Inside Higher Ed on another subject. And he knows what he's talking about, because he lives down the street from the notorious University of Oregon.

Here's an excerpt:

Anyone interested in actual improvement of the presence of good nonwhite faculty in our universities needs to take certain steps at their schools. Do not allow the hiring of more bureaucrats to gasp in predictable horror at the way things are. No more Assistant Vice-hand-holders in the bower of ethnic unhappiness. Forget all the false storefronts and unseemly fawnings that are the usual pewter trade beads of minority recruiting.

Start the laborious process of dragging recruitment out of the clinging vines of the H.R. people and back into the hands of departments. Accept the possibility that an imperfect process can lead to a perfect result. College leaders need the ability to go outside the standard hiring process to support and attract the best faculty, including minority faculty. They should also have the flexibility to flag potential scholars early in life and use university resources to assist them in their long-term goal of joining the professoriate.

Plan ahead a generation. Work ahead a generation. Figure out who of color in your local schools has the potential to be a good professor. Get rid of your highly paid and symbolic chief diversity officers. We all know that they accomplish little. This is not their fault; their jobs are inherently impossible. Respect can’t be legislated, it must be earned. Use that money to hire a brace of heat-seeking twenty-somethings to systematically find the most academically promising minority 10-year-olds in likely and unlikely places, and track and support them for a decade or more, as your university’s scholars-in-waiting. Consider advance long-term contracts with the best doctoral students. Be bold.

Let the word diversity lie fallow until something meaningful can grow from its good soil. Let the words affirmative action not be spoken until they mean action that is affirmative again.

"Legalize It

As long as the demand for winning is strong, college football teams will figure out ways to beat academic requirements

by Randy Horick

...For [one Auburn player], the Directed Readings course was a football godsend. With just five or six weeks left in the semester, Professor Thomas Petee agreed to work with him on a program of individual study. Langenfeld says he met several times with Dr. Petee. He had to read one book (the title escapes him now) and write one 10-page paper. Not only did Langenfeld get his credits and play against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, he was one of less than 17 percent of the 120 students who took the course with this professor to earn a B. All but 2 percent of the rest earned A’s.

Eighteen members of Auburn’s football team studied individually in this way with Professor Petee, who says he managed his Herculean workload mostly through emails to his pupils. The footballers accumulated an average GPA of 3.31 in the Directed Readings courses, compared to 2.14 in their other courses at Auburn that year.

Ever since Gordon Gee and his reform-minded friends scolded the NCAA into revamping the rules governing athletes and academics, schools have had to work harder and be more creative. For example, players can no longer load up on courses like Basketweaving, AIDS Awareness, Walking 101 and Jim Harrick Jr.’s Fundamentals of Basketball (whose final exam asked students to enumerate, among other things, how many halves are in a basketball game and how many points a three-point shot is worth). Now, student-athletes have to take mostly real courses and make annual progress toward a degree. If an insufficient number of them make the grade, then the football program starts losing scholarships.

That’s what makes courses like Directed Readings in Sociology so alluring. The 18 players in Professor Petee’s class—including Cadillac Williams, who signed a football for the good doctor—contributed to the team in more ways than one. With their A’s and B’s, they helped raise Auburn’s official APR (Academic Progress Rate).

In fact, for the past two years (the only ones for which the NCAA has data under the new system), Auburn has scored a 981 on the APR. That puts it first in the SEC and, more amazingly, fourth among all Division I-A football programs, ahead of Duke and narrowly trailing only Stanford, the Naval Academy and Boston College.

According to the NCAA’s principal research scientist, cited by the Times, Auburn’s high score should translate into a graduation rate of 76 percent for players on the 2003 and 2004 football teams. Auburn’s actual graduation rate? Only 48 percent. (By comparison, Vanderbilt, which led the SEC, graduated 88 percent of its players during those years, followed by Mississippi State with 60 percent. Tennessee (with 38 percent), Kentucky and Arkansas claimed the hind teats.)

Given such a disparity between the APR and the graduation rate, NCAA officials might visit Auburn to examine just how the numbers were crunched. Maybe they’ll find that some Enron accountants were keeping the books. Maybe they’ll also want to investigate whether Professor Petee was on the faculty at Florida and Ole Miss as well. Both of those football programs outscored Vandy on the APR, yet had graduation rates below Auburn’s.

None of this should be surprising to anyone with experience involving campaign finance or IRS audits. In fact, it was almost as predictable as the sunrise. Everyone but the would-be reformers seems to understand that the NCAA is engaged in an endless game of whack-a-mole. Close one loophole and the people in the football business will just find another one. Even though whistleblowers in Auburn’s Sociology Department have helped derail Professor Petee’s gravy train—which certainly did not account for the football program’s sterling APR all by itself—does anyone doubt that there will be no scarcity of other shortcuts for players who need respectable grades? [If UD may be permitted to butt in here: This paragraph is the most important one in the piece -- and it's a pretty well-written piece -- but notice how the writer goes, er, off the rails in terms of mixed metaphors. The whack-a-mole thing is fine, but then we get loopholes on a gravy-train being whacked...]

You can understand why some people in the drug enforcement business begin to think legalizing drugs is a good idea. As long as the demand is strong, the supply will follow.

Among alums and fans, the demand for winning football is stronger than heroin. Until alums place a higher priority on academic integrity than on winning games, reform efforts won’t be any more successful than drug interdiction at the border. And fan priorities show no sign of changing.

So maybe it’s time to legalize it all. Instead of trying to add new rules, perhaps the schools that are sticklers for academics should quit the NCAA and give up all the money that goes with it. The schools that want big-time football businesses should be free to admit anyone they choose, pay them what they choose and let classes be optional."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Sportswriter from Texas...

...discusses Auburn:

[T]he story was greeted with great disdain in Auburn and with considerable laughter in other SEC locales like Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn. But if you looked deeper, you would find that even those rivals who got a kick out of seeing the Tigers embarrassed were a bit nervous themselves.


Because they are all afraid their team is going to be next.

One of the most peculiar things about college athletics — and sports in general — is that even the most diehard fans watch the games with the nagging suspicion that everyone — even their team of choice — is cheating. Whether it's happening or not, many of them accept this as a necessary evil, even if they would prefer to ignore it and hope no one else notices.

Let's say you're an alumnus and supporter of University X. And let's say you take a trip back to the town of your alma mater and see the kid your school just signed to play quarterback driving past campus in a new Escalade.

Are you simply excited to see a young superstar in person? Or is your first reaction to think, "Gee, I hope no one tries to find out how he paid for that?"

These are answers that everyone deserves but nobody really wants. This is the reason most people aren't interested in the Auburn story, just like they aren't particularly riveted by the Barry Bonds controversy.

After all, if those pesky reporters can nail the single-season home run king, then they might be able to nail my guy too, right?

This is why many people always will hate sportswriters more than political scribes. After all, the charm of politics is the corruption, the lying, the infighting. Sports are supposed to be the respite from all that madness, and the journalists who bring the ugly stuff to the forefront are ruining the fun.
Finally, A Distraction
From Duke Lacrosse

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

Three Duke football players were dismissed from the program yesterday by Coach Ted Roof and a fourth, starting quarterback Zack Asack, was suspended and will miss the 2006 season because of a serious academic infraction.

The players dismissed were Andreas Platt, Deon Adams and Joe Suder. Platt, a 6-2, 200-pound strong safety, is from Greensboro and played at Jamestown's Ragsdale High School, and Adams, a 6-1, 195-pound receiver, is also from Greensboro, where he played at Smith High School.

Platt would have been a third-year sophomore after being redshirted in 2004 as a freshman. Adams would have been a senior. Suder is a 6-6, 340-pound defensive tackle from Reno, Nev., who redshirted last season as a freshman.

Duke athletics officials said that the three players were dismissed for violating team regulations. Platt, reached at home last night, wouldn't say what led to his dismissal. A DWI charge at least contributed to the situation.

Platt was found guilty of the charge in January in Orange County District Court for a July 16, 2005, minor traffic accident in Chapel Hill.

"I ain't got nothing to say," Platt said. "I ain't worried about nothing. It was just a mutual agreement that it was time for a change. I'm going to another school."

Platt said that he plans to continue his education and football career at Western Carolina.

Platt played in 11 games at Duke and had 15 tackles. Adams played in 27 games and caught 12 passes for 125 yards.

Asack was suspended for plagiarism and will not be able to attended classes in the coming academic year. School officials said that he will be eligible to return to school and to the football program in the summer of 2007.

"I made a mistake and am remorseful," Asack said in a prepared statement released by Duke. "I take full responsibility for my actions. I wish the team well and look forward to returning next summer. I love it here at Duke."

Asack would have been a sophomore this season. He started six of the Blue Devils' final seven games last season and finished the season with 966 passing yards. He completed 50 percent of his passes and had five touchdown passes. He was intercepted eight times.

Asack's absence will likely thrust rising sophomore Marcus Jones into the starting quarterback role. The only other recruited quarterback in the Duke program next season is incoming freshman Thaddeus Lewis.

Roof said that the Blue Devils will move forward and try to offset Asack's absence in the coming season.

"Sometimes great young men make poor decisions and that is the case in this situation," Roof said in a prepared statement.

"While I certainly don't condone his actions, I have been impressed with the manner in which Zack has handled this issue.

"I fully support Zack and am confident that he will grow in many areas as a result of this situation.

"When you are part of a family and make an uncharacteristic mistake, you are not kicked out of the family. Zack will remain part of the Duke football family and will be supported by everyone in our program."
Plagiarist vs. Plagiarist

Just like that Mad magazine feature, Spy vs. Spy, you've now got disgruntled plagiarists ratting on other plagiarists. It's an interesting cultural development, only possible when plagiarism is endemic.

And it's funny when the plagiarist is the chancellor of a university, and he plagiarized from the President of the United States plus Martin Luther King:

The chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville has been accused of plagiarizing parts of a speech from, among other sources, remarks by President Bush.

In a written statement issued on Wednesday, the chancellor, Vaughn Vandegrift, said he "relies heavily on his staff" to write his speeches. "I approved the speech, and I take full responsibility for its content," the statement said. "If mistakes were made, we will take steps so that it doesn't happen in the future."

The chancellor delivered the speech in February at a luncheon celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. In the speech, Mr. Vandegrift said the following: "For generations, African-Americans have strengthened our nation by urging reforms, overcoming obstacles, breaking down barriers, rising above injustice, and enriching our society."

That language is nearly identical to a passage in a 2003 speech by President Bush: "For generations, African-Americans have strengthened our nation by urging reforms, overcoming obstacles, and breaking down barriers. We see the greatness of America in those who have risen above injustice and enriched our society."

Another 19-word passage in Mr. Vandegrift's talk appears to have come almost verbatim from the Web site of the King Center, in Atlanta.

The similarities were found by a sister of Chris Dussold, a former professor at Southern Illinois at Edwardsville who was fired for plagiarizing his teaching statement. Mr. Dussold believes he was unfairly dismissed, and he and his supporters have worked to uncover other examples of plagiarism at the university. "All of my friends and family, time permitting, start searching for plagiarism," Mr. Dussold said on Wednesday.

And they have found a number of examples, from both professors and administrators. In many of the cases, like the chancellor's, the copying has been only a few sentences. But Mr. Dussold argues that if he was fired for copying a teaching statement used only as part of his tenure review, then others should also be dismissed for similar borrowings.

"If mistakes were made, I think their policy is they fire the person immediately," said Mr. Dussold, who is now an assistant professor of accounting, economics, and finance at nearby McKendree College. "If you're going to consider what I did to be plagiarism, I want equal treatment."

Mr. Dussold has also pointed out that Mr. Vandegrift's 150-word online welcome statement -- titled "From the Chancellor" -- is identical to that of the previous chancellor. A spokesman for the university, Greg Conroy, said he had written the statement and that there was nothing wrong with reusing it because it is "university property."

Mr. Dussold also brought to light passages that had been plagiarized in a 2005 speech by Walter V. Wendler, chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Like Mr. Vandegrift, Mr. Wendler said those passages had been included by a member of his staff.

Mr. Dussold, who was dismissed in 2004, is suing the university and plans to cite such examples as proof of unfair treatment.

Wendler, you may recall, is a real number. Bankrupting the system and keeping 'em dumb... 'cause that's The Saluki Way! And you can plagiarize me on that!
Balcony Blogging II

5:31 AM. Loud bangy waves on a still-dark day. A crescent moon pokes out of thin clouds. The wind's chilly.

Inside Higher Ed interviews some people about Auburn in particular and sports at universities in general. One sports professor says:

“Often, student-athletes are drawn to such majors as exercise science and sport management because of the appeal of the athletic themes ... However, here at [the University of Tennesee, Knoxville], those are academically demanding majors.” [Er -- I don't think so.]

A dissenting professor says: "[T]he organizational culture in many college athletic departments is that the ‘education’ of many athletes is an obstacle to be overcome — a nuisance almost."

A third points to what's clearly emerging as the MVP (Most Valuable Pretense) among college courses for athletes:

S. Philip Morgan, a professor of sociology at Duke University, says that institutions would be wise not to encourage independent study courses, because he believes that professors — especially those who care deeply about the success of their institution’s teams — can easily manipulate grades for such courses. “There is very little oversight in those kinds of situations,” he says.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bad Writing

Robert KC Johnson is convinced of the innocence of all the Duke players; UD is not. But UD agrees with Johnson's post today over at Cliopatria that the self-righteous and politically muddled rush to condemn the players by Houston Baker (who has left Duke in a huff) and the faculty signers of an open letter to Duke's president is a sorry thing indeed.

Johnson quotes from one signer's description of his scholarship:

"[U]nless we attempt to read racialized trauma according to a more Freudian, Lacanian understanding for subjectivity we will continue to misunderstand why racial stigma persists and, more generally, why the laws humans create to protect against forms of discrimination leave in place a notion of the racialized subject as emptied of interiority and the psychical."

Stanley Fish may not like the essay, but the great merit of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" is the point it makes about the connection between the inability to write and the inability to think straight -- and the way that inability degrades your political reasoning. Among the categories of bad writing Orwell features, the one above falls into vagueness-to-the-point-of-vacuity. Note that even innocuous words - "for," "as" - in this sentence become sowers of confusion. Note how redundant the sentence is, with variations of "racial" used three times, and "subject" two. Note how various pairings deepen the confusion: "Freudian, Lacanian," "interiority and the psychical."

And note, finally, the simple errors: The writer first talks about the large subject of how we understand racial stigma, and then describes a consideration of discrimination laws as more general, when he means more specific.
Frisch Becomes A Verb

'The sad episode has one happy consequence. It has enriched the English language with a new verb. To quote an innovative blogger, "to frisch" means to write "something on the internet so creepy and offensive that you are forced to quit your job before getting canned."'

The blogger used it in a sentence: "Deb really frisched herself…"

---wendy mcelroy---
The University of Wisconsin's Kevin Barrett:

The gift that keeps on giving.
A Student of Rieff's...

...writes a moving account of the man in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (I didn't know that Rieff, like UD and Andrew Sullivan, was a big fan of Philip Larkin's poetry.)

An excerpt:

Much of his teaching was aimed at cultivating the civilizing virtues as opposed to one's curriculum vitae. I learned about this side of him the hard way.

Acutely aware of the fact that I would soon be looking for a job — this was in 1978 — Professor Rieff began prodding me to start submitting articles for publication. One day I paraded into his office puffed up like a peacock because I had just garnered my first article acceptance. "Congratulations," he said, kindly adding, "There will be many more." But then he said, "Gordon, I have to tell you that from the first day that I met you, you reeked of ambition." I dropped my head, for the truth is I probably am one of those injured birds who constantly needs his feathers stroked. He went on, "And you had better understand that the profession that you are going into is all about teaching. I know many professors who went into this business because they loved writing books and articles and developing a little coterie of admirers. But when they got into their 50s and could feel the limits of their talents, they fell into very serious despair, because it was clear that they were never going to become the Kierkegaard that they imagined they were, and they dreaded teaching."

