Monday, October 30, 2006
... a number of photos from Rehoboth's Sea Witch Festival, but Blogger's been in all sorts of trouble this weekend, so getting them on the site may take some time.
When I finally get them posted, note the brilliant blue skies, and the way everyone's a bit wind-tossed. The weather's been exhilarating. When the weather's like this, you fall back on the trusty cliches -- majestic, glorious, a vision of splendor.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Sea Witch Festival, Rehoboth.|
Saturday, October 28, 2006
UD and her sister...|
...seem to have blundered into the Sea Witch Festival here. We've taken a number of pictures of some surreal Sea Witch activities on the beach -- in particular, the Maryland Rough Riders on their horsies -- but we'll have to wait until we get a proper computer to load them onto the site. It's a spectularly beautiful day at the beach -- high wind, mixed charcoal and azure skies, picture-book clouds.
UD Fleeing Hordes of Reporters...|
...in brilliantly sunny and warm Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
..for another long weekend at
She'll be blogging from there.
photo gregory garecki
They Ain't Got No Culture|
Read to the end of this Washington Post story -- through Lynne Cheney's curious alienation from her own naughty literary efforts -- for UD's pithy contribution to the Webb/Allen literary dustup.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Just Got Off the Phone...|
...with a reporter from the Washington Post, too. We'll see if anything comes of this sudden media assault upon UD.
Fox News is on its way over...|
...to UD's office, to interview her about naughty James Webb and his perverto books. Ne quittez pas.
Innocents; A Broad|
'New York University’s golf coach said he was forced to resign Oct. 12 after university officials learned that he accompanied players to a strip club while the team was competing in Florida in March.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Nathan Lane Not Miserable|
Enough to Impersonate an English Professor
'[Lane's line readings fail to be] vapors in a toxic fog given off by a soul rotting in its own unhappiness. ...[He fails to be the] slow-leaking human dirty bomb
SNAPSHOTS FROM HOME|
Handling a Deer
in the Water
"SOLOMONS, Md. (AP) -- Don Fitzhugh was fishing with his wife Gloria and three others on the Chesapeake last Thursday when they came upon a buck swimming near Solomons Island. [I am so not surprised by this. Longtime readers know that UD's wooded suburban half acre is deer-infested. She expects to find deer in the shower.]
Miami: This Just In|
'CORAL GABLES, FL— University of Miami head football coach Larry Coker, afraid of being scapegoated and fired in the wake of Saturday's brawl involving Hurricanes players and those from Florida International University, defended himself by suspending 13 players, taking full responsibility for disciplining his team, and swinging a Hurricanes football helmet at the heads of athletic director Paul Dee and chancellor Donna Shalala during a press conference Wednesday. "What happened was unfortunate and does not reflect our character as a team or my philosophy as a coach," said Coker, grasping the helmet by the faceguard and delivering repeated blows to Shalala's face and neck. "However, I believe that dismissing me at this time would in fact send the wrong message about discipline to our players and the wrong message about the University of Miami to the public." Dee was physically unable to comment or breathe after the press conference, but Shalala seemed to indicate that she would handle the matter internally as soon as she stopped bleeding internally.'
ud thanks mike for the link
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Miami: In Comparative Terms,|
A Model Football Program
'Miami has not had 20-plus incidents involving shoplifting, assault, gun charges and failed drug tests over the past two years, as Tennessee has. Miami has not had to dismiss a star player for earning money through a phony job, as Oklahoma has. Miami has not had a star linebacker accused of sexual assault on the eve of its bowl game as Florida State did last year.'
Over at Harvard, |
and Andrei Shleifer
Are Selling Well
'...[W]ith Halloween less than a week away, some Yalies in need of an outfit may have found inspiration of their own in the Vayner scandal: some students said that "Aleksey Vayner" will likely be a popular costume on campus this year.'
--yale daily news--
Clever Little Buggers|
The University of Georgia student newspaper has done it -- as per their president's request, they've come up with a new name for The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
The World’s Largest Non-Alcoholic University-Sanctioned Family-Fun Event and Bowl
Snapshots from Home|
or 'Tolstoy's Emblematic Death':
Today's New York Times:
Forget the traditional football game, the dry lectures and the meet-and-greet with professors and administrators. At some colleges, parents’ weekend has expanded into a far more elaborate ritual.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
It's This Saturday!|
This day is called the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is named,
And rouse him at the name of Gator.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars
And say 'These wounds I had at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: blacked out neath a Buick
After Beer Pong; flattened as his mouth ran with
Budweiser, Miller, Michelob,
Liberty Ale, High Rollers Wheat Beer, Bud Ice, Bud Light;
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Bulldog fan shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in Georgia now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That lay with us on the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party day.
Factory Jobs At Risk|
The column below, by George F. Will, is a nice companion piece to this post:
...[How do] big-time college sports programs, which generate billions of tax-exempt dollars -- CBS pays the NCAA an annual average of $545 million mainly for rights to televise the March Madness basketball tournament -- further the purposes for which educational institutions are granted tax-exempt status[?]
Teaching to the Veil|
A thick veil of commentary lies over the full burqa question, both here and abroad. I freely admit to having a powerful visceral reaction against fully veiled women (I've written about that here), and I've certainly done my best to understand the causes of my repulsion. Anne Applebaum, in the Washington Post, says some of what I feel:
...[T]he veil, as a political issue, won't go away. The French have banned not only the full veil but head scarves in state schools. Some German regions have banned the head scarf for civil servants too, and they are not permitted in Turkish universities at all. Slowly, the issue is coming to the United States: Just this month a Michigan judge dismissed a small-claims court case filed by a Muslim woman because she refused to remove her full-face veil while testifying.
In Don DeLillo's great novel, Mao II, the fearless photographer, Brita, repelled by the face masks worn by the self-abnegating followers of a personality- cult leader, suddenly pulls one off of one of his fanatics and almost gets herself killed for her trouble. In a novel about the flight from freedom, about the psychological and ideological appeal of self-annihilation, this gesture expresses the sense shared by people committed to personal freedom that willful demolition of one's individuality, willful evisceration of one's ability to engage in civic life, is a kiss-off aimed at all democratic values.
The prospect of teaching someone unwilling to share with me the world of embodied humanity is chilling.
--- my thanks to grammarpolice.net for the image --
Monday, October 23, 2006
Now That He's Got |
A Wikipedia Page...
...it seems a good time to remind longtime UD readers, and to tell new ones, that UD lives in Munro Leaf's house in Garrett Park, Maryland.
Munro Leaf (December 4, 1905 – December 21, 1976), was an American author of children's literature. He's best known for his 1936 book The Story of Ferdinand, a story about a bull who preferred smelling flowers to bullfighting. The book sparked considerable controversy, as it was seen by some as pacifist; it was consequently banned in Nazi Germany.