Rieff was on a roll: "Most academics are too narcissistic to be the parental figures that they need to be. They will slam their door on a student just so they can write their next forgettable article or book." Professor Rieff was not finished with his brass knuckles. He knew that I had a brilliant neuroscientist of a wife who helped me with typing and photocopying and, well, just about everything, so he hit me between the eyes: "These self-involved characters will also turn their wives into secretaries and sacrifice their children to feckless books."
Tons of These Cases...

...lately. So many I've not blogged most of them. It'd be more like flogging than blogging.

Greed's the cause, questionable results the effect. Universities, and journals, proceed at their risk.

'Days after announcing a crackdown on researchers who do not disclose drug company ties, the editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association said she was misled again, this time by the authors of a study linking severe migraines to heart attacks in women.

All six authors of the study have done consulting work or received research financing from makers of treatments for migraines or heart-related problems. Their research appears in Wednesday’s journal.

The authors said they did not report their financial ties because they did not believe they were relevant to the study. The editor, Dr. Catherine D. DeAngelis, said she would have published the authors’ associations with drug makers had she known about them.

The journal posted a letter online Tuesday from the authors explaining the omissions, Dr. DeAngelis’s response and a correction.

Last week, the journal disclosed that the authors of a depression study failed to report ties to makers of antidepressants. And two months ago, it reported similar omissions from authors of a study linking certain arthritis drugs to cancer.'

Scott McLemee, like UD, remains struck by the odd, provocative work of Philip Rieff. I've already linked to Scott's discussion of him (Rieff died last week) in the Boston Globe (scroll down to an earlier post); here are some of his further thoughts, in Inside Higher Ed.
Beach Blogging...

...from the balcony. Classic over-the-ocean-sunrise maneuver being performed directly in front of me, complete with crayon-box-yellow sun and bright squiggly sun-tail lying along the water from here to eternity. Seagulls sit on the tops of light fixtures, stare at me (I'm directly across from them), and scream. Pods of dolphins, very close to shore, travel south.

This is the hour of the sunrise mavens, the walkers and joggers and bikers (bicycles and dogs and many other things are against the rules on the boardwalk after ten in the morning -- UD's anarchic Polish husband complains every single year about how rule-bound Rehoboth is), the people just back from Brew Ha-Ha with their latte and New York Times, the policemen patrolling.

The funny green truck with yellow wheels, the truck that each morning smoothes the creased sand of the beach, is circling about ... and all this cute stuff reminds me of a profound statement Mr UD made yesterday on the beach (the beach was so pleasant that we stayed there all day and forgot to take a swim in the pool) during our perennial beach v mountain discussion (which is superior? where would you spend the rest of your days if the rest of your days could be geographical perfection?): "The beach is calming; the mountains are exciting. There's something soothing in an infantile way about the beach." For him, that is, it's no contest: He loves the beach, but the mountains win.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

UD's Friend, George Gollin,
Scourge of the Diploma Mills,
Reports on his Recent Activity

I filled out an application at the Belford University site ( for a PhD in Public Administration.

In the box labeled "Briefly type the work or life experience that qualifies you for this degree" I entered "significant attention to nightly news and newspapers."

Belford's reply: "We are pleased to announce that on the basis of your resume submitted by the Assistant Registrar, the 10-member evaluation committee at Belford University has finally approved you for Doctorate Degree in Public Administration."

After approval, I was then allowed to edit my order form so that the doctoral degree would instead be awarded for "Early Childhood Education."
Quote of the Day

"As hard as it is to see right now, this is part of my career plan," she said.

---Deborah Frisch, in an interview with an Oregon newspaper.
Applause From His Colleagues
For Auburn's James Gundlach

'Since going public [with massive academic cheating among Auburn's athletes], Gundlach has been flooded with telephone calls and e-mail messages expressing support and condemnation. He said he had received 69 positive messages and 66 negative ones. As he walked into the main academic building on campus yesterday morning, he said, 10 to 12 faculty members applauded him.

“It was a very pleasant experience,” he said.'
UD's Foggy Bottom Lunchmate...

...Scott McLemee, has a smart, brief review (for me, very brief -- I can't get this computer to open up its third page) of Philip Rieff's ideas (I found it via Ralph Luker).

Like UD in an earlier post on Rieff, Scott suggests that the conventional reading of a massive moral/intellectual split between Rieff and Susan Sontag doesn't quite get it:

Rieff dedicated the book [the first of his posthumous trilogy] to her memory. Some of her late pronouncements could even be dropped into the book without anyone noticing - as if the standoff between her `60s radicalism and his tweedy cultural conservatism had been a strange misunderstanding.

Scott also rightly notes that the core of Rieff's thought lies in his defense of a deeply internalized sense of what one must not do -- what he called "interdicts." Parents and teachers all must from the start understand and assume their authority as transmitters of interdictory culture. The failure of these groups to assume their authority has meant the serious decline of culture.

Because Rieff considered this process of internalizing interdicts so difficult, intimate, lengthy, and profound, I think he would have found the current academic controversy over, for instance, whether to teach ethics in graduate business courses amusing. First, because (as Martha Nussbaum points out in a post a few posts below this one), far too simple a model of moral apprehension often underlies such courses; and second, if a person by the age of 27 or so hasn't internalized any serious interdicts, he's not going to do so from a seat at the Harvard Business School.

McLemee also notes the Rieff - Allan Bloom lineage:

His book "Fellow Teachers" (1973), for example, lodged many complaints about academic culture later found in Allan Bloom's best-selling jeremiad "The Closing of the American Mind" (1988).

Rieff's writing style is impossibly arch and weird for most readers; Bloom on the other hand was a master of prose style (as I've noted before on this blog). Both men were angry about the failure of universities to transmit culture, but Bloom's anger is straightforward, and straightforwardly expressed, while with Rieff you always have the feeling he thinks it's, well, uncultured, simply to come out with it. In this respect, Rieff has something in common with Michel Foucault, similarly arch and evasive.

I think both Rieff and Bloom would see the Frisch, Barrett, and Churchill eruptions (there have been others, and there will be more) as the sort of thing that happens when universities no longer know how to articulate, much less take seriously in a principled way, their founding, constraining principles, their identity as supreme transmitters of interdictory culture.

Many have pointed out that the proximate cause of many of such eruptions is an unjust and cynical system of academic labor. The value of people like Rieff and Bloom is that they attempt to explain the larger reasons.

Monday, July 17, 2006

On the Beach

Inland, we hear, the air's almost unbearable: tomorrow in DC it's Code Orange.

Here at the shore, though the sand will hurt your feet if you walk on it at noon, a reliable wind off the water cools the air.

I had to close the balcony's curtains early this morning, the sun came in so strongly. I thought that meant the beach would be burning hot.

But though the sun was strong, and though we stayed firmly under our umbrella, the air at the beach was light and breathable, and the ocean water refreshing. We stayed out there for hours. I finished the Sunday crossword and then splashed in the water. We had a swim after that in our building's pool.

So far I've made steak (a favorite of Mr UD's) every night, while my vegetarian sister, who's here with us, tries not to notice. My other beach indulgence is a daily pina colada which, Mr UD bitterly complains, I never finish.
Monday Afternoon Eye-Opener

"Long ago, these universities made a choice that it wasn't about the bonds and relationships forged over 6 a.m. swim practices, nor handsome academic All-America certificates mounted on the athletic department walls. Everyone chasing the glory and shame of big-time Division I sports should stop apologizing for bailing on swimming and golf and crew programs, because college sports gave up on the illusion of sports as part of the overall collegiate education.

This isn't just Rutgers, but the rest of the places that have willing accomplices in the pursuit of football and basketball glory, the national television and exposure and companion shame that comes with this world. Six Scarlet Knights sports were thrown overboard Friday after the state cut $66 million in funding to the university, inspiring indignant pleas on behalf of the swimmers, tennis players and golfers told that they would be eliminated after one more season.

It's a shame the coaches lose jobs here, the kids lose the sports, but this isn't an injustice. It's business. It's a lousy, corrupt, flawed business, but a business nonetheless. And everyone needs to stop pretending that Division I college athletics aspire to some greater good, that it exists for the greater student body good.

Budget cuts hit Rutgers hard, and they'll probably hit harder again someday. This time, gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling made the cut. Next time around, those probably won't be so lucky. This isn't just Rutgers. And this will be happening everywhere over the next few years, as public money for universities gets tighter, as fund raising becomes tougher, as Title IX exacts a greater toll.

Someday, here's what it will be: Football, basketball, women's sports to balance Title IX scholarships and a bunch of club teams that raise money with candy sales to take vans to neighboring schools for competition.

If nothing else, Rutgers needs to explain why an athletic director paid out millions of dollars in contract extensions to failed coaches. Yet, it doesn't need to defend itself for refusing to bankroll the good, dedicated coaches and kids in fringe programs. Maybe it's hard to hear this -- maybe it should be different -- but these teams aren't part of the mission statement in Division I anymore. They're not the priority.

The only time athletic departments ever pretend to care about these sports are when they can parade the graduation rates and grade-point averages of those kids around, as though to balance the mess usually found in football and basketball.

Because reckless administrations and boosters kept participating in an arms race, building state-of-the-art arenas, practice facilities and luxurious locker rooms -- all with the logic that it's needed to out-impress its rivals in recruiting -- a culture of excess has been created to compete at the highest levels.

Rutgers wanted to engage in the arms race of college football, constructing space age practice and weightlifting facilities, planning a luxury box expansion of the football stadium. Rutgers made the choice to give Greg Schiano, still without a significant, signature victory in his career, a long-term extension that will pay him more than $1 million annually. Athletic director Bob Mulcahy has made a career of overcommitting too much money, over too many years to coaches he misjudged.

...As budgets get tighter, as funding dries up, colleges are going to keep eliminating minor sports. Mostly men's minor sports, too, because Title IX protects women's sports scholarship numbers. More and more, the best opportunities to play those sports in college will come on the Division II and III levels, where schools that stay out of the big-time rat race aren't hunkered down with feeding the monsters of big-time football and basketball.

Rutgers isn't the University of Texas, but its athletic department was carrying more varsity sports than that kind of a monstrous state university. To hear these athletes tell of the way their hearts were broken Friday, that their dreams were dashed, tugs at your heart. It's a shame, but it's no justice. This is the business of big-time college sports, and the business is lousy.

But it hasn't been about those kids in crew and swimming and tennis for a long time, and never will again."
Monday Morning Eye-Opener

"[T]he University of Louisville [has] signed football coach Bobby Petrino to a ten-year contract, worth at least $25.5 million on July 13. The university, which has raised tuition by levels thought only to exist in the professional leg-breaking industry over the past five or six years, is in the middle of what's being called the biggest financial commitment to football since Papa John's Cardinal Stadium was built. The new contract makes Petrino one of the highest paid coaches in college football today.

I call foul, and the reasons just keep mounting. Athletic director Tom Jurich said he fully expects Petrino to turn his back on other offers. Yeah, that seems to be an issue right there. After each of Petrino's three seasons at UofL, he had interviewed with other teams. First, it was Auburn, with whom Petrino spoke with in secret, lying at nearly every public turn he had...until he was caught. From there, it was on to Louisiana State, an interview Petrino took just a week after signing a contract extension pushing his guaranteed salary to $1 million a year.

That prompted Jurich to question whether or not to keep Petrino around at all. According to Jurich and Petrino, a refused $20 million offer from the NFL's Oakland Raiders from earlier this year is what pushed the hand for the big new deal. Yeah, I can imagine. The idea that [there] are loyalty bonuses in the contract worth $5 million seems a little ironic at this point, especially when the first $1 million is due June 30, 2007. What? The guy gets a million dollars for doing the first eleven months of a ten-year job? Did the Kentucky legislature come up with this math? I should have learned how to run a West Coast Offense.

Next, naturally, are the perks, including a $10,000 gas allowance. If I told you what I really thought about a guy making $2.5 million a year needing an allowance for anything, this article never would have passed review. Also included are the seemingly-obligatory county club membership and stadium suite, but my favorite has to be the rent-free use of football facilities for Petrino, to supplement his income running football camps. That is flat-out arrogance when the student body as a whole props up the athletic department, never minding what kind of "surplus" the department is currently running. Ah, yes, life as a student in a Division I-A school. Damn good thing they have public transportation in Louisville, cause you can burn an awful lot of gas sitting downtown, working your way through the red-light jungle. I'm not sure if you could burn $10k a year in gas, though, and especially when your sole purpose in the universe is to win twelve football games a year. Not in this universe, at any rate.

University President James Ramsey was gushing over the deal. No word on if he was jumping up and down on couches, screaming "I love Bobby Petrino!," but gushing nonetheless. Pleased as any man could be, with a fat new paycheck to sign on the university's behalf, Ramsey hopes for stability as a result of the contract, and went on to say the deal was a "huge statement," and that "stability in the athletic department is absolutely critical to me." That seems about right. When a school is willing to offer a $10,000 reward for an embarrassing graduation rate of 50% to any of their employees, academic or athletic, stability may be vital, but only for a few Saturdays out of the year."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

College Rather Than Church

From Martha Nussbaum's review of Excellence Without A Soul (here's what UD had to say about it) in the Times Literary Supplement:

Lewis seems to be a supporter of [the Humanities'] role in required undergraduate courses, but he has made little effort to learn what Humanists do. For example, discussing Harvard’s required area of Moral Reasoning, which typically offers a variety of courses in ethical theory and the history of ethics, Lewis makes the jejune complaint that students will try to give professors the “right answer”, so they won’t really learn anything. But this complaint shows that Lewis has made no effort at all to visit such classes and see what actually goes on there.

Anyone who teaches ethical argument to undergraduates is well aware of the danger Lewis mentions, and any decent teacher works hard to avoid presenting the students with a cooked “right answer” that can easily be identified. In any case, it is really not the answers that one is trying to convey, it is the way one might analyse a problem, and the different theoretical approaches to such problems. Moral reasoning, if well taught, is Socratic: it is about showing people how they might go about leading an “examined life”; that goal requires caring about arguments, more than about “right” conclusions.

So lacking in curiosity is Lewis about what his colleagues in the Humanities have been doing that he fails (at least in this book) to grasp a very fundamental distinction that goes across the Humanistic disciplines: between the intellectual aspect of character-building and the many other ways (personal advice, personal influence) in which young people can find their characters shaped by what they encounter in a university.

He repeatedly suggests that the main way in which universities build character is through the latter set of techniques – mentoring, advice-giving, personal example. In consequence he makes the alarming proposal that candidates for academic posts should be evaluated for their moral character: not just that part of character that is relevant to the performance of one’s job, where severe substance abuse or a penchant for sexual harassment might possibly be legitimate issues to raise in the hiring process, but their private lives as well, their treatment of their children, and so forth.

I think that Lewis simply doesn’t believe that the intellectual endeavour of the Humanities makes any contribution to building character. Because he has not spent any time with the Humanities, he cannot picture what that contribution might be. But one may learn to take apart and deeply appreciate a line of Latin verse from someone whose behaviour to his or her children is simply not known or, even, is known to be bad. One may learn how to think about the arguments of Plato and Aristotle from someone whom one might not like to have as a friend.

Learning these modes of analysis, however, does make its own contribution to citizenship, for the reason identified by Socrates: most people, having never learned to examine their beliefs, are actually somewhat half-hearted and crude in their commitment to them. If you simply don’t know how to distinguish a utilitarian from a Kantian argument, there are issues that you may easily miss – as a doctor, as a juror. You might think, for example, that respecting a patient’s choice and promoting the patient’s interest are the same thing, and you might just assume that your own judgement about the patient’s interests is the only thing that needs considering – as many doctors are all too inclined, paternalistically, to do.

Again, if you don’t know how to recognize the various forms of logical error that politicians bring your way, as they always do, you might fall for a fallacious argument and end up with a conclusion that you would not endorse if you got all the thinking right. One could say related things about the skills learned from the close reading of literature and the study of history. What Lewis really doesn’t understand is that literary, historical and philosophical skills make their own contribution to character and citizenship.

Not having a handle on this very fundamental point – which, after all, is crucial to saying why we want young people to go to college, rather than only to church – Lewis is not in a position to make any very useful recommendation about what an undergraduate liberal-arts curriculum ought to be. And he does not even try. On the question whether there is any necessary tension between the goals of a great research university and those of a fine liberal arts college, dedicated to teaching, Lewis does not get very far, simply because he assumes that academic expertise doesn’t help build citizenship.
An Observer in the Court

By Marc Fisher
Thursday, July 13, 2006; Page B01
Washington Post

They look like such upstanding young gentlemen in their blue blazers and pressed khakis. They say "Yes, sir" and "No, sir," and they attend the finest of schools. And they are such loyal friends. Oh, their stories matched up so prettily as they trooped up onto the witness stand to defend their boy, Collin Finnerty.

The name is familiar, of course, or else I wouldn't be in D.C. Superior Court for a misdemeanor assault case, a garden-variety crime that gets churned out here like beer cans rolling through a Budweiser plant.

Finnerty, the tall, lean, clean-cut, baby-faced fellow over at the defendant's table, is one of those Duke University lacrosse players we've read so much about of late. He's been indicted in North Carolina on charges that he raped a stripper during an off-campus party in March. As flimsy as that case appears to be, it was enough to alter the course of Finnerty's charge stemming from a sidewalk fracas in Georgetown.

If you hit a stranger on the streets of Georgetown, the court system generally requests that you not do this again and sends you on your way. That's what happened to two buddies of Finnerty's who were also caught after the late-night violence on Wisconsin Avenue NW last November.

Finnerty, too, would have gotten a comfy spot in what's known as the "diversion" program had it not been for his other troubles. But with the rape charge hanging over the 19-year-old from New York, the D.C. prosecutors and judge decided a trial was in order. Cue the upstanding gentlemen.

Surrounded by family, friends, priests and a battalion of lawyers scratching away in the gallery on their yellow legal pads, Finnerty seems like the last guy in the world who would hurl vile insults and threats at two young men he'd never before seen. Michael Hannan, the father of Finnerty's girlfriend, tells the court that he watched Collin back home on Long Island at neighborhood parties and cotillion dances and concluded that this young man was "a very warm and gentle individual," "extremely peaceful and extremely nonviolent." Otherwise, of course, Hannan would never have permitted his daughter to go out with the kid.

But on cross-examination, prosecutor George Varghese finds out that Hannan has never seen Finnerty under the influence of alcohol and therefore has no clue how the boy behaves when he's plastered.

Now we're getting to the nub of the case. Because while no one in the courtroom makes much of an issue of it, this case is swimming in beer. The boys, all of them underage, testify that they were drinking back at the Georgetown University dorms, drinking in Georgetown bars -- they were even heading back to campus to drink some more after they'd finished attacking two strangers.

If the people crowding into Judge John Bayly's courtroom are looking for insight into the North Carolina case, here it comes: How do you make sense of the disconnect between the proud, even arrogant claims of excellent character by Finnerty's friends and the disgusting descriptions of his behavior by the two men he humiliated that night in Georgetown?

How is it that these polite youngsters spent half an hour shoving and taunting total strangers, making them announce to the world in the coarsest possible terms, right there on a public sidewalk, that they perform gay sex acts? What could gentlemen say that would cause Scott Herndon, one of the victims, to run into a restaurant seeking help because he thought he was going to be killed?

Answer: When in the company of elders and teachers, these young men do behave admirably. When the stage lights go off and the guys head out to drink and drink and drink, anything goes. Hey, they're just kids! Or as the priest who testified for Finnerty puts it, "One incident doesn't make a gentleman's character."

You could sit through this two-day trial and be appalled that the kind of case that ordinarily gets done in an hour takes up about a dozen times more resources -- two prosecutors and a supervisor! -- and time simply because of the defendant's notoriety, celebrity and money.

Or you could take solace in Judge Bayly's wise observation that no matter how many lawyers and witnesses the defense throws into the mix, a case like this still comes down to one side's word against the other's.

From there, the judge did the right thing: He found the victims more credible and convicted Finnerty on Tuesday. Because in fact, when you pick on a stranger, when you find fun in tormenting the innocent, when you believe it is in any way acceptable to attack another human being, then that incident indeed does open a window onto a larger truth.

Even if no rape occurred in the Duke case, even if that ugly incident was no more than a raucous party at which a bunch of drunken kids verbally abused a hired performer, it sounds like it was entirely within character for these kids and the friend they tried to talk out of trouble in D.C. Superior Court. Sorry, Father, but one incident often does make a gentleman's character.
I've Been to Some Beaches.

Don't want to boast, but I've been around the world, beachwise. And there's one thing about beaches in America, with Americans on them.

You see just how enterprising a nation this one is when you look around at what Americans do on beaches.

On beaches in other countries, people arrive, light a cigarette, lie down in a beach chair, and go to sleep.

In America, they begin engineering projects. They dig enormously deep pointless holes. They build medieval villages, with cathedrals and cottages.

They read self-improvement books. They sell real estate on the cell phone.

Competitiveness abounds. People sketch out, on the sand, their strategy for winning the beach volleyball game that night. Groups of women in well-worn semi-circles play round the clock gin rummy.

When they go in the water, it is either to complete four healthful parallel-to-the-beach laps, or to collect water for their engineering projects.
Here's a Swatch of Prose...

...from a wonderful review by Stanley Fish in today's New York Times. It's a wonderful review because Fish takes down a book that makes what sounds like a rather silly, self-defeating argument.

But Fish says something in the course of the review -- he makes a certain verbal gesture -- that's worth pausing at for a blogosecond. He refers to

...surely the most overrated essay in the modern canon, George Orwell's turgid, self-righteous and philosophically hopeless "Politics and the English Language."

In principle, UD loves this sort of thing -- a full-throttle raspberry at an object of English professor piety.

The problem with this particular raspberry, though, is that Orwell's essay is great.

Fish is responding to a couple of things in dumping on it, I think.

It has in fact been over-anthologized, over-revered, and over-alluded-to. So it can be annoying, over the course of a long career like his, to stumble over the thing again and again. Lots of people have said dumb things about it.

But the key to Fish's comment appears when he calls the essay "philosophically hopeless." Of course Orwell wasn't a philosopher, and the essay isn't a philosophical essay, and one isn't supposed to judge it by Kantian standards. But Fish considers himself a philosopher -- a philosopher of language -- and he takes, I'm guessing, a somewhat competitive attitude toward the piece. Why should Orwell's underformulated propositions about speech command the world's attention, while an essay like "Is there a Text in the Class" (one of Fish's) moulders in obscurity?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Beach, Evening

The familiar elements, after coming here for decades, are important: The narrow light wood boardwalk, the sound of the breakers, the kites that twist in the wind. But the new elements matter too: the just-built seaside pavilion, the dune grasses, the repainted blue and yellow sheds that hold the rental umbrellas.

Last year Mr UD couldn't join us -- he went to Kurdistan -- but I'm looking out at him now from our balcony. He's shivering a bit in his blue folding chair on the beach, having insisted on going in the water. He's reading some absurdly unbeachy book -- a saint's confessions, a chronicle of a failed state.

In this lucky country, at this beautiful beach, failure in any case seems to have been put in the shade, leaving, at seven in the evening, a landscape of happy people, urging their children home to bed.

I'm gazing at the Atlantic, plus a beachful of umbrellas, from the dining table of our condo. Very nice. Very bright.

Between the boardwalk and the beach, there's something new this year: dunes and baby grasses.

Looks a little like the green-pocked rice paddies of Bali.

As with Denice Denton, and now with William Lash, there is always a special level of confusion and distress when an enormously successful, very high-profile university professor goes mad.

A former Bush administration official, after arguing violently with his wife Thursday night, shot and killed his 12-year-old son inside their McLean [Virginia] home, then turned a shotgun on himself and committed suicide...

William H. Lash III, 45, was an assistant secretary of commerce from 2001 until last year, then returned to teach at George Mason University Law School in Arlington, where he had begun as a professor in 1994. ...

Friends and neighbors described Lash as devoted to his only child, William H. Lash IV, who was autistic. Will Lash had just completed sixth grade at Haycock Elementary School in the Falls Church area, Fairfax school officials said. The father and son could often be seen side by side on the swing set in their back yard, one neighbor said, and the pair often attended Washington Nationals baseball games.

Police said they had not been summoned this year to the blue expanded Cape Cod-style home on Pathfinder Lane in the West McLean neighborhood. There was no record of any domestic complaints. Neighbors said the family kept a low profile.

But shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday, police said, Lash and [his wife] had a dispute and [she] ran from the house and called police. [The] dispute was physical enough that police later obtained a warrant charging Lash with domestic assault...

...Daniel D. Polsby, dean of GMU's law school, said, "This thing just doesn't belong to the normal range of human experience, and we're all just heartbroken for his family, his community and for ourselves."

Lash's résumé was long and quintessential of the Washington elite -- an Ivy League pedigree, high-powered law firms, a presidential appointment, think tanks, boards of directors, guest spots on television news programs, and prestigious university positions.

He had an undergraduate degree from Yale University, a law degree from Harvard University. He clerked for a New Jersey Supreme Court justice. He served as counsel to the chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission during the Reagan years, worked for the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson and served on the boards of directors of private and publicly traded corporations. In 1994, he found a place in academia on the GMU law faculty.

He specialized in the arcana of business law there and earned a reputation as a generous and jovial cigar-smoking colleague, an approachable professor and a sharp-minded and willing debater of ideology.

"He was a wonderful colleague, lively and full of ideas, full of energy," Polsby said. "I would describe him as an engaged and articulate person, not at all the sort of person whose last act would be what it appears to have been."

Polsby said "there was nothing" to suggest that Lash was troubled.

Lash took a leave from the law school in 2001, when President Bush appointed him assistant secretary of commerce for market access and compliance. Among his duties at the Commerce Department, Lash headed a task force on the reconstruction of Iraq, in which he dealt with businesses seeking contracts.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez said: "Bill was a passionate, committed and hard working individual who was much loved and respected by his colleagues. . . . He was a vivacious, expansive, and tenacious Assistant Secretary."

Lash resigned the post last year and returned to GMU. He also was a senior adviser to the Brunswick Group LLC, a firm specializing in corporate public relations.

A few weeks ago, he had dinner at his house with a Mason colleague, Todd J. Zywicki, whose office was next door. Zywicki said he detected no signs of trouble that night, not even in retrospect.

"I'm just stunned," Zywicki said yesterday. "He loved his son so much. He really loved his son . . . and he did everything for him."

It was the impression Lash left on most everyone.

"I have no explanation," said Michael Krauss, another GMU colleague. "There are people who seem troubled, but I never would have thought that about Bill Lash. Never."

There are some things to note and speculate about here.

Like a lot of American households, this one had shotguns at the ready. No wonder Lash's wife ran.

Did Lash's extremely strong protective instincts toward his disabled son turn into paranoid violence when he felt that his wife had something in mind for the son's future which distressed Lash? Or was this about their marriage? Was his wife talking about divorce and child custody?

There's also the question of drugs or alcohol.
Postmodern Parent

The first piece of solid evidence that UD's kid, far off in Rio and out of email and phone contact, is okay, has come in!

UD has just received a record of her kiddie credit card transactions.

She's been shopping like a madwoman.

All is well.

Friday, July 14, 2006

This Guy Just Looks...

...better and better.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer who has taught that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were an inside job was convicted in 1996 of disorderly conduct, but the university determined that should not prevent him from teaching.

According to Dane County Circuit Court records, Kevin Barrett was charged after police responded to a call from a woman who said he had punched her in the face. Barrett, who pleaded guilty and was fined, said the charge was the result of him "resisting arrest."

UW-Madison Provost Patrick Farrell considered the conviction when he conducted a review of Barrett this month to determine whether he was fit to teach. "During our meetings, Mr. Barrett and I did discuss some issues in his past," Farrell said in an e-mail. "I determined that these issues were personal and unrelated to his responsibilities as an instructor."

---milwaukee journal sentinel---
UD Packs Up ...

...her little family unit tomorrow and leaves for two weeks at what today's New York Times calls "Delaware's way-gay Rehoboth Beach."

Incredibly, a Singalong Sound of Music (faithful readers know UD's attachment to this event) will take place at RB while she's there. Talk about a bloggable moment. UD thanks her sister for noticing the announcement.

Her kid will join les UDs at Rehoboth for the second week, on her return from Brazil and Argentina.

Blogging will retain its feverish pace, even on the beach.
Petee's Playhouse

Here's Professor Thomas Petee's winning formation for the Auburn football team, credited with giving Auburn this year's highest academic ranking among Divison I-A public universities.

It all depends on the head guy up there, the academic quarterback (ignore the QB in there; it stands for "QUIZ [Automatic] B"), if you will, in this case Professor Petee, chair of the sociology department. The inexhaustible, unbelievably dedicated Petee took on "more than 250 students [most of them athletes] individually during the 2004-05 academic year," explains the New York Times in a long front-page story this morning. He took them on in "directed reading" courses, a version of independent study in which... well... hell... you know... I mean, I'm sure these guys are working their tails off, but you can't keep some Spirit Week no-shows from describing the department as "a dumping ground for athletes."

Professor Petee is a real winner: He remains chair of the sociology department. The Auburn professor who pointed out what Petee was up to has resigned in embarrassment at having to be associated with Auburn.


Update: As always, it's up to the provost to issue the Official Orwellian Statement:

"I can assure you as provost that academic misconduct will not be tolerated at Auburn University."

Thanks to superdestroyer for the link to the Huntsville Times.
More Thoughts on
Bad Professors

A long time ago, at the University of Chicago, UD and her then-boyfriend, currently Mr UD, went together to some sort of communal supper.

While she was getting her food, UD watched Mr UD talk at some length with a local character who sometimes showed up at these free feeds -- a harmless madman, marooned in highly specific delusions about the Trilateral Commission and similar organizations.

"It was kind of you to listen to him so intently," UD said later. To which the future Mr UD said: "Kind? Not really. I find his mind and his ideas fascinating."

"Huh? You find the ideas of a schizophrenic fascinating?"

"Yes. Don't you?"

"No. Why should I find ... I don't know.. pitiable fanaticism interesting? I mean, if I were a clinician, sure... but humanly this guy's out of the running..."

Over the years, UD and her husband have gone back and forth on this question of whether in human terms there's anything of particular interest in the blankly reiterated arguments, utterly unsusceptible to discussion, let alone reason, of paranoid conspiracy theorists. UD maintains that the essential truth of such minds, whether certifiably insane or merely weird, is their numbing redundancy, the sense you have talking to them that these people are rats in cages, making the well-worn rounds for another audience. Mr UD argues that the very extremity of these rigid minds sheds a bright distorted light on everyone's attempts to make sense of the world. Or something.

The question of what to do with professors who turn out to be fanatic conspiracy theorists involves just this question, I think, of the likelihood of their being interesting -- interesting to students, and interesting to fellow scholars. Kevin Barrett, paranoid du jour, is an extremist who has shut his mind to the efforts of others to reason with him, and to the complexity of the world. Like Ward Churchill, he does not argue, but rather lets you in on the truth, if you're wise enough to listen to him.

As the blogosphere and some of the major media continue to contemplate the latest outing of a group of terrible professors (Frish, Barrett, Churchill again as his university attempts to fire him) at some of America's finest universities, it's important to remind ourselves why they're bad professors, and why these events should function above all to clarify the noble distinction of the university as the only major cultural institution devoted to the exercise of reason.

Much of the culture outside the university lazes about, secure in its belief in astrology, government plots, and the attainment of riches through the state lottery. These are popular views; this is popular culture. The university exists to educate people out of the stupidities of popular culture and into a considered, dispassionate, skeptical, and flexible view of the world. Given the enormous power of popular culture, the university will always be a fragile institution, distrusted and mocked and ignored for its lack of emotionality and its dedication to the pursuit of truth rather than comfort.