UD knew Munro's widow, Margaret, slightly. Munro died in the room just behind the one UD's typing this in. In honor of him, UD has two topiary bulls in her front garden, relaxing under a tree. There's also a little plaque next to her front door. It says FERDINAND HOUSE.
Harvard: Just Too Creepy.|
Two articles, one in the Harvard Crimson, and one in Inside Higher Ed, note that, as the Crimson headline has it:
Female Tenure Rate Crashes [the authors really mean female tenure-track job offer acceptance rate crashes]:
Women comprised only 21 percent of the academics who accepted tenure-track offers to join the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) last year, a startling reversal of a three-year trend that saw that figure rise to 40 percent in 2004-2005.
It is interesting - Harvard's so spoiled by its yield rate in admissions of students (virtually everyone admitted to Harvard goes), it perhaps overlooks its very poor yield rate among young women professors, especially in the humanities. You'd think they'd all jump at the chance to go to Harvard; yet look at how many go elsewhere! Why?
The Crimson article mentions some of the usual suspects - Cambridge is insanely expensive (the well-located house on Shady Hill Square where Mr. UD grew up is now on the market for an enormous price); it's hard to get tenure at Harvard; women faculty aren't mentored as well as they might be...
But you don't have to live in Cambridge (and Harvard has been known to subsidize housing for young faculty); it's reportedly getting easier to get tenure; and the mentoring can't be that bad. Here's what IHE says:
Women Turning Down Harvard’s Offers
I'm pretty stumped, too. But I wonder if there's just been a critical mass of creepy stories about Harvard in the last couple of years... A kind of piling on of nastiness and creepiness... not just all the Summers stuff, but the money manager controversy, the Shleifer business, the low levels of happiness Harvard undergrads report, the Kremlin-like hyperauthority of the mysterious Harvard Corporation... Add to this the undeniable fact that for all its charisma Harvard sits in a dark, cold, and, yes, extremely expensive city...
I mean, it ends up falling rather short of the Welcome Wagon... If you had a competing offer from San Diego or Emory, you might just take it...
A List of |
George Washington University
...from the very useful Academic Blogs website.
Katha Pollitt Goes After |
The Trouble With Diversity
in The Nation
'Maybe economic reality doesn't get much airtime in the University of Illinois-Chicago's English department, which [Walter Benn] Michaels chairs (he gleefully bemoans his $175,000 annual salary), but poverty, inequality and class are major objects of attention in sociology, economics, public policy, ed schools and investigative journalism -- to say nothing of the pages of The Nation. Michaels isn't the loner he pretends to be.
The New York Times
One thing [opera director Jonathan Miller] has certainly not abandoned is the Interview as Performance Art.
Pleasure of |
'[Y]our college’s mission statement ...will lead you to think that your job is to cure every ill the world has ever known – not only illiteracy, bad writing and cultural ignorance, which are at least in the ballpark, but poverty, racism, ageism, sexism, war, exploitation, colonialism, discrimination, intolerance, pollution and bad character.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
The River That Eats|
Here's an AP story about the many drowning deaths of Wisconsin college students in the Mississippi. See this recent post for background. UD's comments are in brackets.
Searchers combing the Mississippi River this month pulled out the body of basketball player Luke Homan — the eighth college-age man in nine years to disappear from a city tavern and turn up dead in a river.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
'A former dean of a University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey school remains on the payroll as a highly paid professor.
'The[se] are ... very wealthy institutions, with endowments that in most cases run into the billions. Stanford, for instance, has an endowment of around $15 billion, making it the third largest among universities, behind only Yale and Harvard. (Harvard’s astounding endowment is now nearly $30 billion.) And of course if you’ve ever visited Stanford — with its fantastic medical complex, its professional-quality athletic facilities, and its gorgeous campus — you know that what is most striking is not how much Stanford seems to need, but how much it already has.
For Further Study:|
Floyd is writing a short essay about his friend Richard, in which he calls Richard "proud." Could Floyd have found a better adjective? If so, what might it be?
'Richard Grasso should have taken John Reed’s advice.
floyd norris, nytimes
Friday, October 20, 2006
His Asso's Grasso|
UD stumbled on the groovy Richard Grasso story while reading up on the university presidency of John Diamandopoulos (in making a case against Grasso, ex-chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, Eliot Spitzer cited the precedent of Diamandopoulous) -- but ever since she got hold of Grasso -- who looks a little like Mussolini after he was strung up --
she's held on for dear life, sensing that in his rags to riches to rags saga lay hours of reading pleasure...
And to be sure today's update in the New York Times brought a wee smile to her face... Here are some excerpts, with a little commentary...
A New York judge ruled yesterday that Richard A. Grasso, a former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, would have to return as much as $100 million he received as part of a fiercely contested $139.5 million payout.
Telander: The Definitive Statement|
Rick Telander, Chicago SunTimes:
Thursday, October 19, 2006
UD Finds Nobility...|
...in this professor's farewell gesture to his class.
A UC Berkeley physics professor and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory senior scientist was found dead at the lab Tuesday afternoon hours after telling his students he was suffering from depression.
Mr UD Likes to Say...|
...that UD will endorse anything if it's well-written. This is not, strictly speaking, true, but it does get at UD's perhaps overfond love of good writing.
The dark side of this love is that UD has a disproportionate response also to bad writing (as you know if you read her Scathing Online Schoolmarm feature). Bad writing makes UD's skin scaly. With each bad phrase she draws a shallow breath, often to the point of hyperventilation. There's also a sensation in her chest as if someone's stabbing her with a Bic Blunt Tip.
Yet just as onlookers are loath to leave the scene of car wrecks, so UD admits to a morbid fascination with the very, very worst in prose and poetry.
Only this can explain her dalliance on this blog [search his name in the search feature at the top of this page] with our erstwhile poet laureate, the Dread Kooser.
In a recent meeting in Nantucket of rich lobbyists and rich Democrats, Ted Kennedy's writer put a limerick in his mouth that is the sort of thing UD's got in mind here.
First, recall UD's dismay, already expressed on this blog, at the propensity of a party which presents itself as the party of ordinary working Americans to meet all the time in Nantucket, currently this country's most powerful icon of obscene material excess and haughty anti-social behavior. Then put in this location precisely the malsain stew of corruption the Republicans and their lobbyists represent. The result is, IMHO, disastrous for the Democrats.
But it gets worse:
Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry are shown hobnobbing and sharing laughs with high-powered lobbyists at a Nantucket reception for top Democratic donors, in a film clip posted on the ABC News website yesterday.
Put aside the obvious political idiocy of the event, though, and go back to that limerick for chrissake... You're in the audience... You can't believe it... Nantucket, pinnacle of your dreams of wealth and glory... And there's Ted Kennedy, last living symbol of Camelot, right up there ... He begins speaking in his slow, slow, slow voice... A child's singsong voice, though old in timbre... He's reading a poem! A funny poem! A limerick! You sit back and get ready to smile... Maybe it'll even be smutty ... Nantucket/fuck it being one of the classic English language end rhymes...
There once were Senate Democrats on Nantucket.
Republican tide -- they all aimed to buck it.
They fight hard to win,
These women and men,
And in November control they re-took it.
As Sister Mary Ignatius put it (you know, in that Christopher Durang play), "BLAH. YOU MAKE ME WANT TO BLAH. (making vomit noises)."
Instead of cursing the darkness, though, I shall write a limerick as a limerick should be written, hoping thereby to help the Senator's comedy team understand the nature of the genre:
Some lobbyists up in Nantucket
Took Kennedy's stiffy and sucked it.
His poem's not funny,
But they owe him money.
November election? Oh fuck it.
The Elephant Park|
When UD lived on Bali, she used to go pretty frequently to the Elephant Park, where you could hop on a little Sumatran number and be escorted around the park's grounds by a guy who sat on its neck and guided it by tickling its ears. It's all lots of fun, especially the end of the trek, when you descend into a pond, and, if you're lucky, the animal playfully sprays you.
The one thing you can't know about the Elephant Park jaunt until you do it is that the grounds are rank with piles of elephant dung, so that even as you're gazing delightedly at eye-level palms and rice paddies, you're always aware of the nastiness underfoot.
University life can be like this -- It's a glorious, beautiful, even exciting adventure, but look out below. There's always someone under there, ready to be a bit of a shit. Here's a recent classic case:
Free-speech Group Decries
Thank the Lord there are people like Father Wild to protect us from the wounding effects of our inability to understand satire... plus Chairman South (who seems to have gone south), patrolling the hallways and felling offensive material in a single bound... I sleep better knowing these men - and other men like them - are vigilant on my behalf...
Sharp are the |
Wounds of Class
This Guardian writer's wounds distract him from the fact that fiction is fiction, comedy exaggeration, and audience response to comedy laughter.
Alan Bennett, commentators like to say, is heir to Betjeman as the nation's teddy bear. On the evidence of his all-conquering play (and now film) The History Boys he is also the outright winner of the Evelyn Waugh memorial "Brideshead" award for the nation's arch-educational snob.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
...to the students at SUNY Binghamton, who, faced with a couple of philistine professors who demand that a campus art exhibit which includes photos (taken in the 1950's) of unclothed African women be shut down (it isn't a "positive representation" -- it "systemically devalues" Africa), have responded most forcefully indeed.
Here in America, we have what we at [this newspaper] like to refer to as 'freedoms.' You know, there are a whole bunch of them promised to us in that Constitution-thingy, like freedom of speech, freedom of expression and (our personal favorite) freedom of the press.... [I]t's doubly hypocritical that professors, the people who are supposed to be helping students grow as people and thinkers, are the ones leading the charge to censor the exhibit. In fact, you could almost call it betrayal.
No one should be surprised that, in these twisted times, students are lecturing professors on their business; but to send them packing in style like this ... It's an unexpected pleasure.
Like a lot of commentators, this one (a very good writer) picks up on the sick mommy aspect of Shalala's relationship with her football team:
The thing about Miami is it's not the heat -- it's the stupidity.
Another reason people keep picking up on Shalala's infantilizing of her team has to do with her language: "People who do bad things" is out of a Barney the Dinosaur song, not a university president's news conference. There's something of Blanche Dubois to Shalala's blindspots about the boys.
I'm indebted to one of my readers, superdestroyer, for teaching me a lot about university sports programs. One of the things he often mentions is that in some cases the sports program is financially and in other important ways independent of its university. When people complain about how much bigtime sports teams cost universities, the universities will on occasion defend these costs by noting this relative independence.
Yet there's never an absolute independence from the university that shelters your program. In all sorts of ways, there are significant costs, both financial and reputational, in having a money and game losing, or behaviorally questionable, or -- in the case of the University of Miami -- criminally thuggish football program. (Football and basketball are almost always the games at issue in discussions of university sports, though lately lacrosse has to be added to the mix.)
And of course independence isn't in itself necessarily a good thing. T. Boone Pickens pretty much runs Oklahoma State University and its adjoining neighborhood -- not just its football team -- with his humongo money and his Citizen Kane ways. As it hands over major decisions to a major donor, OSU loses its integrity and looks like the plaything of a rich man.
When the shit hits the fan at big and lucrative university sports programs that are to some extent independent of a university's academic administration, the full reality of presidents who cannot or will not take responsibility presents itself:
... No one should be surprised by the lack of responsibility and propriety Shalala and Florida International president Mitch Maidique showed. That's what university presidents do. They hide behind their cherry wood desks and ivy-covered walls, cashing checks and wielding more power than any group of administrators in college sports, yet they leave accountability to others.
Miss Eli Regrets|
'Yale has declined to comment on the situation. (“That’s unfortunate,” a spokeswoman said, when told that this magazine [The New Yorker] was running a story about [Aleksey] Vayner.)'
That's it, baby!|
If you got it, flaunt it!
'One of the fake universities, "Robertstown University," used a photograph of Blenheim Castle, the birthplace of Winston Churchill and home of the Duke of Marlborough, to depict its campus on a Web site, according to the indictment.'
Guns N Butter:|
On the Frontlines of the
College Admission Wars
Shalala: Cash-cow Protectionist|
Selena Roberts, in the New York Times, is scathing:
“I believe they did something awful, but I want them to continue at the University of Miami,” said Shalala, as if expelling a player was her only option. “It’s time for me to say to the community and to those who have been sending me e-mails that this university will be firm and punish people who do bad things, but it will not throw any student under the bus for instant restoration of our image or our reputation. I will not hang them in a public square.”
It's hard to read a line like: "[W]e are an educational institution and we will act like an educational institution..." Imagine how hard it was for Shalala to say it.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
A Faculty Dedicated to|
The Curriculum as a Whole
"What has gone wrong with the secular university?" asks the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, from a Catholic perspective. He's not, he says, complaining that the secular university isn't Catholic; he's complaining that the secular university isn't a university.
It's a flimsy, fragmented sort of thing, a welter of specialized and unrelated courses which offers students no coherent conception of human nature, history, and culture. Anxiety about tenure moves professors toward conformity with established, specialized disciplines: "[L]ong-term adventurous risk-taking and unfashionable projects tend to go unrewarded, and are therefore increasingly rarely undertaken." Anxiety about grades and a career keep students risk-averse and conformist too.