The entire integrity of the university rests on this serious truth-seeking, so that any incursion into it by unreasoning fanatics is a deep wound, to itself and to its reputation.

More immediately, each unreasoning fanatic in the university represents a demoralizing uselessness within it, an active, daily erosion of its students' capacity for free and rational thought. As the fanatic vehemently expounds his conspiracies in front of the classroom, some students may mistake his passionate intensity for impressive conviction, his rigid deadly dullness for fascination.

And speaking of fascination, I've always been fascinated by the very well-written psychological study that came out in the 'fifties, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti [] by Milton Rokeach.

Rokeach realized that in the mental hospital where he worked there were three schizophrenic men, all claiming to be Jesus. What fascinating conversations would ensue if he brought them all together and watched them deal with their rivals? How could they be the only son of God if there were two others in the room? Why not watch the sparks fly among them as they struggled with their sense of their supremacy in the face of these threats to it?

Excellent idea, disappointing outcome. Three rigid minds do not equal a frank and open exchange. The three Christs anxiously danced around one another for awhile but of course were unable to enter into any substance about their belief in their own deity or their sense of competition with rival deities. The had boring, closed, self-obsessed minds, and that was pretty much that.

Drones like Kevin Barrett, with their tawdry little notions, are not madmen; but they share the pathos of all closed minds as they stand their ground through life in a deeply peculiar intellectual wilderness. To put such people into classrooms with intelligent young thinkers is not to challenge students with a new and interesting mind, as the public relations office of the University of Wisconsin wants you to believe. It is to act irresponsibly and insensitively, inviting the student into a fourteen-week-long dialogue with a person incapable of dialogue. It is a cynical waste of everyone's time, a terrible blot on the institution.


Update, via Ann Althouse: A powerful opinion piece by a graduate student in history at Madison.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ne Quittez Pas... the French operators say...

UD's life is a nice calm orderly sort of thing, especially during her blissfully uneventful summers. She has, over the years, accustomed herself to days structured around reading, writing, hedge-clipping, and apricot tea, with occasional violence in the form of unannounced visits from neighbors.

UD is not at all prepared for the ordinary bumpity bumpity of most people's lives, in other words, and she falls apart a bit whenever there's the slightest turbulence in hers.

She was explaining this to two sympathetic (pitying?) lunchmates today at Washington's huge, bustling, beautiful Old Ebbitt Grill -- fellow blogstra Rita, of "Nobody Sasses," and fellow GWite and erstwhile blogger Kevan. She was explaining that in the course of the last two days

1.) The main computer in her house imploded.

2.) Her dog got sick (but will probably, says the vet, be okay after they figure out what grotesque thing he ate in order to block his intestines ... AND I SWORE I WOULD NEVER DOG BLOG).

3.) Her daughter and her daughter's fellow choristers had a six hour delay in Atlanta last night before they were able, at one AM, to board their flight to Rio (where they now are).

UD's a bit rattled by it all, and she asks your indulgence as she more slowly than usual finishes her main post for today, whose fascinating title she will now share with you: The Three Christs of Ypsilanti Fallacy. As that Pythonite used to say, with a lurid American accent, Hope ya like it!

But it'll be a bit late arriving, since the UDs are having dinner tonight with their old friends Di and Steve Elkin, just back from Tuscany.
How the Game
is Played

"Lance Brauman resigned Wednesday as assistant track coach at the University of Arkansas, just hours after a federal jury found him guilty for his role in a scheme to use work-study and campus employment programs at a Kansas community college to illegally pay athletes for work they didn't perform.

Brauman, 36, was found guilty of one count of embezzlement, one count of theft and three counts of mail fraud committed while he was a coach at Barton County Community College in Great Bend.

The charges stemmed from his fraudulent use of the federal work-study program and campus jobs to get around a Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference ban on giving athletes full-ride scholarships, and for causing false academic credentials to be sent to the University of Arkansas on an athlete's behalf.

But he was acquitted of three counts of mail fraud involving transcripts sent to Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, for three student-athletes.

Brauman looked down while the verdict was read and shook his head after jurors left the courtroom. The jury took less than seven hours to reach the verdict.

His resignation was e-mailed to the university and accepted, said Kevin Trainor, sports information director for the University of Arkansas.

Brauman's case was the first to go to trial in a scandal that spawned charges against seven Barton County coaches and the athletic director, and led to the firing of the school's president.

Defense attorney Lee Davis said he respected the jury and the jury process, but disagreed with the guilty verdicts. He noted that trial evidence showed the practice of using work-study and campus employment programs to pay athletes was widespread at the college and had started years before Brauman was hired as a then-25-year-old coach.

"Obviously we have a system at Barton County Community College which was poorly run by the president of the college and encouraged by the board of trustees," Davis said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

"As it stands, the board of trustees and the president avoided all responsibility," Davis said. "It is a real tragedy that a relatively young coach has had his career and his life stop because of it — and those responsible for initiating and developing the system are still unaccountable."

U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren said the defense that other college employees engaged in similar conduct does not excuse Brauman's illegal activities.

"The implication was that if criminal behavior is widespread it is not really criminal. This jury verdict sets the record straight on that point," Melgren said in a written statement.

Carl Heilman, the new president of Barton County Community College, said in a statement the federal investigation is ongoing and the college respects the court's decision.

"Since the misdeeds at the college were identified, we have taken all possible steps to maintain institutional and academic integrity," Heilman said. "That remains our objective and we believe we are being successful."

The indictment claimed the fraud cost the federal work-study program $16,809 and the campus employment program $109,477 for work that was never performed. The charges alleged the crimes occurred from December 2000 to August 2003, while Brauman was coaching at the Great Bend school.

The mail fraud charges on which Brauman was convicted involved sprinter Tyson Gay, who received an associate's degree from Barton County Community College that allowed him to run at the University of Arkansas.

According to the indictment, Gay received credit from the college for a technical mathematics course he did not complete. The government also accused Brauman of having Brigham Young University mail documents for an algebra course for Gay that was completed by others.

U.S. District Judge Monti Belot scheduled sentencing for Oct. 9 and allowed Brauman to remain free on bond until then.

Brauman faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 on each mail fraud count; up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the embezzlement count; and up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the theft count.

Federal grand juries have indicted eight employees of Barton County Community College's athletics department. Brauman and former athletic director Neil Elliott are the only ones to take their cases to trial.

Of the six other defendants, former assistant basketball coach Matthew B. Skillman and former basketball coach David "Soupy" Campbell are serving probation after entering pleas. Four others — former basketball coach Ryan Wolf, former assistant basketball coach Shane Hawkins, former track coach Lyles Lashley and former basketball coach Ryan Cross — await sentencing."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


UD’s kid is
on her way to Rio.

She and her chorus will
do some concerts in
the city, and then go to
Buenos Aires for more
concerts there.
Update on University Class President Bank Robber

Recall Lehigh University’s online-gambling-indebted class president, who drove to a local bank and robbed it. Here’s the legal outcome, from today‘s Washington Post:

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- A former university class president accused of robbing a bank to pay his online poker debts pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of felony robbery.

Greg Hogan, 20, the son of a preacher and former president of Lehigh University's class of 2008, was accused of holding up a Wachovia bank Dec. 9 by handing a teller a note demanding money and saying he had a gun.

He got away with $2,871, then drove off with two of his fraternity brothers, according to police. Both said they knew nothing of Hogan's plans, and neither was charged.

Hogan was arrested that night and charged with robbery, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. He owed $5,000 in debts from playing online poker and later entered a treatment program for gambling addiction, according to his attorney, John Waldron.

Throughout the hearing Wednesday, Hogan politely answered questions from the judge.

Under sentencing guidelines, he faces 22 months to three years in prison at his sentencing Aug. 17.

The Rev. Gregory Hogan Sr. said his son completed a 36-day treatment program for gambling addiction and has received a "good bill of health from that."

"Greg is very sorry," said the elder Hogan, who sat next to his son in court with his arm wrapped around him. "He's apologized. We're here to support our son. We love him."

Greg Hogan is no longer a student at Lehigh, said school spokeswoman Sarah Cooke. She said she could not comment on any possible school-related discipline because academic records are private.

Hogan's plea comes as Congress is debating whether to pass tougher laws to restrict online gambling. On Tuesday, the House passed legislation that would prevent gamblers from using credit cards to bet online and could block access to gambling Web sites.
Poets in their Youth

So I just played and sang through the English Edition of the Mass for the Dead (Missa Pro Defunctis), Approved Official Text, by Cyr de Brant.

Faithful readers know that my private memorial sessions at the piano for the noted recent dead always feature Mozart’s Requiem, but as I read more and more today about the fascinating Syd Barrett,

I realized that something British would be better.

I don’t pretend to know much about Pink Floyd or Syd Barrett, but I’ve been reading obituaries and other accounts of him, and also reading the excellent lyrics he wrote, and he gets to me. I figure he must have been a major inspiration for Don DeLillo’s novel, Great Jones Street.

He reminds me of Glenn Gould.

Both of them were musical geniuses and mentally ill. Romantically handsome when young, both went ashen and anonymous as they got older and madder and more remote from the world.

You could bundle a writer like Delmore Schwartz into this story too.

I think we find these people compelling not because they’re so different from the rest of us, but because their quick lives express with shattering clarity every life’s passage from youth to age.


Update: Barrett put a poem of James Joyce’s to music.

It’s increasingly clear that DeLillo used Barrett as his main inspiration for Great Jones Street. Among a number of other things, one of Barrett’s albums is Opel; DeLillo’s rock star’s girlfriend is named Opel...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Duke's Finnerty Convicted...

...of misdemeanor assault for viciously homophobic behavior on a Georgetown street a few months back. No surprise there.

His sentence is

six months of probation. Judge John Baily also ordered Finnerty to undergo drug and alcohol counseling if required by probation officers. He must also stay out of Washington's Georgetown neighborhood while on probation.

Staying out of Georgetown shouldn't be a problem. As they prepare for his next court appearance, his handlers must have him on the world's shortest leash.


Update: Finnerty's behavior and words that night detailed here. How telling that his lawyers didn't even allow him to testify.
Bulwer-Lytton 2006

UD thanks Fred for sending her, hot off the press, this year‘s Bulwer Lytton bad writing contest winners.

Here‘s the grand prize winner:

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

And here, in various categories, are some winners and runners-up UD liked:

The king's men breathed heavily under their thick black hoods as they secured the wrists and ankles of prisoner William Tumey of Kent and as the rack's handle began to turn the ropes tightened and William's limbs were slowly stretched in opposite directions until his spine began to pop much like a bag of Redenbachers in a microwave and for something like the time it takes a hummingbird's wings to complete one cycle William smiled and euphorically languished in perfect lumbar alignment.

A single sparkling tear fell from Little Mary's cheek onto the sidewalk, then slid into the storm drain, there to join in its course the mighty waters of the Los Angeles River and, eventually, Long Beach Harbor, with its state-of-the-art container-freight processing facilities.

The widow Hasha Brown, whose agrarian husband had died from an unfortunate accident involving a hoe, leaned on the filigree railing of her balcony, overlooking her lavish, ornate Idaho estate, her dewy breasts protruding from her Pucci-print dressing gown like subterranean tubers saturated and distended from the vernal rains.

Despite the vast differences in their ages, ethnicity, and religious upbringing, the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Heather was the most amazing he had ever experienced; and for the entirety of the Labor Day weekend they had sex like monkeys on espresso, not those monkeys in the zoo that fling their feces at you, but more like the monkeys in the wild that have those giant red butts, and access to an espresso machine.
Some Choice Comments
From Ann Althouse’s Readers
About Kevin Barrett

Among the categories of response, there are the embarrassed and angry insiders:

(1.) I am embarrassed for my University.

Ken Mayer
Professor of Political Science
UW Madison

(2.) My pride in UW is diminished by this shameless ideologue.

(3.) [T]his is a stupid hire, and the approval of his study plan [is] yet another reason I do not contribute to general alumni funds anymore.

And there are those who point out that once you open your university to dreck, it’s dumpster time:

(1.) [W]hen is the University of Wisconsin hiring a Professor of Astrology?

(2.) I'm not sure why the UW is allowing this. My current UW (Washington) got rid of an anthropology graduate student who was teaching what basically amounted to pseudoscience paleoanthropology. Such as that Homo erectus had domesticated cheetahs (!) and was using them to hunt with. The decision to can him was basically driven by the department who, rightfully I think, is obliged to maintain some control over the content of their classes.

(3.) [T]his is exactly why there is so much disrespect for academics in general. A true profession polices its own ranks in its own interests. Why then do the UW professors not speak out against allowing this putz to teach?…No wonder people bitch about tuition... especially if it's paying a salary to this guy. I think the moon landing was faked.. Can I teach at UW? I know who the gunman on the grassy knoll was...Can I teach at UW? I know the Jews control the media... Can I teach at UW? I think the holocaust was faked.... Can I teach at UW?

There are those who feel free to assume that other professors and administrators at the university agree with Barrett:

(1.) How does a guy like this even get past the job interview? The only answer seems to be that someone in the UW administration believes this, or something like it. So, the real problem is not Barrett, who is at least a visible and identifiable loon. The problem is the loose screw you can't see.

(2.) What do you mean "they couldn't fire him and make him a martyr"? So, it is better to waste public funds and let him promote this garbage? The Provost didn't fire him because at heart he doesn't really have a problem with what the guy is saying…How is it that the leaders of UW allowed such a corrosive and ignorant culture to develop that people in positions of authority would come to believe hiring this guy was a good idea? Because behind closed doors and in their most private moments the powers that be at UW don't think what the guy is saying is untrue much less beyond the pale. That is the conclusion I draw from this. If the people at UW don't like people drawing that conclusion, then take some responsibility and stop doing things like this.

And there are those looking at the bigger picture:

What I think is most interesting is how this will play out locally. Doyle is in a very tight race for Governor and has been trying to distance himself from this loon...but the UW decision that this guy stay on the payroll, at taxpayer's expense, right up to (and beyond) election day means that Barrett is a political issue that is not going away. It is also bound to hurt the incumbent and could prove to be the nail in Doyle's coffin. Since the chances are nil that Barrett will be re-hired for winter/spring 2007 (even the UW isn't that dense), his ultimate legacy could returning the warmongering GOP to the WI governor's mansion.

Repeat after me:
I have a doctorate
I have a doctorate

UD’s Diploma Mill Stories…

…are so yesterday.

Still, it’s a fun subject, and there’s a fun diploma mill story currently hypnotizing the British public.

The High Court case is expected to last a week and Mr McKenna is due to take the stand on Tuesday.

The 43-year-old TV hypnotist disputes an October 2003 article, which mentioned his "bogus degree" from Lasalle University, Louisiana.

He claims he was "pilloried" by journalist Victor Lewis-Smith on around 10 occasions from 1997.

…Mr McKenna's counsel, Desmond Browne QC, told the court: "Victor Lewis-Smith and the Mirror pilloried Mr McKenna as a fraud, claiming that he had a doctorate to which he had no honest entitlement.

"They can't prove that to be true."

He said that the newspaper, which denies libel, had defended a grave allegation of fraud and dishonesty with "increasing desperation and inconsistency".

Mr Browne said that Mr McKenna, a dyslexic, sought a PhD to make up for his failure at school, to make a contribution to the community which would have practical therapeutic benefits and to add value to his business.

He said that far from being able to buy a doctorate, the evidence showed that Mr McKenna was initially rejected for the course.

The fact was that at the end of 1996 - although Mr McKenna did not know this until later after he had submitted his final project - it emerged that Lasalle was only accredited by a body called the Council for post-secondary Christian Education, which turned out to be a fraudulent creation of the university's founder, Thomas Kirk.

Investigations by the FBI and the US Department of Justice concluded that Kirk had defrauded innocent unsuspecting students by leading them to think that their degrees were accredited by a recognised body.

"The judge who sentenced Thomas Kirk referred to the innocent victims of this fraud, and one of them was Mr McKenna," he said.