...[W]hatever pattern of courses is taken by an individual, it is unlikely to be more than a collection of bits and pieces, a specialist’s grasp of this, a semispecialist’s partial understanding of that, an introductory survey of something else. The question of how these bits and pieces might be related to one another, of whether they are or are not parts that contribute to some whole, of what, if anything, it all adds up to, not merely commonly goes unanswered, it almost always goes unasked. And how indeed could it be otherwise when every course, even when introductory, is a course in a specialized discipline taught by a teacher who may be vastly ignorant of everything outside her or his own discipline? Each part of the curriculum is someone’s responsibility, but no one has a responsibility for making the connections between the parts.
He proposes a tripartite curriculum:
One element is mathematical and scientific, extending beyond physics to the chemistry and neurophysiology needed to understand recent discoveries about the brain. Another is historical, situating the history of ideas in their social, political, and economic contexts. And a third consists in linguistic and literary studies. All three have a philosophical component: philosophy of mind and body, the philosophical questions raised by different aspects of our past history, the interpretive and evaluative questions posed by our relationship to other cultures. So the faculty needed to teach this curriculum would consist of mathematicians, physicists, some types of biologists, intellectual, social, and economic historians, teachers of English and of one or two other languages and literatures, anthropologists, and philosophers. But it would be crucial that this should be a faculty dedicated not only to the teaching of their own discipline but also to the curriculum as a whole, a faculty with strong interests in and a worthwhile knowledge of some disciplines not their own, so that they, and not only the students, were able to formulate and pursue rival and alternative answers to the questions that give point and purpose to such a curriculum.
The problem is a circular one. Graduate schools are specialization hothouses producing academics unable to integrate the particularities of their education into a larger intellectual world. Many professors express a weirdly complacent lack of confidence in their ability to understand, much less judge, the work of professors even in somewhat related fields. Institutionally, such professors are loathe to teach courses outside their limited range of expertise; and indeed in many schools there's a low prestige attached to professors who regard themselves to some degree as generalists, and who enjoy taking on new courses that make them stretch. The idea, on the contrary, is more and more intensive cultivation of your modest acreage.
There's no way to get the sort of integrated curriculum MacIntyre's after under current conditions. The structure of training, hiring, and promotion in academia would have to undergo radical reform.
"If you want your work to last, |
to have it read easily by students
and colleagues alike, publish it
UD has written at length on this blog about the baleful book imperative in many humanities departments -- the insistence that only books, not articles, really count. Michael Berube has said in fewer, pithier, words, what UD has said: The book imperative tells us, he notes, that
almost no philosophers deserve tenure in PhD-granting philosophy departments. [Book imperativists are compelled to] think philosophers have poor scholarly standards ... all because they don’t require monographs for tenure.
It looks as though English departments will be the last holdouts in the humanities in this matter, however. Historians, judging from this essay by the editor of the AHA's journal, American Historical Review, are getting the idea:
Many readers have undoubtedly realized what I am only now coming to appreciate: the balance of [university] reading lists is shifting from scholarly monographs to articles. This is particularly true of syllabi for graduate students, who must be trained in the latest scholarship, which is often in article form. But I suspect it is becoming the case for undergraduate courses as well, especially as we begin to dig into the archive of now classic articles that are often well-suited for that level of study.
The writer goes on to note technological shifts that have made articles far more easily accessible than monographs. He then writes:
...Beyond its value as a means of encountering and thus appreciating scholarship of the past, I would suggest that the scholarly article deserves increased esteem for four additional reasons. First, as I've noted, articles are now both accessible and durable in ways that used to be ascribed to monographs and books. If you want your work to last, to have it read easily by students and colleagues alike, publish it in journals. This all may change, of course, once the Google electronic publishing venture comes to fruition: then books may be as available as journal articles are now. But this project is some time off, and how it will ultimately pan out is anyone's guess. Until then, the article rules.
That Y'All and |
Shut Ma Mouthland
Hell's bells, here's a new angle on diploma mills that leaves old UD practically speechless. A state education association has endorsed a political candidate with a diploma mill degree.
'The political arm of the Kentucky Education Association has endorsed a state Senate candidate who received his bachelor's degree from a institution that one federal agency has described as a "diploma mill."
Seems a bad sign that products of the Hardin public schools end up having to buy their college degrees from diploma mills. It's also disquieting that the Kentucky Education Association doesn't know that it doesn't cost anything to find out whether someone graduated from a diploma mill.
ESPN on |
'Larry Coker? Fired.
'Not surprisingly, the ugly brawl in Miami raised concerns among those who keep an eye on the role of college sports in American society. [One observer] said the fact that some commentators had described the Miami violence as “stupidity, and nothing more,” meant that big-time college sports had lost its ability to shock. “It’s gotten to the point where an event like that happens, and you don’t even raise your eyebrows any more,” he said. “When abhorrent things occur again and again and no longer shock, to me that means that you can no longer make a credible case that these are isolated incidents, and that higher education has to confront the debate about whether the system [of big-time college sports] is a good one.”'
---from inside higher ed--
Harvard to Begin Holding|
Exercises in the Yard
It's every administrator's nightmare. There are so many miscreants on the Harvard faculty -- plagiarists in the law school, larcenists and shit poachers in economics -- that the flood threatens to become overwhelming.
In response to looming institutional disaster, as well as to the larger public relations fiasco resulting from Harvard's refusal to discuss its faculty review and punishment with the outside world, Harvard has radically streamlined its procedures, and made public the central element of the punishment process: title-stripping.
All faculty found guilty of misconduct will be handled the same way: Nothing will happen to them unless they hold a named academic title, in which case they will be stripped of it.
Moreover, to placate the public, Harvard will institute a public title-stripping ceremony in Harvard Yard, where people can gather, witness, and record the formal shaming as it takes place.
In an echo of the famed
Alfred Dreyfus ceremony,
Harvard will dress disgraced faculty
in university gowns with special
Harvard epaulets loosely sewn upon
their shoulders. As faculty stand
alone in the emptied yard, crowds
along the edges of the yard will
watch as the university's president
marches up to the faculty member
and solemnly rips each epaulet off
of their shoulders -- an act symbolic
of the stripping of their titles.
The first ceremony, yet to be scheduled, will be a dual affair, featuring the two latest among the title-stripped: Andrei Shleifer and Martin Weitzman. Shleifer's case is well-known; details on Weitzman, from the latest issue of the Crimson, may be found below:
PROF DOGGED BY DUNG IS DEMOTED
Monday, October 16, 2006
An FIU Professor|
Mounts a Defense
"Stanley Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University, in Miami," it says here, so I figured he'd be writing a first-hand account of his football team's rumble the other day with the University of Miami. Instead, his latest piece is about a much less exciting rumble -- the one at Columbia University, where students shut down the speech an anti-immigrant speaker a student group had invited was trying to make.
Fish makes an odd and unconvincing argument, in which virtually all invited speakers at universities represent a theatrical rather than intellectual phenomenon: Fish himself is, like Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, the anti-immigration guy, and I guess just about anyone else, a "spectacle" rather than a lecturer or a polemicist or a discussant on a serious topic.
Just as you don’t want your rock concert to end in the destruction of property or the injury of spectators (although you do want a little unruliness; it belongs to the genre), so you don’t want the provoked energies of those present at a campus spectacle to break up either the program or the furniture. After all, tomorrow is another day and a new act will be coming to town (on October 10th it was I), and it won’t come if the university gets the reputation of assembling crowds which it cannot then control.
Given that invited speakers are essentially trained seals or freak shows, the Columbia guy shouldn't have been surprised that things degenerated into Jerry Springeresque squalor. Yes, students hounded him off the stage, but "He has no constitutional right not to be shouted down or hounded off the stage. No government has abridged his freedom of expression." Nor were the students guilty of misconduct, since the event was rigged to excite them, and like Pavlov's dogs they got excited: "[T]he students ... were doing just what they were expected and (in some sense) directed to do..."
The only fault lay with the security guys from the university who were supposed to provide crowd protection....
So in a way Fish does speak to recent events on his campus, especially when he says:
Extracurricular means outside (the Latin extra) the curriculum and therefore outside the protocols and values that govern the classroom. And this means, in turn, that the norms by which extracurricular activities are to be measured belong not to morality or philosophy or constitutional law (all versions of what I call “big think”), but to show business. The question to be asked is not did it further free speech or contribute to a robust democratic culture or provide a genuine educational experience? Rather the questions to be asked are: Did it rock? Was it a blast? Was a good time had by all?
The extracurricular FIU/Miami rumble rocked! Not everyone had a good time, to be sure, but by show biz standards the event was unbeatable: Everybody's talking about it.
Paging Richard Brodhead!|
University of Miami President Donna Shalala writes a shitty letter to her university and to the world, in the aftermath of her football team's third major act of violence on the field.
Shalala needs to consult Duke's president, who may not have done everything right in the wake of his own spectacular and ongoing mess, but who knows how to write an honest and dignified letter.
Here, with parenthetical commentary, is Shalala's:
End of letter. No review of UM's history of violence. No announcement of Shalala's own punishments, new rules, more serious suspensions of certain players, whatever. Nothing. Content of this letter?
2. I'll do what the boys at the ACC tell me to.
Wealthy Persons Making|
Richard Vedder comments:
...[T]he tax advantages donors to Columbia University receive if it succeeds in its new $4 billion fundraising campaign would fund well over 200,000 Pell Grants.
One answer to Vedder's Harvard example is that if Harvard didn't have $1.6 million in endowment for every student, they wouldn't be able to blow off thirty million dollars in federal penalties against one of their economics professors.
The Perfect Storm:|
A Cold River,
A Cold Brew,
'Past midnight, the downtown bars are humming with university students sucking down brews on five-buck unlimited beer night. One patron stumbles outside, twirling around a lamppost. A few tanked-up guys howl and whistle at women.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Saturday Night's Savagery|
As someone who has read more than her share of pious bullshit from University of Miami President Donna Shalala about how wonderful it is for everyone that UM's football lads are getting a great education and serving as role models and all, I'm eager to see how she will handle -- rhetorically and institutionally -- the latest and loudest instance of team thuggery. How many vicious brawls will it take for her to admit that her university's football program is disgusting? Is there even now -- after three recent on-field riots -- a way for her to spin her way out of this?
Here's a reporter who witnessed the events. His remarks drew reader comments, some of which I'll quote after his piece.
Saturday night’s University of Miami game against FIU was the 137th straight I have covered as the Post’s UM beat writer dating back to 1995.
We are in our 60s and sit in the west end zone. My wife was scared and I was both amused and amazed.
Couldn't Be More Proud of Our Boys,|
Says University of Miami Football Coach
...'Punches were eventually thrown by a few players on the field and then the benches on both teams emptied as numerous fights broke out [between the University of Miami and an opponent] all over the field. Every player from both teams [was] on the field, even injured players.
-- via mike -- thanks --
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Beating off to Norman Rockwell|
In The Hopkins English Department
... Richard Halpern, an English professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence (Chicago University, $33), [asks of a Rockwell painting]: What's with that creepy doll on the floor?
Harvard Comes Down on Shleifer
Like a Ton of Bricks!
The latest from the Crimson!
Andrei Shleifer ’82, the prominent Harvard economist who found himself at the center of a rare ethics investigation for his alleged role in defrauding the U.S. government, appears to have been stripped of his endowed title as the Jones Professor of Economics, according to an updated listing in the Harvard directory.
Friday, October 13, 2006
...who, among his other accomplishments, is a Yale Daily News writer, comments on the Aleksey Varner thing from a bullshit-tolerant perspective:
This cultural tolerance of bullshit is hardly a surprise, given the admissions process at a place like Yale. Come on, don't look at me like that. You all remember the days of résumé-padding that led up to your getting that big blue envelope in the mail: helping your friends with their calculus homework became "Volunteer Tutoring"; playing percussion in a school play so you could go to a cast party and flirt with a cute actor made you part of a "High School Orchestra"; maybe you even enrolled at a Community College course because the easy A you'd earn in Intro Psych would count for an extra point in your GPA. Whatever. The point is that a little bending of the truth isn't foreign territory to a lot of students who're trying to get into a competitive university like this one.
Chernicoff describes himself at the conclusion of his article:
David Chernicoff is a Senior in Branford College and also a third-year law student and a candidate for PhD's in Philosophy, History of Art, and Women's and Gender Studies. He is has been the Sterling Professor of Humanities since 1997. He is a trained fighter pilot who has earned every major decoration in the armed forces by serving in every United States military action since his birth in 1984 (including pulling the trigger on the nearest miss of Osama Bin Laden on record). He still has top-level intelligence classification and advises the government on matters of nuclear strategy in between stints as a lion tamer at the wildly popular Cirque du Mond, of which he is co-founder. He speaks 74 languages, including the language of the trees, a skill he picked up under the personal tutelage of a legendary Amazonian shaman. Among his lesser accomplishments are: winning a poker tournament between the Allied and Axis leaders of World War II (including a legendary bluff that Winston Churchhill insisted was the real reason Hitler finally surrendered); developing the Theory of Natural Selection with Charles Darwin while serving as captain of the HMS Beagle; painting Guernica; and preventing a catastrophic meteor collision with Earth in the sixth millenium BC; all of which he achieved via the ingeniously deft use of the time machine he crafted at age five from certain mystical substances he developed through alchemy, one of his many childhood hobbies. Chernicoff is also an expert in the Arts of Love, as shown him by a race of sexual aliens whom he seduced upon their attempted abduction of him during his high school days. Three times has Chernicoff nearly achieved enlightenment through a uniquely-blended style of meditation whose expression in words is impossible-though his anthology of poems on the subject recently outsold the entire Harry Potter series and the Bible combined to become the most lucrative, life-changing book in the history of mankind-and each time he has refused to transcend the earthly realm without first reaching out and teaching each child in the world how to lead a healthy, productive life. He is adored by billions and worshipped by millions, but he's really a down-to-Earth guy … and he'd love to have a cup of coffee and chat some time.