He said that Mr McKenna tried to resolve his difference with the newspaper sensibly without recourse to litigation but it was the newspaper's own intransigence and obstinacy that finally drove him to issue proceedings.

The newspaper was not saying that McKenna was a charlatan, claimed Mr Browne, but was suggesting that he either knew his degree was bogus or was reckless as to whether it was.

Be glad you live in the United States (unless you’re one of UD’s British readers, of course), where you can identify people who buy bogus diplomas without having to worry that they’ll sue you.
Why was Norman Bates...

…still practicing medicine?

'Yesterday's horror came after two previous suicide tries by Bartha, an emergency-room doctor who has worked at Lenox Hill Hospital as well as Phelps and Mount Vernon in Westchester.

Last year, he was discovered barricaded in his basement, nearly unconscious, after being overcome by gas, officials said.

And several years earlier, he had locked himself in his office and tried to do himself in by setting off an insecticide bomb, sources said.

...Bartha's mother had lived on the second floor, performing manicures and pedicures, before she died in 1997, neighbors said.

The woman who initially took over the mother's apartment said Bartha seemed very upset when she arranged her furniture differently than his mom had.

On at least three occasions, she said, she returned home from work and found him inside. She said he told her, "This is set up all wrong. My mother didn't have it set up like this.

"I had to keep reminding him that he just couldn't keep entering someone's apartment," she said. "I left after one year. I couldn't wait to get out."'

Columbia Shows You
How it Ought to be Done.

The University of Wisconsin
Shows You How Not to Do It.

What does a university do when it has a seriously bad program or department? And when, because of its weakened state, that program or department makes an appointment that makes the university a national laughingstock?

The comatose program at University of Wisconsin which blundered its way into hiring Kevin Barrett has been proudly endorsed by the university’s administration, which gave out with one of those we’re exposing our lucky students to a diversity of viewpoints speeches in supporting the appointment not of a controversialist but an idiot.

Now Barrett has launched his own Ward Churchill tour of the nation’s media, broadcasting far and wide the humiliation of Wisconsin’s taxpayers.

First stop: Hannity and Colmes. Ann Althouse reports:

Colmes begins and tries to present Barrett in a fairly positive light by bringing out the facts that the course is not required, the 9/11 conspiracy theory will take up "only about one week" of the course, that the students will not be required to "regurgitate" his theory, and that he means to inspire "critical thinking." (Smarter students, I note, may want to regurgitate.)

From the moment he begins speaking, Barrett twitches and jerks around quite oddly and speaks in a breathless, excited way. He tries to unload a torrent of words about the theory and won't stop to give Colmes a chance to get through his series of questions, which are quite clearly designed to put Barrett in a positive light. Barrett, however, is so keen on his theory, he'd rather spout conspiracy. He looks nutty even before Hannity starts the questions that are meant to trash him. That is, Barrett's a witness who mucks up the direct examination. It doesn't take cross-examination to bring out the problems.

When Hannity takes over, Barrett interrupts him in the middle of his first question. When Hannity insists on finishing the question, Barrett smugly goes "Yeah, yeah, finish up." On Hannity's show! As if he thinks the only people who are watching are folks who think Hannity's a jackass. Hannity asks him if he really believes 9/11 and other terrorists attacks were "an inside job." Barrett, inspiring no confidence that he will allow students to debate with him, says sharply, "I don't believe, I do know that 9/11 was an inside job." Barrett then tries to lay out the details of the theory. The word "thermate" comes out of his mouth. (It's supposed to be "thermite," but why be precise?)

Hannity breaks in to say, "All right, so you believe that the buildings came down in a controlled demolition." Again, Barrett excludes the possibility of alternate theories: "Well, I don't believe it. I've looked at the evidence, and the evidence is overwhelming." Hannity's response is perfect: "All right, the evidence is overwhelming to you because you're a conspiracy nut." Hannity tries to set up his next question: "But putting that all aside..." That's perhaps the funniest line of the night, but it's stepped all over by Barrett, who motormouths conspiracy theory. Hannity goes ahead and asks his question with Barrett yammering over him. Hannity finally just lets the man babble. Then, he mutters, "Okay, I wish I had the 'Twilight Zone' music."

Hannity says, "Okay, here's my next question," and Barrett breaks in with a laugh and says "Okay, friend," and shrugs, looking quite pleased with himself, as if he believes he's getting the better of the exchange. As Hannity tries to ask the question, Barrett keeps interrupting, offering survey statistics that he seems to think show that people agree with him -- 60%! "You're in the minority," he tells Hannity. That is, we see Barrett garbling facts in real time, on camera.

Finally, Hannity gets Barrett to hear the question: Should extremists like you be allowed to teach? Barrett says: "No, you're the extremist. Fox News is the biggest bunch of extremists on the planet." He's got a huge laughing grin now. Hannity doesn't think Barrett should be teaching, and Barrett responds that he doesn't think Hannity should be on the air. "I think you guys should be taken off the airwaves, because you are the guys who are..." A desperate Colmes breaks in: "All right, we don't want to silence anybody...."

Colmes's attempt at the beginning to present Barrett in a good light by emphasizing that Barrett will bring debate and critical thinking to the classroom is all shot to hell. We've seen Barrett in action. Barrett retained his position here because we care about free speech values, but he slammed us in the face with his disrespect for free speech.

Columbia University shows you what Madison should have done.

Despite objections from some professors, alumni, and students, Columbia University has temporarily suspended its Institute for African Studies, one of eight regional institutes at its School of International and Public Affairs.

Lisa Anderson, the school's dean, said on Monday that the center had been without a permanent director for several years because no senior faculty members had stepped up to take on the role. "We had a period where it was dry," she said. So administrators decided that instead of essentially maintaining the charade of having a fully functioning institute, she said, they instead will suspend the center and put its resources toward African programming, which will be run out of her office.

But the institute's defenders, who have created a blog calling for its reopening, say that the university unfairly took action during the summer, when fewer people are on the campus to oppose the move. In an open letter written last month to Columbia's president, Lee C. Bollinger, students in the school's Pan African Network argue that, in closing the center, Columbia "sadly joins the rest of the world in the continued marginalization of Africa."

On the contrary, said Ms. Anderson, by redirecting money that paid for an acting director's salary, administrators will be able to strengthen the university's African offerings, including new classes this fall on contemporary Africa. Also, she said, she hoped that admitting the program's shortcomings will create the necessary pressure to improve the situation.

Ms. Anderson added that the decision was made in May, but that "people just weren't paying attention."

Maintain a charade long enough, and you make the world safe for clowns. Act swiftly, and you can reconstitute a program in a way that does credit to everyone.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Denice Denton’s suicide was, like most suicides...

...mysterious. But some suicides - or suicide
attempts - are extremely easy to understand.

The one in New York City this morning,

for instance, in which a doctor blew himself
and his entire building up (he seems to have
survived the blast), was apparently an act
of vengeance.

'The first two floors of the four story building were occupied by a doctor's office and the top two were converted into a duplex apartment owned by Dr. Nicholas Bartha and his wife.

Bartha was alone at the time and was found barely alive. The fire department say the blast is being investigated as a suicide attempt.

The doctor's suicide plans were apparently spelled out in an e-mail to his wife's lawyer.

Sources say Bartha is in the midst of a messy divorce.

Nicholas Scoppetta, FNDY Commissioner: "[S]ome communication with somebody outside the building … leads us to believe there was a potential for suicide."

Sources say the divorce was proceeding since 2002 and that a judgment was just handed down against the doctor on Friday. The building was set to be put on the market for sale at the end of the month as part of the settlement.'

If he couldn’t have the building, she couldn’t have it either.

To the latest brace of unbalanced professors, we must add psychologist Deborah Frisch.

We’ll consider her only briefly, since it does the mind little good to linger on any specific psychopath. If it’s to your taste, you can view the details of her mind here, following the links provided.

Although she has resigned, Frisch’s name continues to appear on the University of Arizona psychology department web page. Every undeleted moment is a moment of infamy.

What matters isn’t the particulars -- this Kevin Barrett, that Deborah Frisch, that Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen. What matters is that, in an age of new technologies flushing out the very worst among America’s professors, we focus upon the betrayal of our students by our universities.

Our students come to the classroom at places like the excellent public universities where Barrett and Frisch taught naively. Very naively. They don’t know and don’t care about our articles and professional associations and conference presentations. They care about our knowledge and our teaching ability. They assume -- they have every right to assume -- that the person they meet at the front of the room on the first day of class has the full faith and credit of the university behind her.

It’s heartbreaking to read the comments that students who’ve been betrayed by their universities write at Rate My Professors. These students almost always begin by mentioning their excitement about taking the course, their interest in the subject. They then flatly state that exposure to this professor has killed forever their interest and excitement. A series of questions usually follows. Why is this person teaching? Why does this person get paid to teach? Why is a university classroom like this one? I thought it would be different, going to a university…

It’s not about the professors themselves apologizing or quitting or whatever -- the sort of people we’re talking about are incapable of understanding what they have done. It’s about the universities that hired them making formal apologies to their students, and vowing to do everything they can to avoid appointing people like them again. Universities unable to distinguish between academic freedom and academic malfeasance need to do some thinking. The technology of exposure isn’t going anywhere.

Update: Frisch's name has now been removed from the university's faculty website.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

An Upstanding Friend

So here's UD's old friend
Peter Galbraith,

all emblazoned in today's
New York Times Magazine --
in that strange interview feature
which always pictures its subject
standing up.

He gave UD and Mr. UD
an advance copy of
his book, The End of Iraq,
at the wedding of UD's niece.

He discusses the book
in the interview. Also
his father, John Kenneth
Galbraith, who just died,
age 97. UD sat next to
Galbraith's widow, Kitty, at
the wedding. She's certainly
frail, but she's still
in the game.
Man, I Don’t Like Hummers Either, But…

MARY GORDON: And the greed that this, to tell you the truth, to see people driving Hummers sometimes makes me feel so sick that, you know, I want to just drive them off the road and say, okay, in the name of Christ, in the name of peace and justice, I'm just going to shoot you because you have to get out of your car now. We live in a very stupid, banal, gross, greedy and rather disgusting culture.

BILL MOYERS: But it does not lead you to do what Osama Bin Laden did, to kill.

MARY GORDON: And I think that I have to go back to a religious position, which is that if reading the Gospel means anything, if Jesus means anything, it's about seeing everybody, every human being as Jesus. That's what makes sense. That-- therefore, every human being is of enormous value. Every human being is sacred. So it seems to me the only thing that stops me from going out and shooting people in Hummers is a religious belief that, even though I don't like them, they are sacred and valuable in the eyes of God. And that does stop me. Because I could really, you know, go out on quite a spree.
University of Minnesota’s Relationship
With TCF Financial Corporation
Now Officially Fellatial

The University of Minnesota’s prostitution continues apace.

In exchange for paying for much of the university’s new football stadium, TCF Financial gets to harass ticket holders with debit card offers to its heart’s content (ticket holder addresses are supposed to be private, but the university is giving them out to its special friend), plus much, much more (UD comments parenthetically along the way in what follows, from the Star Tribune):

The $35 million deal that TCF Financial Corp. struck with the University of Minnesota this spring to put its name on the Gophers' new football stadium also created an array of other campus benefits for the bank that are just now coming to light. [Just now. Students and faculty seem to have been kept in the dark about this until it was a done deal.]

Documents reviewed by the Star Tribune show that in negotiations for the $35 million pledge, the University of Minnesota also agreed to:

• Provide TCF exclusive access to the names and addresses of 236,300 alumni and season ticket holders so it can market new debit cards. [You’ve got to feel for this group of losers. Already madly ripped off as ticket prices go stratospheric, now they get mailboxes stuffed with debit card offers for the rest of their lives.]

• Put the TCF Bank Stadium logo on everything from tickets and stadium menus to service worker uniforms and stadium maintenance vehicles. [Welcome to the University of TCF Bank Stadium.]

• Allow TCF to solidify its position as a dominant banking institution on campus, and potentially push two competitors -- US Bank and Chase Manhattan Bank USA -- out of key locations. [I like the North Korea feel of this -- Big Brother’s logo everywhere… People’s Happy Campus Loves One and Only Glorious Beloved Bank…]

Other perks were granted to the bank.

They include making available for free the head football coach, the school's "Spirit Squad" or the Goldy Gopher mascot to TCF for appearances [At your service, Mr. TCF!]. The university also pledged to pay the expenses for the bank to fly four people to one Gophers away football game a year, and give the bank a 16-seat "prime location" suite at all home games.

Mark Jeter, TCF Bank Minnesota's president, said many of the new benefits to the bank were made available by the university, not necessarily requested by TCF. The deal, he said, "really is a win-win for the University of Minnesota." [Sounds like it, doesn’t it?]

State Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, who opposed the naming-rights deal when legislators approved the $248 million stadium this spring, has a different view. "It's clear the market value of a land-grant university has been put up for sale," he said.

The 50,000-seat stadium, expected to open in 2009, is the first new Big 10 football stadium in decades. It will be the only football venue in the conference with a corporate name.

With few new college football stadiums being built, TCF's pact with the university is likely to remain rare.

"I don't think you'll see a big rush to it," said Jay Lenhardt, manager of sports practices at CSL International, a sports facilities consulting firm with an office in the Twin Cities.

Because of traditions at older college football stadiums, Lenhardt added, "it's going to be difficult ... to change the name, for example, from Michigan Stadium to a corporate name." [Other universities have traditions that mean something to them. This keeps them from prostituting themselves to banks.]

The relationship between the university and TCF dates back a decade, when the two institutions introduced the U Card, which can be used as a university identification card, ATM card or check card.

TCF has similar deals with the University of Michigan and nine other colleges. Other banks also have collegiate banking arrangements; US Bank, for example, has roughly 35.

Documents detailing negotiations between the university and TCF were obtained through a request through the state open records law. According to the records, TCF officials urged the school to expand the alliance during negotiations to market debit cards to alumni and season ticket holders.

At one point, for an additional $150,000 per year, adjusted at 3 percent annually, TCF and the school debated whether the bank could market itself as "TCF -- The Official Bank of Gopher Sports." For $200,000 per year, adjusted at 3 percent annually, the slogan could have been "TCF -- The Official Bank of the University of Minnesota."

In the end, no such deal was reached. But other agreements related to the naming rights deal will expand campus ties to the bank:

• TCF will have the ability to take over US Bank's only branch location on the Twin Cities campus, in Coffman Union, when US Bank's option expires in 2010. TCF was also allowed to open a new branch location on the school's West Bank, and its contract to have ATMs on campus includes options to extend the agreement through 2029.
• The university will pay at least $125,000 to end an agreement that now allows Chase Manhattan to promote its credit cards at football games. [Money well spent, eh? Taxpayers can sleep easy.]
• If the school erects a lighted sign on the stadium exterior that says "Home of the Golden Gophers," any nearby sign with the words TCF Bank Stadium must be illuminated "with the same or greater lighting quality and intensity." [This is a fun one.]

"They do have opportunities that they didn't have before," said Mark Rotenberg, the school's general counsel, who helped oversee the negotiations with TCF. But, he added, "No one company sponsors the University of Minnesota." [As ever, the job of general counsel is to make the Official Orwellian Statement.]

Documents also show that TCF will contribute an estimated $95 million to the university over the life of seven separate agreements signed last year, ranging from annual $1 million U Card royalty payments to $29,500 per year for every ATM on campus. Former state Republican Party head William Cooper is the chairman of TCF's board of directors. [Cozy.] Jeter said he could not say how much money TCF could make from the agreements. But university records offer a glimpse of the possibilities.

In August 2004, before the new deals between TCF and the university, there was $65.3 million in checking balances in TCF accounts at both the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses. Of that amount, $51 million was in student accounts. Jeter said the figures have likely since gone up.

Another university document offered this analysis of TCF's motivation for wanting to expand ties to the campus. "The [school's] financial offer from TCF was, and continues to be, the largest in the U.S. and Canada," the report stated. "They see the potential return of their investments. As you know, month-end balances are pretty impressive."