The Importance of Being Andrei|
Scene I, Act III
[For an update on the Andrei Shleifer case, go here. For earlier Acts, go here.]
Committee on Professional Conduct. It pains us very much to have to speak frankly to you, Dean Knowles, about someone with a named chair, but the fact is that we do not approve at all of Andrei's moral character. We suspect him of being untruthful.
Knowles. Untruthful! Our Andrei? Impossible! He is a Harvardian.
CPC. I fear there can be no possible doubt about the matter. He defrauded our government of a good deal of money, in a clear conflict of interest. He attempted to keep whistle blowers from revealing the truth of his operations. He alienated the American and Russian governments, and did damage to Harvard's relations with them. He has never admitted guilt. He is directly responsible for Harvard having to pay the federal government thirty million dollars in penalties.
Dean Knowles. Ahem! After careful consideration I have decided entirely to overlook Andrei's conduct.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Palgrave Macmillan will bring out UD's book, co-authored with Jennifer Green-Lewis, titled Reevaluating Aesthetic Theory in DeLillo, Woolf and Merrill: Pedagogy and the Return of Beauty.
Your Tax Dollars at Work|
'A White House staff member and National Security Agency employees were among 6,000 people who bought bogus online college degrees from a diploma mill, a federal judge has been told.
---thanks to UD's 'thesdan pal,
David, for the link--
Just in Time to Give|
Joyce Carol Oates
A Lesson in True
... Orhan Pamuk has won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
You may recall Pamuk's protracted trial for insulting Turkey by telling the truth about the Armenian genocide.
The charges against Pamuk caused an international outcry and led to questions in some circles about Turkey's proposed entry into the European Union. On 30 November, the European Parliament announced that it would send a delegation of five MEPs, led by Camiel Eurlings, to observe the trial. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn subsequently stated that the Pamuk case would be a "litmus test" of Turkey's commitment to the EU's membership criteria.
Pamuk has been freed. Next stop, Stockholm.
Cruel Use of|
The Princetonian quotes from a College of New Jersey professor's protesting email to Joyce Carol Oates, about her short story, "Landfill" (for details, go here):
"You so flimsily disguised the true College of New Jersey story upon which your fictionalized account is based, and used your imagination so cruelly, that it can only add to the overwhelming pain the [Fiocco] family has already suffered."
This says it beautifully. There is a form of mental cruelty specific to the writer-as-parasite upon the vulnerabilities of human beings, the writer who feeds on those among us who suffer the most atrocious fates, who enjoys imagining -- assumes we enjoy reading -- degradation upon degradation. Such writers will always tell us that they're providing the "dark truths" (to use JCO's words in her defense) of our lives... truths that we of course are afraid to look at, in denial about, etc., etc.
Never let anyone bully you in this way. We all know the difference between fair play and unnecessary roughness.
Oates has issued an apology. This is a distinct improvement over an earlier response, when this arrogant woman, 'in an e-mail sent Wednesday to The Associated Press, ... likened the school's criticism to the reaction of Muslim fundamentalists who issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against Salman Rushdie for his "The Satanic Verses."'
From Today's Harvard Crimson|
[With UD's Bracketed Commentary]
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has concluded its ethics inquiry into allegations that Jones Professor of Economics Andrei Shleifer ’82 defrauded the U.S. government, but neither Shleifer nor FAS officials would say whether the University had punished the renowned economist. [Um, did the committee conclude that Shleifer defrauded the U.S. government? This would have some bearing on whether it punished the renowned economist. Perhaps the Crimson reporter is holding onto this information until later in the piece... Let us read on... ]
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
From an Opinion Piece in|
Today's New York Times
The academy responds to the demands of disciplines and faculty. It is a culture that cherishes independence and freedom. And it is a culture seriously out of touch with much of America.
Out of touch with much of America? What could be more American than comic books? The academy's problem is that it's way too much in touch with America.
Kevin Barrett Offered Place|
on University of Georgia
A university instructor who came under scrutiny for arguing that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks likens President Bush to Adolf Hitler in an essay his students are being required to buy for his course.
From a UGA Fan
UGA has the worst graduating rate for major-sports athletes in the SEC and among the worst rates nationally among the 319 Division I schools. Those low graduation rates for the football and basketball teams mean Georgia is recruiting ballplayers from among the poorest scholastic achievers in high school.
How to Make |
Come up to her after class and say: "Would you read this short story I just wrote? No rush... It's just that I can't get anything but 'This is good... This is good...' from the peer readers in my Creative Writing class. I want useful criticism of this thing, so I can really make it better, and the way you tear into short stories in class... well, I think you're what I'm looking for..."
UD has already begun reading the story. It's very good. But there's plenty of room for improvement. My red pen's been slashing through unsavory adjectives...
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma..."|
... wrote Winston Churchill, and he might have been talking about Aleksey Vayner, son of Mother Russia, and currently a senior at Yale University.
Everyone's trying to unwrap Aleksey.
Known to classmates in his early campus days as the "Crazy Prefrosh," Vayner makes Jay Gatsby look all the way down authentic. Ivygate, a blog about Ivy League universities, calls this master deceiver "the next Kaavya."
That'd be Kaavya Niswanathan, the lovely Harvard plagiarist ... but while Kaavya and Aleksey share good looks, they seem to me to differ in levels of cynicism and dementia.
Kaavya after all was a freshman, and her novel, plagiarized from many sources, seems to have been engineered as much by editors looking for a diversity babe as by poor Kaavya herself. Aleksey on the other hand is a senior -- even a bit older than a senior, because he apparently flunked out of Yale for awhile -- and he's very much the author of his own much more extensive bullshit.
Aleksey's bullshit is as extensive as the Siberian tundra. To picture its reach, imagine you're Doctor Zhivago, and you and Lara are in that sleigh galloping across the Siberian tundra. You'd have to gallop for forty days and forty nights to cover as much bullshit as Aleksey has covered.
To put it in terms that might be easier for an American to understand: You'd have to lay twenty Godzillatrons side by side on the University of Texas football field to begin to comprehend the extent of Aleksey's bullshit.
His dossier includes a fake charity he claimed to run, and absurdly grandiose claims about himself and his physical strength, courageous adventures, and miracle medical skills. But his breakthrough came with a video resume he sent to a bunch of New York banks which was full of lies so outrageous that, as the New York Sun reports, his "cover letter, resume, and video bounced from bank to bank in New York — from Bain and Company to the Blackstone Group to the Boston Consulting Group to Lehman Brothers and onward," becoming a source of laughter all over the banking community:
Thousands of Ivy Leaguers circulate their resumes each year to New York's investment banks, but few garner as much attention as Aleksey Vayner, who last week submitted an 11-page resume and video to UBS's human resources department.
Un p'tit peu of commentary:
One: Say what you will, the guy is the perfect Yale applicant. Everything he creates about himself is exactly what universities like Yale are looking for: geographical distribution; international background; fascinating extracurricular activities; jocksmanship as well as intellectuality; self-confidence supreme... In an admittedly naive and over-reactive sense, Alexey is responding to market pressures.
Two: Again, say what you will, but the guy is in some sense the perfect New York money job candidate. Remember Sherman McCoy's insider description of one of these places in Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities:
How these sons of the great universities, these legatees of Jefferson, Emerson, Thoreau, William James, Frederick Jackson Turner, William Lyons Phelps, Samuel Flagg Bemis, and the other three-name giants of American scholarship - how these inheritors of the lux and the veritas now flocked to Wall Street and to the bond trading room of Pierce & Pierce! How the stories circulated on every campus! If you weren't making $250,000 a year within five years, then you were either grossly stupid or grossly lazy. That was the word. By age thirty, $500,000 - and that sum had the taint of the mediocre. By age forty you were either making a million a year or you were too timid and incompetent. Make it now! That motto burned in every heart, like myocarditis. ... Masters of the Universe!
In this context, isn't the insane arrogance of Aleksey's cover letter understandable?
UBS’s reputation as one of the top investment management firms in the world motivates me to consider a career with your firm. The fast-paced environment and focus on results and excellence that define UBS would be an ideal place for me in terms of both personality and skills.
How different is this, really, from the sort of writing UD'd be producing if she'd done better during her short involvement with Trump University?
'Why is Aleksey Vayner at Yale University?!' ask the writers at Ivygate, with all the passionate intensity of youth.
I hope I have begun to unravel that mysterious riddling enigma.
--many thanks to tim,
for the vayner alert--
Ne Quittez Pas|
Off to White Flint Mall, ISO a more professional personal appearance. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.
On my return (as soon as humanly possible), I'll offer a post titled
THINGS PEOPLE WRITE
THAT UPSET OTHER PEOPLE.
I have no idea why bold, italics, and other such marks aren't working on Blogger this morning. Maybe they'll be up and running on my return.
UD settles into the EZ Recliner nihilism of Joyce Carol Oates short stories only when teaching The American Short Story. It little profiteth UD to be told that life is shit and then you die.
UD used to think her students might be up for this sort of thing, but they too are past the point where what Saul Bellow called Alienation, Inc. rings their bells.
Nonetheless, Oates is a major American short story writer, and if you're teaching the course, she's got to be there.
A recent story of hers, in the New Yorker, has upset people at the College of New Jersey (Oates lives in New Jersey). The Chronicle of Higher Ed recounts:
Joyce Carol Oates, a prolific writer who teaches at Princeton University, is drawing criticism for a new short story whose plot bears an uncanny resemblance to a tragedy that played out on a neighboring campus, the College of New Jersey, earlier this year. According to The Times, a newspaper in Trenton, N.J., Ms. Oates said the short story, “Landfill,” was influenced by the strange case of John A. Fiocco Jr., a College of New Jersey freshman who disappeared in March and turned up dead a month later in a Pennsylvania landfill.
The story (feast your eyes) is indeed a pretty unembellished retelling of this latest of many alcoholic deaths on American campuses. The College of New Jersey incident is distinguished from others like it only by the extreme degradation of its trashbins and landfills, and these details no doubt inspired Oates, most of whose oeuvre is a testimonial to Samuel Beckett.
Just as the parents' lawsuit against the college will fail (if you could successfully sue schools when undergraduates died of alcohol poisoning, all schools except Harvard, whose thirty billion dollar endowment would keep it afloat for awhile, would have to close), so the understandable unhappiness of people at the college in the face of this gruesome theft (it stops being theft when you transform it into art) will go nowhere. Oates has issued her lame apologia about the dark side of undergraduate life; the story's been printed.
But it's worth pointing out what a very bad story it is. It has no point whatsoever. Its narrator revels in every sordid soupcon. Its prose is without style.
Next morning when Scoot woke up, groggy and dazed, with a pounding headache, a taste of vomit in his mouth, and dried vomit all down his front, he’d had to admit with the cruel clarity of stone-cold sobriety: They left me here on my back to puke and choke and die, the fuckers. His friends! His fraternity brothers-to-be! And he thought, Never again. Not ever. Meaning he’d de-pledge Phi Ep, and he’d stop drinking. But, somehow, the next weekend he’d come trailing back, couldn’t stay away. These guys are his friends, his only friends.
Plodding, voyeuristic, thematically lifeless (the diversity thing is tossed in and forgotten, part of the tasteless salad of this tasteless tale), "Landfill" trashes the dead boy whose death it tells in order to titillate us.
Monday, October 09, 2006
'In the multimedia presentation “Game Day and God: Football, Faith, and Politics in the American South," Eric Bain-Selbo, chair of Religion and Philosophy at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, will focus on the fans’ experience at major college football games throughout the South. He subjects the sights and sounds of the spectacle that is Southern college football to a multidisciplinary investigation that sheds light on the sacred dimensions and religious functions of the game day experience -- an experience shared by other fans throughout the country but also one that has a distinctive Southern flavor.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
A Few More Scraps|
From the ACTA Roundtable......
...which, if you haven't been following this, is the discussion on the future of the university, held at Harvard's faculty club, from which UD just returned.
The rest of my posts about the event -- all of them live-blogged -- are just below the brief post immediately after this one, about the University of Georgia. Scroll past that and you're there.
Oh, and if you've been sent here by Inside Higher Ed, welcome. Feel free to look around.
A certain vagueness of purpose, and a certain internal conflict, presented itself at the meeting. This is a group primarily composed of trustees and alumni who care about things like serious core curricula and high standards for faculty teaching and conduct. The group attempts in a variety of ways (having a greater voice on boards of trustees; publicizing faculty misconduct, etc.) to influence universities in the direction of greater intellectual and moral rigor, as well as greater intellectual diversity.