While Rotenberg said the university was not obligated by law to seek naming-rights offers from other banks, another document outlined potential costs of doing business with anyone other than TCF.

In assessing an offer from Wells Fargo, the document stated that "increased exposure by Wells Fargo" could diminish money paid to the university by TCF from existing business arrangements. The document also warned of a possible "TCF legal challenge." [I thought we were friends! This is starting to look nasty.]

Wells Fargo spokesperson Peggy Gunn said the bank discussed a stadium naming-rights agreement with the school, but she declined to elaborate.

US Bank officials also said little about the TCF agreements. "We have an agreement with the university. We're very happy with the success," said bank spokesman Steve Dale.

As part of the deal, TCF will market "Gopher Cards," which are debit cards, stored-value cards or ATM cards, to alumni and season ticket holders in six states, including Minnesota.

In agreeing to make names and addresses of that group available to TCF, the nonprofit University of Minnesota Foundation, which oversees the databases, promised not to market debit cards with any other financial institution during the same time period. [Boo competition. We know what’s best for our people.] School officials said the agreement did not circumvent the foundation's privacy policy because lists of only alumni and season ticket holders, not financial donors, were being released. [Intriguing distinction.]

Richard Pfutzenreuter [longtime readers will recall UD’s earlier suggestion that the university name the field the Pfutzenreuter Stadium] the university's chief financial officer, said it was the Gopher Card that led to discussions regarding slogans, including whether TCF could be the "Official Bank of the University of Minnesota" by paying extra. "It was a give and take," Pfutzenreuter said. "They offered numbers. We offered numbers. You would expect them to want that," he said.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sorry, but those commenters of mine…

…who wrote sympathetically about university search committees that come up with appointments like Kevin Barrett … the commenters who argued that it’s difficult to tell from paperwork whether you’ve got someone certifiable on your hands … are going to have to rethink their position.

I was tentatively sympathetic to these arguments, actually. Times being what they are, madmen may pass, fools may rush in…

But Kevin Barrett, recently hired by the University Wisconsin, Madison, to teach Islam, represents an instantly identifiable case of moronic paranoia. The search committee that rejected countless applicants for a teaching position in a sensitive and important subject in order to choose a man who signs a letter to the Governor of Wisconsin "Steve Nass, Reichschancellor, Thoughtcrime Division, University of Wisconsin-Madison" (Nass is one of Barrett’s many enemies.) is a search committee crying out for help.

Because of this committee, the state of Wisconsin must now contort itself to flush out of the body politic a pitiable conspiracy theorist who‘s about to teach at its flagship university.

This committee should write to the university community justifying or apologizing for what they did. And they should explain how Barrett’s being a University of Wisconsin Madison graduate played into this. Who taught him? Was his mentor on the search committee? Did he get preferential hiring treatment because he went to school there? What becomes of arguments that one can’t tell much about someone from mere paperwork when that person graduated from your school?

Meanwhile, though, we’ve got the correspondence of Barrett to the Governor to delectate… I mean, those of us interested in language and its uses have to appreciate -- for analytic purposes -- the willingness of Governor Doyle to make public Barrett’s text:

Gov. Jim Doyle is hinting that a controversial lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may be unfit to teach.

Doyle told reporters on Friday that based on a letter he received from Islamic studies lecturer Kevin Barrett, the university must look closely at "whether he has the capacity to teach students."

In an interview, Barrett claimed much of the letter he sent to the governor was merely a parody, suggesting that anyone espousing critical or conspiratorial views would be considered unfit to teach at the university.

But based on Doyle's reaction, Barrett said, "I question his ability to govern the state."

He added that Doyle is "making himself into another McCarthyite."

Barrett has drawn fire for his plans to teach an Islamic studies course next fall that questions whether the U.S. government was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Some state lawmakers, conservative commentators and Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Mark Green have called for Barrett's firing.

Doyle, a UW-Madison graduate, said the issue of Barrett's employment is not "a matter so much on what his political views are" as his fitness to teach students.

Doyle described the letter, dated July 5, as "sort of a diatribe about a lot of different issues."

"One of the things you want at the university is someone who bases their teaching on facts. If there's any institution that should be devoted to a factual analysis of what's going on, it should be the university," he said.

Doyle added, "This is for the university to look at, but I think they really have to take a hard look at that."

In the letter to Doyle, Barrett acknowledged the governor's previous criticism: "You apparently believe that I am incapable of performing well as an instructor of Islam 370 because I am convinced that the 9/11 Commission Report is a farcical coverup and that overwhelming evidence suggests top U.S. officials were complicit in the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

"I understand that you are under political pressure from your right flank, and that you may feel you have no choice but to call for my dismissal," Barrett wrote.

But he cited polls that show large numbers of Americans and Wisconsin residents believe the government's official report on the Sept. 11 attacks is wrong.

"I understand that there are Green and Libertarian candidates running for governor, and I predict that the controlled demolition of our corrupt two-party system by the 9/11 truth movement may begin here in Wisconsin this fall, with you and Mr. Green serving as first victims," Barrett continued.

Barrett also included a farcical questionnaire that he said would be required for anyone teaching at the UW. The questions included, "Do you believe that the Warren Report performed a thorough and unbiased investigation of the murder of JFK?" and "Do you believe that allegations of government involvement in the assassinations of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, John Lennon, Mel Carnahan, and Paul Wellstone, and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, have been conclusively disproven?"

Anyone answering no to a question could be dismissed, he said, and signed the letter

"Steve Nass, Reichschancellor, Thoughtcrime Division, University of Wisconsin-Madison."

Nass is a Republican state representative from Whitewater who has called for Barrett's firing.

David Walsh, president of the Board of Regents at the University of Wisconsin, has characterized the issue as one of academic freedom and is not calling for Barrett's dismissal.

UW-Madison officials have said they are reviewing Barrett's plans for the class and will likely announce their decision on his hiring next week.

It is indeed an issue of academic freedom. The state university wants this man to teach its students. It chose him above all others.

Roman Hruska grasped this sort of situation very well during the G. Harrold Carswell controversy more than thirty years ago. Carswell, who Richard Nixon attempted to place on the Supreme Court, was by all accounts a mediocrity. To this charge, the Nebraska Senator responded: "Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. Aren't they entitled to a little representation and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that. I doubt we can. I doubt we want to."

Similarly, you might argue that a lot of paranoid cretins in this country are going without professors to teach them…

[via ann althouse]


Update: I bow to Ben Wallace, a commenter over at Ann Althouse, who understands far more about this than I:

'I suspect the real Kevin Barrett was killed by the CIA or foreign terrorist groups in 2004 or 2005, shortly after defending his dissertation. The original Barrett mentioned the possibility of a conspiracy at a bar a couple of times in early 2002; such ramblings are how the CIA targets people for "replacement." What they do is find a left-leaning critic of the government and replace them with a plant who can unleash political controvery at will. There are actually undercover agents in all 50 states who can be activated at any time. In this case, the operative ("Kevin Barrett") was activated to help the Republicans continue to control the WI state legislature. Control of the state legislatures is obviously necessary to ensure the Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is successful. The next step of the plan is to activate the conspiracy theorists in Oregon. This will inevitably lead to the universities supporting the conspiracy theorists, thus providing a platform for Republicans to galvanize control of the Oregon state legislature.

And the reason why terrorists are working with the CIA on this is because a Republican-dominated US will continue the "war on terror," thereby giving them a focal point for recruiting new members.'


Second Update: Go back to Althouse's updated comment thread for some reliable sounding insider information about Barrett and others.


Third Update: A little more information on this increasingly bizarre situation, from the Wisconsin State Journal:

Professor Muhammad Memon said he usually teaches the class himself, but he is going on sabbatical this fall.

Memon said Barrett, the only applicant for the job, was seen as a strong replacement because he gained familiarity with the class as a teaching assistant.

"I have good feelings about his teaching, and I trust he will do a good job," he said, adding that he was not aware of any complaints related to Barrett's political views when he was involved with the class.

So Ralph Luker’s right -- he said in a comment here that Barrett was the only candidate. How’d that happen?

Also - Professor Memon feels good about Barrett’s teaching. But can we trust his feelings? Here are three comments about Memon from Rate My Professors. And yes, that's very few comments, and you don’t want to generalize. But the content of these comments makes them worth reproducing.

Overall ranking for this professor: lowest possible.

before taking his class, i was really interested in it and afterwards, i felt as though i really did not learn much at all. i thought he was unapproachable, and did not really have organization to his lectures.. his tangents made me feel really lost, and no matter how hard i tried to pay attenion, i kept zoning out every time.

Absolutely awful. Lecture attendance is required, but he covers no material at all, just rambling about nothing in particular and clearly having done no preparation. He's also unfriendly if you try to approach him outside of class. He should be ashamed to accept money for teaching, since he doesn't do anything close to teaching all semester.

Worst professor I have ever had. He just rambles all lecture about things unrelated to the course. Exams don't reflect material covered in lecture, so discussion sessions are a must in order to figure out what's going on in the course. He takes attendance in lecture. Never seen so many people sleep through a class. It's awful

Friday, July 07, 2006

Snapshots from Home
The Millionaires of Garrett Park

My mother, who as you know lives down the street from UD in Garrett Park, Maryland, read me this short piece from the July 5 Washington Post. It’s about a neighborhood adjacent to Garrett Park -- Garrett Park Estates.

I know the writer a little -- he’s a reporter for the Post, his daughter’s a classmate and friend of UD’s daughter, and he rented a house in Garrett Park before buying one in the Garrett Park Estates. Here he describes Garrett Park Estates:

The cherry trees are dying faster than people can replace them, so the homes reveal more of themselves each year: humble brick ramblers, built in the 1950s on postage-stamp lots a quick walk from Holy Cross church. The neighborhood is largely untouched by the wave of knockdowns and jumbo additions swamping Montgomery County. It still feels a little like the '50s.

It's called Garrett Park Estates, but we joke that it's also North Bethesda or Rockville depending on whether you're buying or selling. No doubt it'll be Strathmore one of these days in honor of the new, elegant concert hall nearby.

Of course, we'll never have as many grand trees and millionaires as Garrett Park next door, but that's okay. We still have the community pool and the shortcut to the movie theater at White Flint Mall. And -- this is key -- we have more kids. When we moved in, one was dressed in full cowboy regalia, right down to the badge and six-shooters, as if from a place and time that no longer exist.

“Ha!” said my mother, as she finished reading this to me. “Millionaires!”

“Well,” said I; “it’s true. There are lots of millionaires in Garrett Park.”

My mother looked puzzled. When she moved here, in 1961, Garrett Park was an enclave of federal employees and their hippie spawn. She hasn’t really registered the fact that the $30,000 house she and my father bought is now worth $800,000. Or that many of the people she knows here are worth at least a million dollars.
Unanimity on Shleifer

With Yale’s federal grant accounting practices undergoing scrutiny, it’ll be interesting to see how Harvard’s own high-profile grant scandal -- the Andrei Shleifer case -- turns out. There’s movement on the Shleifer matter, as today’s Harvard Crimson reports:

The professional future of Jones Professor of Economics Andrei Shleifer ’82 rests in the hands of Harvard’s top officials, who are weighing a committee report issued last month on the economist’s alleged role in defrauding the U.S. government while he served as an adviser to Russia, people close to the committee said.

While the content of the report was not immediately clear, Shleifer could face penalties as severe as the revocation of his tenured teaching appointment, according to two individuals who have spoken with members of the Committee on Professional Conduct (CPC), the eight-member group investigating the matter.

Following standard procedure, the committee forwarded the results of its months-long investigation to interim Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles last month, the two individuals said. Interim President Derek C. Bok and members of the Harvard Corporation—the University’s most powerful governing body—have also been briefed on the matter, one of the individuals said.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the committee’s work is considered confidential and the individuals agreed not to divulge what they had been told by committee members.

A federal court held Shleifer liable in 2004 for conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by privately investing in Russia while leading a Harvard economic reform program in the country. The Harvard program was funded by the U.S. government.

Last year, Harvard agreed to pay $26.5 million to settle the suit, in addition to a $2 million payment by Shleifer himself, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Knowles’ reaction to the report could be the first significant—and perhaps the most thorny—decision of his tenure as interim dean, which began Saturday.

Knowles was dean of the Faculty in 2001 when Lawrence H. Summers—a close friend of Shleifer—was named president. In a 2002 deposition, Summers acknowledged that earlier in his presidency, he had told Knowles that he was “concerned to make sure that Professor Shleifer remained at Harvard.” Knowles elevated Shleifer to the Jones professorship in 2002.

If Knowles recommends the retraction of Shleifer’s appointment, University rules dictate that he must go to the Corporation for implementation. The third statute of the University’s charter gives the Corporation the authority to remove professors only for “grave misconduct or neglect of duty.”

The committee’s report is the product of a three-person investigating subcommittee, which is formed only when the CPC determines that a case “merits further action,” according to FAS regulations. Under the same rules, the accused party is given the right to appear before the investigating subcommittee and to issue a response to the report that is sent to the FAS dean.

The subcommittee’s findings were unanimous, according to one individual in touch with committee members.

The identities of the three subcommittee members were not immediately known, but one individual said that a member of the subcommittee was affiliated with a non-FAS school.

Some professors have said that Summers’ affiliation with Shleifer contributed to his failed presidency, which ended last week after five turbulent years. Just weeks before his resignation, Summers said at a confrontational Faculty meeting that he did not know enough details to have an opinion on the Shleifer case, angering some Faculty members who saw his remarks as disingenuous.

The University’s decision to pay settlement costs and to allow Shleifer to maintain his teaching post have also irked some professors, who believed it might be the result of Shleifer’s close relationship with Summers. But in May, the Corporation issued a statement saying that Summers had been ”recused totally” from discussions about the litigation and any possible disciplinary decisions in the case.

I find the fact of unanimity on the committee of interest, though I’m not sure what it means. If you ask me, the case against Shleifer is clear once you look at it with any care. Maybe the committee saw that too.

The same issue of the Crimson brings us up to date on Yale’s problems:

Forty-five million dollars in federal grants to Yale University are under investigation by the federal government amid concerns about inadequate accounting practices at the school in New Haven.

According to Yale administrators, the university received subpoenas from the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) late last week. The subpoenas requested material relating to a total of 47 grants.

Yale, like other major universities including Harvard, relies heavily on federal funding for scientific studies and receives the bulk of its federal grants from the DOD, HHS, and NSF.

The purview of the subpoenas, which Yale officials described as “administrative” rather than criminal, extends to documents as much as ten years old. Such subpoenas need not be part of a grand jury investigation and can be issued either by an executive agency with sufficient statutory power or by the Department of Justice at an agency’s behest.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Courtesy of Today's Washington Post.

(Faithful readers won’t be too surprised by the following account of UD’s town’s Fourth of July. And no - I watched the parade but managed to miss the naked pig guy. My brother, a parade judge, came home grumbling about “some naked guy” in the parade, but of course I didn’t believe him.)

A Garrett Park Fourth: The Barbecue That Was No Picnic

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, July 6, 2006; C03

No Garrett Park event is complete without someone upset about something, and the Fourth of July was no exception. This year's fracas? A pig roast and nearly naked protester.

The tiny Montgomery County town's Citizens Association carefully planned a wonderful Independence Day: the two-mile fun run and walk, a morning parade led by the Kensington Fire Department, Popsicles for the kids, live music, a belly-flop contest and softball game. And to top off the celebration, a free evening picnic with pork barbecue and smoked salmon.

The barbecue was originally described as a "pig roast," which caused a few people to object on religious grounds that smelling or seeing a pig roasting was offensive. Matt Stavish , co-president of the association, sent off a letter to his neighbors last week: "We apologize for the offense and will prepare the meat at a private residence rather than at the tennis courts as originally planned. Just our effort to 'put a little lipstick on that pig.' We apologize for any misunderstanding and distress to GP residents. Our goal is simply to provide a night of fun and camaraderie, and we hope everyone will feel welcome to attend."

Problem solved? Hah! A year-long resident of the town, Innis Phillips, protested the pig roast by walking along the parade route Tuesday morning wearing only an apron, a dish towel and an apple in his mouth. Police were summoned; Phillips was not arrested. "A few people were offended by the pig," said Stavish. "Many more were offended by the protest."

"Why can't anything be simple and uncomplicated?" sighed Carolyn Shawaker, mayor of the liberal community of about 1,000. "Several people have talked to me and are very upset. Children got an awfully good view of his anatomy."

Resident Molly Shuck , a mother of four, said she supports Phillips's right to an opinion but not his costume: "Be a pig in pants. There's no reason to be naked."

Phillips, trained as a potter and now a stay-at-home dad, said yesterday that he wasn't trying to be a flasher and deliberately wore a red apron in front with a dish towel tucked and stapled to the back apron strings. "As someone who has done performance art, I wanted to dress appropriately for what I was trying to say."

The 53-year-old said he's sorry if he upset his neighbors and just wanted the picnic to be more inclusive. "If I were going to give a party at my house for a lot of people, I would make sure it had food everybody would enjoy." And no, he's not a vegetarian: "I actually eat pork."

But he didn't go to the barbecue, which went off without incident, without power, but with clothes. More than 100 people showed up for the candlelight feast and live musicians. Can't wait for next year!

UD, a thirty year resident of the town, knows Garrett Park intimately. Garrett Park doesn't cotton to recent immigrants instructing it in inclusivity. Before long we will see the tail end of this guy again, as he goes wee wee wee wee in search of another place to live.

[hat tip: kim nerres]

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

As We Bid Farewell to Ken Lay,
Fox News Tells Us How to Avoid His Fate.

Ken Lay's Heart Attack: A Case of Death By Stress?

The death of Enron founder Ken Lay Monday, reportedly from a heart attack, has raised the question of whether stress can, literally, kill you.

Lay, 64, was at the center of one of the biggest corporate scandals in U.S. history. Convicted in May of 10 counts of conspiracy and fraud, he was due to be sentenced in October and faced 25 to 40 years in prison.

Although Lay's family has not yet released details of his death in Aspen, Colo., or his health history, news reports early Monday quoted Lay's Houston pastor as saying Lay died of a heart attack. Later Monday, doctors who were conducting the autopsey [sic] on Lay said Lay's arteries were clogged and reported that they had found evidence of a previous heart attack.

WebMD spoke with cardiologist Robert Myerburg, MD, about the role stress may play in heart attacks. Myerburg is a professor of medicine and physiology in the cardiology division of the University of Miami’s medical school. Myerburg is not familiar with Lay’s medical history.

…If Lay had had a heart attack or died suddenly upon hearing his verdict, that scenario would have qualified as acute stress. If his legal case had lasted 10 years, that would fit long-term stress, Myerburg says.

But Lay’s death doesn’t quite fit either pattern. “It’s hard to know where to put that,” Myerburg says, calling Lay’s legal ordeal an “intermediate” length of stress.

Enron entered bankruptcy in 2001. And Lay’s criminal case lasted several years, but it was “not long enough to talk about development of heart disease,” and “not long enough to develop atherosclerosis,” Myerburg says.

…Getting a thorough checkup can help gauge your heart risk. And since stress is part of life, learning to cope with it may help.

Handling stress can be “rough,” Myerburg says. Acute stresses often can’t be avoided, and long-term ones may be hard to budge.

Myerburg says he often advises people to see psychiatrists or psychologists to help them cope with situational stresses. He calls long-term stress a “quality of life issue.”

The following strategies may help you cope with stress:

--Eat and drink sensibly. Overindulging in alcohol and food adds to stress.
--Assert yourself. Learn to stand up for your rights and beliefs while respecting those of others.
--Stop smoking. Nicotine acts as a stimulant and brings on more stress symptoms.
--Exercise regularly. It’s a stress-buster. Get your doctor’s approval before starting a new fitness program.
--Relax every day. Techniques include meditation, deep breathing, biofeedback, and mental imagery.
--Take responsibility. Control what you can and leave behind what you cannot control.
--Cut causes of stress. Take good care of yourself, don’t overload your schedule, set priorities, and skip hassles, such as bad traffic, when possible.
--Examine your values and live by them. Doing so may make you feel better, even under stress.
--Set realistic goals and expectations. It's OK -- and healthy -- to admit you cannot be 100 percent successful at everything all at once.
--Build your self-esteem. Feeling overwhelmed? Remind yourself of what you do well.
--Get enough rest. The time you spend resting should be long enough to relax your mind as well as your body.

If you keep this handy "strategies" list in mind, plus cut back on your destruction of America’s corporate sector, you should be okay.
Ken Lay,
George Washington University Lecturer ,
Has Died of a Heart Attack
Philip Rieff, A Curious Character…

has died. Exactly like Susan Sontag, to whom he was once married, he was a titanic, uncompromising personality, an almost comically intense intellectual, devoted to doom-laden cultural pronouncements. Although Sontag had a clearer writing style, she never ventured far from the haughty oracular ways of the University of Chicago professor with whom she fell in love when she was a teenager.

The conventional reading of these two is that after their passionate intellectual/sexual courtship and marriage, they experienced an archetypal philosophical split, she tearing off in the direction of personal experimentation, avant-gardism, Euro boho whatever; and he clutching up and clinging ever more fiercely to conservative moral pieties.

Read Rieff and Sontag with care and you can never buy this. Both (as Camille Paglia, for instance, discerned in Sontag) were always cerebral mandarins, defenders of the best that’s been thought and written, defenders of moral and aesthetic judgment. Equally tending toward the extreme, they both at various points in their lives took absurd political positions.

I think, on balance, Rieff’s contribution will prove more lasting. His intellectual influence is already much more powerful. He had greater depth and focus than she, correctly identifying the Freudian legacy as the central catastrophe of modern culture. His extensively elaborated social type, “psychological man,” with his genial, high-functioning vacuity, represents an enormous contribution to our self-knowledge. Rieff’s sensitive analysis of the “up front” society, in which cruel, self-satisfying acting out replaces a thoughtful politics, introduced us to Denice Denton’s tormentors at Santa Cruz long before they were born.
Nonstop Visual Excitement

'One DVD series, The U: Uncut, offers video tours of 50 colleges, including scenes of dirty dorm rooms and tipsy students, as well as students talking about how much access they have to professors.'

From a New York Times article this morning about campus tour guides.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Legs at the Heart

David Foster suggests I go back to the mixed metaphor sentence I quoted a couple of posts down --

France began this tournament saddled with worries about the ageing legs at the heart of their team, but they have changed their tune.

--- and talk about why it’s embarrassing.

In principle, figurative language is a good thing. You don’t want to be all abstract and Latinate in your prose; you want colorful, fresh, image-rich writing. But you also don’t want to confuse the hell out of your reader, and throwing a bunch of mismatched images at her makes the sentence messy and illogical.

Partly this is about how the brain works as we read. We’re very obedient souls. If you throw the word “saddled” at us, we’ll dutifully picture, if only faintly, a saddle, with maybe a horse under it.

The word “saddled” means weighed down, as a horse can be weighed down with too heavy a saddle. So perhaps we visualize, as we read this word, a nag bent under the burden of a heavy saddle. We go from this literal image to the concept of a person burdened with problems; and, in the particular context of this sentence -- part of an essay about the French World Cup team -- we go to the French people, worried that their famous but aging (“ageing” is a British variant) star player won’t be up to the competition.

Even without the figurative jumble about to occur, I’d have chosen a different image. We’re talking about a sport here, soccer; yet the word “saddled” may well make us think in terms of a whole other realm of sport, this one involving horses -- polo, racing. Already our brains are trotting off on a tangent.

The writer then uses a synecdoche (a figure of speech where you use a part of something or someone for the whole -- here, legs for player), somewhat awkwardly, and, much more horribly, she goes on to offer the weird anatomy of “the ageing legs at the heart” of the French team.

You sort of see how the writer got in this muddle. Figuratively, “heart” in this context means “center,” as in the star player on the team. But the word’s close proximity to another part of the anatomy -- legs -- has us reading it literally, not figuratively. What image do our dutiful brains produce at this point? Something like this maybe.

This cannot be what the writer wanted. She has lost control of her writing, and of her reader, whose mind now moves, a la Timothy Leary, from sweaty mounts to hearts with knobby knees sticking out of them.

Cue music. “But they have changed their tune.” This final phrase, which comes out of nowhere, adds fuel to the garbage incinerator. It is, first of all, a cliché (so are “saddled with worries” and “at the heart of” -- the use of cliché in itself puts you at risk for mixed metaphor, since you’re not thinking of the literal values of the words in the cliché); but, more importantly, it jerks our brains around to an entirely new realm of life - music - when we’d barely begun to make sense of the tired, long-limbed heart.

Maybe a vaudeville scene suggests itself at this point. Maybe the heart’s legs begin to dance.

Of course assimilating prose isn’t as meticulous and difficult as this analysis suggests. But something roughly like this sense-making activity does go on when we read an extended description, and the language of that description can work for or against the making of sense.
A Quotation from Thoreau
On the Fourth of July

America is said to be the arena on which the battle of freedom is to be fought; but surely it cannot be freedom in a merely political sense that is meant. Even if we grant that the American has freed himself from a political tyrant, he is still the slave of an economical and moral tyrant. Now that the republic - the res-publica- has been settled, it is time to look after the res-privata- the private state - to see, as the Roman senate charged its consuls, "ne quid res-privata detrimenti caperet," that the private state receive no detriment.

[“Life Without Principle”]
Le Cheval de Chant

Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber finds a spectacular mixed metaphor (UD’s always looking for them):

France began this tournament saddled with worries about the ageing legs at the heart of their team, but they have changed their tune.

As always, the world of sports is your best bet for these things.

Two community activists, pondering the chancellor’s death, write a j’accuse that makes Santa Cruz sound like the pettiest, most provincial, of American towns.

[T]his community blamed her, ridiculed her and threatened her over these issues, many of which existed before her tenure.

…There was too much anger and vitriol aimed at Chancellor Denton personally — her manner, her look, her style, her sexual orientation.

And this anger swelled into hate speech, homophobia, lookism, gross caricature, and to violence -- rocks shattering windows at her home, hate mail, life-threatening mail, mob-like threats from "nonviolent" students.

And what did this community do? What did we do? The forces of innuendo, gossip, hearsay, fabrication and discrimination, clouded our judgment of her.

…She cared for Santa Cruz but Santa Cruz didn't care for her.

There’s a pathos in the simplicity of that last sentence.

There are a number of paradoxes here worth noting, beyond the obvious one of a community that boasts an exemplary commitment to inclusiveness hounding a high-profile gay person shamelessly.

There’s also, for instance, the fact that the most notable act of respect and courtesy extended to this woman before her death came from the reviled George Bush:

In 2004, President George W. Bush appointed Denton to the National Medal of Science charged with selecting the nation's highest award.
Snapshots from Home
The Fourth

UD’s about to go down the street to her mother’s house and watch the Garrett Park Fourth of July parade with her. They’ll sit on folding chairs at the end of her driveway.

This year, UD’s brother is a parade judge. UD, as always, will chronicle the parade, plus the town’s many other Independence Day events, for the town newspaper, the Garrett Park Bugle.

She will also try to blog some of this activity, so stay tuned.
Denton Memorial

Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology … recalled a telephone conversation this month in which Dr. Denton did not sound like herself.

"The person on the phone was almost gone," Dr. Hopkins said. "I almost couldn't recognize her. It was very upsetting."

This comment was part of an interview Nancy Hopkins gave around the time of Denton's memorial service. It's included in the New York Times account of the service. And it points to the immense difficulty of suicidal situations, especially those involving people one‘s accustomed to thinking of as strong and independent.

In an opinion piece about Denton’s death, and suicide in general, a Santa Cruz-based mental health director writes:

Each of us can help, by not falling for the false representations of psychiatric treatment, by checking in with those who may be at risk, and by acknowledging in ourselves when we may need assistance.

Hopkins is a professor of biology, so presumably she's educated in the outward signs of suicide risk. Even in a mere phone conversation, she noted Denton’s dire condition and found it “very upsetting.” I’m guessing that, in the weeks before that conversation, a number of people who dealt directly with Denton at Santa Cruz picked up plenty of still more upsetting signs.

What did Hopkins do? What did anyone do? Denton’s own partner apparently felt Denton was well enough for the partner to leave her in order to go on a business trip.

Hopkins recognized in Denton what Boris Pasternak recognized in the suicides he knew in his day:

[W]e have no conception of the inner torture which precedes suicide. … The continuity of … inner life is broken… personality is at an end. … What is certain is that they all suffered beyond description, to the point where suffering had become a mental sickness. And, as we bow in homage to their gifts and to their bright memory, we should bow compassionately before their suffering.

Monday, July 03, 2006

One to Watch

So far, everyone’s just carrying this short AP story:

Federal authorities are investigating how Yale accounts for millions of dollars in government research grants, school officials said Monday.

Yale received three subpoenas last week from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Defense Department and National Science Foundation seeking grant documents. Authorities also have been interviewing university employees about accounting issues.

In an e-mail to faculty and staff on Friday, Yale President Richard Levin urged employees to cooperate with investigators.

"Regardless of the outcome of the current investigation, we must get all our processes right and make sure that we are good stewards of the funds entrusted to us by the federal government," Levin said in a statement released Monday. "We know that we have more work to do."

The school has acknowledged it must improve its accounting process. A report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services noted in February that university procedures were not always followed or were inadequate.

The school has hired a consulting group to speed up accounting improvements.

Yale, like most large research universities, relies heavily on government grants to pay for scientific research.

It could turn into a long story.
An Ad for Presidential Practice Incorporated

UD recognizes that the often excellent Chronicle of Higher Education is the New York Times of academia (though it’s experiencing serious competition from Inside Higher Education), but its take on the suicide of UC Santa Cruz chancellor Denice Denton is a bit much. Let us do a close reading of the piece, which soothes its academic readers into a false sense of martyrdom.

The rhetoric of the first paragraph sketches a straightforward military defeat under an unrelenting barrage:

Denice D. Denton came under fire immediately and often during her 16-month tenure as chancellor of the University of California at Santa Cruz, which ended with her apparent suicide late last month when she fell to her death from the roof of a San Francisco building.

Yes indeed, your first paragraph should encapsulate your tale, but here the writer has set Denton up on an exposed cliff top, pummeled her with machine gun fire for sixteen months, and watched her fall, able to endure no more.

Recall that Denton’s troubles at Santa Cruz were partly of her own making (she had a bad eye for financial symbolism at a time of system-wide corruption), partly farcical (those dumb skits the students put on), and for the most part something she should have been able to anticipate. Compare what she put up with for little more than a year (much of which was spent on various forms of leave -- again, remember that she was, pretty much from the beginning of her appointment, simply not on campus) with, say, Elizabeth Hoffman’s tenure at the University of Colorado. No contest.

In addition to the harsh criticism, which came from the typical antagonists of public-university leaders — student activists, employee unions, alumni, state lawmakers — the chancellor was a pariah to some conservative bloggers as well.

Laying it on thick here in an effort to build up her martydom, and, by extension, the martyrdom of all college presidents. These are the usual suspects, especially if you’re in a public system. And why should a few bloggers be any sort of icing on the cake? Come now.

Ironically, Ms. Denton, 46, an accomplished electrical engineer and champion of women in science who had made diversity in academics a focus of her career, was also harangued recently by student protesters decrying "institutional racism and sexism."

This isn’t ironic. The Chronicle, like Chancellor Denton herself, appears to believe that her personal history of activism on behalf of diversity would shield her from the merry pranksters at Santa Cruz. This would only become irony with a group that had a politics. You don‘t get irony with narcissism.

The article then rehearses for a paragraph or two Denton’s challenges -- political and financial -- at her new job, and concludes by quoting a university spokesperson: "The atmosphere…was intimidating and disrespectful."

Disrespectful it certainly was -- in the manner of student journalists at UD’s university sometimes writing its president’s name not Trachtenberg, but Tractorbutt -- yet this is to be expected, since you’ve taken a job that involves dealing with a certain amount of juvenility. I’d say it was moderately intimidating -- nothing a woman like Denton, as she has been described, couldn’t take.

The Chronicle then goes on to list Denton’s various medical conditions, some of which may be linked to depression. This only begs questions about whether she disclosed to university trustees that she was subject to life-threatening depression, whether she was on medication to control for it, etc.

And it does no good for the Chronicle next to quote obscure stupid bloggers who wrote cruel things about her suicide. This is as much a fringe phenomenon as the campus pranksters, and it weakens the effort to make her a martyr by, again, laying it on too thick.

There’s more detail now of her having bungled various other problems, particularly a dustup over military recruitment on campus. Here the inescapable bottom line is not that the pressure was unacceptable, but that she was unready and/or inept.

But as to her mental state:

If Ms. Denton was personally shaken by the furor, it was not apparent during a late-January visit she made to The Chronicle. In a freewheeling and upbeat discussion with reporters and editors, she said her response to the outrage over hidden or unreported compensation was "Message received."

The article now ends with this:

A university president's job is "infinitely more complex today" because of the expectations of "vastly different constituencies," said Ann J. Duffield, a co-founder of the Presidential Practice, a company that provides advice to university presidents. "These have almost become undoable positions."

I love this sort of shit. Note where the woman works. She makes her money advising university presidents. Where does that money come from, I wonder? The president’s pocket?

What do you expect her to say? “Luckily, most university presidents, with the help of a large staff of assistants, can handle their problems on their own! I look forward to the day when Presidential Practice goes out of business!”
Course Evaluations Again

Via Arts and Letters Daily:

'Professor Pressured To Sleep With Student
For Good Course Evaluation
June 27, 2006 | Issue 42•26

FAYETTEVILLE, AR—Alan Gilchrist, an associate professor of English literature at the University of Arkansas infamous for his tough grading standards and dry lecturing style, was coerced into sleeping with an undergraduate on Monday in order to earn a good course evaluation. "My tenure's on the line here, so I allowed a student to take advantage of me," said an emotional Gilchrist of the experience, which he hopes will earn him at least six "very much enjoyed" responses on the eight-item evaluation form. "I told myself it would be just this once, and that it would be over soon, and that it wouldn't be that bad, but I was used. And I can't stop showering." Sources said that the unidentified student is one of the most popular and charismatic on campus, raising questions about possible abuse of power.'
Site of UD’s
Mother Theresa Thing

This is the Bradley Estate.

Continue walking along the lawn
and you get to the wedding site,
where, when signaled by the minister,
UD and her Joyce-themed spawn
read the Mother Theresa thing.

The tree in the upper right-hand corner
is a gorgeous sycamore, currently in full bloom.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Jacobean Tragedy

This is from Vanity Fair. It’s an update of a story UD’s been following. She even wrote a poem about it. Anyway, it’s sad. The best-laid plans of mice and men, etc., etc. …

“Look," Joseph Jacobs is assuring me, "no one starts out wanting a 30,000-square-foot home. You say, 'I want this and that' and then you get up to 30,000 square feet."

To be precise, the new house Jacobs hopes to build in Greenwich is 32,114 square feet, plus a 1,165-square-foot pool house. Jacobs, a founding partner of a hedge fund called Wexford Capital, is unapologetic. "America's a great country," he says. "I've worked hard. I've made a few bucks. So I want to build a house for myself. Is that so wrong?"

It's February 2006. I'm in Greenwich… [Jacobs] is entranced by the idea of building what he call his "dream house." "What can I say?" he tells me, washing down a pill for acid reflux with a glass of Lactaid skim milk. "I always wanted to build a house that would have everything I want—a house that I could build for my kids and grandkids. Is that a crime?"

You have grandchildren? I ask, surprised.

"I don't," concedes Jacobs, who is 53, "but I hope to one day."

…The idea [for the house] came to him one night at the movies. "I thought it up in my head," he says. "It needed to be in a meadow, just like in France." Michelle later confirms, "It was his dream, no question."

In September 2003, Jacobs paid $5,575,000 for 11 bucolic acres in Conyers Farm, a gated community in Greenwich's backcountry. It took more than a year for the first draft of architectural drawings to be completed. As time passed, according to Jacobs's architect, Dinyar Wadia, the house expanded. "When Joe came to me, he said, 'I don't want to be one of those hedge-fund people who builds a monster house,'" Wadia recalls. "But then he talked to his sister-in-law, and his decorator, and he kept adding more to the first floor.

He added a breakfast porch, and, because he's into symmetry, we then needed to add a library porch. He added a wet bar off the library … " Wadia's voice trails off.

With breakfast cleared away, Jacobs pulls out a thick roll of drawings. Looking at a sketch of the façade, I see a neoclassical palace with two perfectly symmetrical wings. Sweeping entrance steps lead to a grand loggia framed by three radiating stone arches. Above, reminiscent of Venice's Ducal Palace, is a second-story viewing balcony with ornamental stone balustrades. A large central pediment with a carved floral relief serves as the focal point of the façade. I study the slate roof: by my count, there are 12 dormer windows, four chimneys, and two cupolas.

Is it a formal French country manor house? A proto-Palladian villa? "I'm not sure what it is—I'm not an architect," replies Jacobs. Adds Michelle later, "We wanted an old house that's new." Jacobs again: "We wanted a symmetrical, sort-of-European-influenced house … I wanted it to look like it was there a long time—it'll have ivy."

Jacobs walks me through the proposed highlights: "There's a dining room that seats 16. It's 27 feet by 20 feet. It's a big room, but it's not a ballroom, O.K. … Over here there's a room for playing billiards—which is a fun thing to do."

As Jacobs flips from one drawing to another, I notice three staircases, one rising from the center hall, another in "the East Wing," and yet another in "the West Wing." There's also an elevator. On the second floor, occupying the entire West Wing, the master suite encompasses a bedroom, a living room, a wet bar, his-and-her bathrooms, and two dressing rooms, each about the size of a Manhattan studio apartment. (Says Michelle, "For me, as long as I had my closets, it was fine.") In the East Wing are four more bedrooms, plus two apartments for staff. And on the top floor, yet another four bedrooms. Every bedroom has its own bathroom. "The third floor no one will use until I have grandchildren," Jacobs explains.

What particularly delights him are the plans for the lower level. You may think of the "lower level" as a basement. Often damp, with low ceilings and concrete floors, basements used to be places to store old bicycles, do laundry, and, in better homes, install "rec rooms" with brown wall-to-wall carpet. In Greenwich, however, the basement as it once was has been transformed into something grand. Home theaters are commonplace. So are exercise rooms and wine cellars. Now, following Steven Cohen's lead, the newest basements of Greenwich's hedge-fund elite have arts-and-crafts ateliers with built-in sinks, massage rooms with waterfalls ("so you get that Zen feeling," one builder explained), panic rooms, and hockey rinks.

Jacobs does not play hockey, so instead he decided to install a regulation-size squash court in his house. "I'm not really a big squash player, and you should know I'm a lousy squash player," he says. "But squash is fun, especially in bad weather. I figure if I build the house why not have the things I really want? I'm paying for it."

What did Jacobs want in his basement? "I created a yoga room," he tells me. "There's a golf simulator in the basement, next to the home theater—again, if it's raining outside, it's fun." There's also the spa: it includes an indoor pool, a steam room, a sauna, and something called a Swiss shower, with a dozen adjustable showerheads.

Jacobs pauses. "So, what do you think so far?" he asks. Without waiting for an answer, he continues: "We wanted the house, although it's grand, to be comfortable."

"Not fussy," agrees Michelle.

"We want it to be country comfortable," adds Jacobs. "We want furniture you can sit in. We're not having black-tie dinners, not that there's anything wrong with that."

"Nothing fussy, just nice," repeats Michelle. "We were hoping it would be tasteful."

"I wanted something that didn't look like some McMansion," says Jacobs.

Despite Jacobs's best intentions, some people in Greenwich view his new house as just that: an unsightly McMansion. Last December, at a public hearing before Greenwich's Planning and Zoning Commission, a lawyer representing Conyers Farm had this to say about the house: "It is too large, it is too in-your-face, it is too visible."

Next to offer her view of the matter was Regina "Gigi" Mahon-Theobald, a former journalist who heads the Planning and Architectural-Review Committee at Conyers Farm. "I've been on the PARC for I believe it's six years," she said, "and there's never in my experience been a project that aroused anywhere near the depth of passion, really, that this one has. It's really kind of an uproar."

One month later, when I meet Mahon-Theobald, she gets right to the point: "Jacobs is building a monster manse," she declares. "In the past few years, there has been teardown after teardown. All these old, interesting houses are torn down every day, and they put up these massive things that are overwhelming the properties, overwhelming the roads. With the Jacobs house you finally get to the point where you say, 'Enough is enough.'" Apparently there are limits, even in Greenwich.

…On March 13, Joseph Jacobs was awakened from his dream. That morning, a little before seven, he heard the telephone ring. His wife rolled over in bed, reached for the receiver, and handed it to him; Jacobs heard an unfamiliar voice on the other end. It was a reporter from the financial network CNBC: "Mr. Jacobs? Do you have any response to the article in today's Times?"

There it was, for all to see, on the front page of The New York Times's Metro section: an article about Jacobs's house. The headline: "Land of the Big Puts 'Too Big' to the Test."

By the time Jacobs got to his office, a camera crew was waiting for him in the lobby. That day, hanging in the sky above Jacobs's bucolic 11 acres were television news helicopters, droning, greedy for substance. Covering the big story about the big house were reporters from CNN, CBS, ABC's Good Morning America, NBC's Today show, News 12 Connecticut, and Hartford's WTIC NewsTalk 1080 talk-radio station. Even Jon Stewart called and invited Jacobs to go on The Daily Show.

The next morning, Matt Lauer introduced Jacobs's home on the Today show. "Katie," he began, turning to his co-host, "Americans are getting bigger and bigger these days. I'm not talking about our waistlines." You'd have thought that Jacobs was the first man in Greenwich to have built a big house.

Having just hired a spokesperson, Jacobs released a statement. "In light of the publicity," it read, "I no longer have any plans to build this house."


Told you it was sad. RIP. And… not that I like to blow my own horn, but… I did , as mentioned, write a poem about Jacobs when I first read that ill-fated Times article… and, well, I’d sure as hell like to run it by you again… So… here it is!!

To Greenwich, From J.M. Jacobs

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

If this be error and the town finds guilt
My legal counsel assures me it’ll still get built.
Don’t Know if There are Any…

…Derrideans left on the Duke University English faculty, but it’d be fun to see one of them put the following text sous rature (under erasure, that is):

"On Friday, June 23, my son J.D. and I were involved in a boating accident on Hyco Lake in Person County. It occurred as we were trying to navigate our way back to shore in dark, rainy conditions. The boat ran ashore, and I suffered a laceration on my head, which was bleeding. Because of the remote location of where the boat was aground, J.D. had to swim for roughly an hour, and ran to several houses before finding a home with someone to get me help. Upon the arrival of the EMS team, I was taken to the emergency room at Person County Memorial hospital and received several stitches in my head. I walked out of the emergency room on my own that night. I am thankful that the incident involved only one boat, that no one was seriously hurt and that my son was able to locate an occupied home on the lake with gracious people willing to assist us. The injury was not serious and I was in my office working today."

What happens if we deconstruct this heroic first-person account, provided by Duke's athletic director, Joe Alleva? Does anything of note need to be teased out?

Oh. Here’s the Fort Wayne paper:

Alleva needed 42 stitches to his head after a boating accident Friday on a Person County lake. His son, former Duke baseball player J.D. Alleva, was charged with operating a boat while impaired.

Authorities said the younger Alleva refused to give officers a breath or blood sample, but three officers smelled alcohol on him several hours after the accident.

And listen -- isn’t alcohol the the insistent aporia (to stay with Derrida) at the heart of Duke? Cast your mind back over its many scandals of late, starting with the lacrosse team. Virtually all of the scandals starred souped up boozers doing incredibly fucked up things. What is the problem down there? Is Durham that dull? Is Duke a gulag of desperate vodka-swillers? Why are all these people soaking in it??
Getting Around a Roadblock

Well-intentioned, but I think somewhat wrong-headed essay in a recent Inside Higher Ed about the dehumanizing cruelty university presidents and chancellors endure, and the way this must have played into Denice Denton’s leap from San Francisco’s highest apartment building.

Because they are symbols of power, mere things, college presidents are not recognized as having feelings or basic human rights. As did Denice Denton, they find themselves dehumanized. Who among us can survive this kind of treatment unscathed?

Denice Denton, like many college heads, was on occasion at the receiving end of nasty and juvenile behavior, and I’m sure it scathed her. I’m also pretty sure it didn’t drive her to suicide.

She herself, after all, as the IHE writer points out, was capable of cruelty to university presidents:

[T]he kind of devaluing language that, for instance, then-Dean Denton directed at [Larry Summers] after he spoke about women and science… must have been a bit galling to Summers, if not actually hurtful. Apparently, like most others, Denton was unable to see that the president has two bodies — his own and his institution’s, and that the former when pricked does bleed.

Indeed, scathed though I’m sure he’s been by turmoil far crueler than Denton had to endure, Summers seems to be toddling along just fine.

The problem I have with editorials like the one in Inside Higher Ed is that they get very close to saying that women can’t take the heat. I don’t see any male college presidents throwing themselves off buildings, and I only see one female doing it. Yet most of the non-suicides endure pretty steady cruelty and turmoil. Think of what Duke’s president’s been going through for months. It’s characteristic of university leaders that they are seen as symbols of the institution more than human beings with feelings. Everyone knows this, and knows that it goes with the territory. Anger about what’s going on at Duke is going to be directed at its president, even though in fact the particular man running the place only very recently came to Duke. That’s the way it goes.

“News of a suicide,” writes one blogger, “is a roadblock in our everyday understanding of life. How to get around it? Everybody’s got a different method. Make a joke. Blame somebody. Try to sound clever. Declare a political position. What is this crazy thing that has happened? How can we categorize and sanitize it?”

Better to resist the temptation to categorize Denton's as caused by social cruelty.
Ohio University
and Montana State, Bozeman...

...have drawn even the distracted attention of UD in the last couple of days. There's something astounding about an academic department established by the plagiarists, of the plagiarists, and for the plagiarists. The chair of mechanical engineering at OU has just left, taking his copied-from-others textbooks with him, and the rest of his merry crew will leave soon too.

You may recall the scandal that started all of this, involving scads of engineering students at OU plagiarizing everything in sight under the benign tutelage of these boys.

MSU has also managed to startle UD, who after all is pretty jaded. Like most American universities with really serious sports programs, MSU boasts the standard roster of normal all-Americans plus miscreants, misfits, and morons; but it also has multiple numbers of murderers dumping bodies in the university's agronomy school. Wow.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Spent the day at the Bradley Estate at the marriage of my niece. Found myself for once unable to complain about Boston's weather, since this outdoor wedding took place in clear air, soft wind, and all sorts of warmth. UD did her Mother Theresa reading (see below) in bare feet, since the bridesmaids all came out onto the big flat lawn barefoot.

Hell, bare feet seem appropriate for MT -- very much her aesthetic.

Do you know Philip Larkin's poem, "The Whitsun Weddings"? He says there pretty much what I have to say about weddings, especially the bit about "all the power/That being changed can give."
Last Hired,
First Fired

Kevin Barrett is a just-hired part-time instructor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Maybe Ann Althouse will provide local color for this one.

Barrett's eager to share with his students and the world his personal 9/11 Report, which reveals that the American government did it to create religious armageddon. Or something.

It's ol' Ward all over again, except this guy, Barrett, isn't tenured and will be given the old heave-ho before you know it.

The question with Barrett -- as with Churchill -- has to do with search committees at some of our better universities. Where do the people who choose obvious idiots to teach intelligent university students -- at taxpayer expense -- come from? How do universities produce search committees with these outcomes?