Yet to an outsider (moi-meme), it wasn't always clear where the main intent lay. There was lots of beating up on faculty for caring only about what President Trachtenberg called "the eternal superego of their disciplinary peers," rather than about doing their share of teaching, and being willing to teach core courses, and this is fair enough. But there was an absence of faculty in the audience, and I felt throughout that some ACTA speakers were demonizing us in a rather silly way, as when the head of the organization went on about Ward Churchill and called him "so typical." He's not at all typical, and it's a distraction from what matters to fuss overmuch with him and Annie Sprinkle and the 9/11 deniers.
Sure, blogs and organizations like ACTA should rail against these idiocies; and they've done so to great effect. They'll continue to do so with each eruption.
But, for instance, it seems to me it'd be a better use of ACTA's time to invite some truly typical faculty members at American universities to discuss -- maybe to defend -- the complex ethos by which many of them live. This is not as irresponsible, selfish, and madcap an ethos as some at ACTA believe (though there's plenty wrong with it), and it'd be helpful for the organization to gain some nuance about it.
As for the internal conflict: As is often the case at conservative gatherings, there was a libertarian/conservative split at this one, with Dershowitz believing, as does UD, in what he called "ism-equity" on the issue of campus speakers. "The university must be neutral" in regard to invited speakers; it must be willing to pay for security when controversial people appear, and it should never reject any speaker invited by a duly constituted campus group (although I can imagine extreme circumstances in which a university would be within its rights to put intense pressure on student groups to change their minds about this or that monster). Speech codes should function in fact to keep university administrators from acting arbitrarily in the matter of punishment; in principle, such codes should never be used. "We need speech codes to prohibit the punishment of students. We need speech codes precisely to deny discretion to administrators."
But this laissez-faire attitude was in the minority at this gathering; though they protest the left-liberal aspect of many speech codes, many in the audience, I suspect, want speech codes rejiggered in favor of right-conservative points of view. The question is whether they're willing to condemn (it was a question asked in his talk by John Wilson, of collegefreedom.org) places like Patrick Henry College when they purge faculty whose speech is insufficiently fundamentalist.
Mark Bauerlein, a skinny stooped Ichabod Crane, also went after the tenurati, wondering why "one of the most pampered, protected, elite groups" in our country shows "so much conformity, timidity, and bullying." He thinks it has to do with the way we're "socialized," but regular readers know that UD has a different take.
I think that by and large the people who are attracted to academia were born nerdy and frightened and then generally overparented to within an inch of their lives. The rare toughies you see among academics often represent post-nerd triumphs inside the nerd asylum. The bespectacled friendless slob who discovered in himself a genius for economic theory and now reigns as uber-nerd at MIT is never going to be a bold nonconformist. He will wield power in a very small setting, and his bullying will be revenge for his years being bullied because he was a nerd.
People don't start being bold non-conformists once they get tenure if being a bold non-conformist was never in the most tenuous sense an option for them.... And think about it. What sort of person is going to be attracted to one of the few jobs in America that grants you lifetime job security in the form of academic tenure? As to the risk in going up for tenure itself -- the overwhelming number of people who go up for tenure in the United States get it. At some schools, the rate is around 95%.
Of course there are exceptions to what UD is describing here. Most of them are in the hard sciences.
A few pleasurable linguistic moments:
-- Someone used the phrase "seminal probe."
-- Trachtenberg talked of his ideas for change at GW "perishing in live burial." I think this a very beautiful phrase, and wonder if it comes from a poem.
Trachtenberg's accent is a delight, as when he talks about how trying to work with faculty is "doowanting...the word is doowanting."
-- I was convinced the very old Harvard hand sitting next to me wouldn't know the word "blog," let alone its meaning, but because he asked why I was taking notes, I told him I'm a blogger. "Great blog stuff, eh?" he said after one particularly adamant speaker. "Oh, I know all about blogs. My grandchildren all have them."
-- Jack Ackerly, a trustee at U. Va., is the compleat Southern gentleman, with another rich accent. "Ah don't want to convey the impression that we're doing everathang raght and everyone else is doing everathang wrong... Ma fraternity's not in biznus eny moah because we had a sex scandal every ten yeahs...."
Saturday, October 07, 2006
The University of Georgia Burnishes Its|
"Worst University in America" Credentials
University of Georgia President Michael Adams says the school will continue to accept some student athletes who do not meet admission requirements despite an NCAA report that shows poor graduation rates for men's basketball and football teams.
Nine percent! UD thanks Nancy, a reader.
Friday, October 06, 2006
A Few More Notes |
From the Roundtable
Should have added to that list of obligations to one's university the administrative side, which can involve working on formulating a new honors course in art, chairing awards committees, applying for faculty/student research money from the university and then working with the awardees on their projects (to take a few examples from the sort of thing UD's doing lately), and many other non-teaching and non-research activities....
Back to the roundtable, which I should say at this point, now that it's over, was terrific -- I learned a great deal about, well, university governance, as well as free speech issues, trustee responsibilities, and curricular debates. I was impressed by the whole thing -- ACTA put on a great conference. They even happily fed me when I showed up for lunch inexcusably late, having fled back to my hotel to do some blogging for most of the lunch hour.
It did get weird at points, though. Into this rather stuffy crowd, for instance, stepped a professor from Hamilton College who gave a very loud speech which kept getting louder and louder... and more obscene. He read from the way graphic work of naughty Annie Sprinkle, whose guest appearance at his college, though it happened rather a long time ago, still infuriates him. This speaker, and Candace de Russy, and Allan Dershowitz, took, UD thought, quite the wrong rhetorical and emotional approach to the event. They were hot, while the setting and subject seem to me to have called for cold.
Like the professor from Hamilton, Dershowitz got all dirty in his talk, showing us a blown-up cartoon of himself masturbating over some dead Arab bodies... the work of one of his enemies... Although he's a very smart person, he's also, like de Russy, an ideologue; he's vulgar and narcissistic and insistent about his issues. He thinks his vile endless fights with an ideologue on the other side of some divide or other are representative of the way things are in academia these days, whereas they're only representative of what happens when you put two foolish people together and let them scream at each other.
More Stream o' Consc.|
Justin Pope, higher ed reporter, introduces President Trachtenberg with some more put-down-of-other-Ivy-League locales lameness... Something about Princeton and boozing...
Soon-to-be-ex President Trachtenberg begins by saying that during his presidency he held his tongue, but now that he's almost free, here it goes.
"Working with the faculty was my greatest challenge over the decades at GW. And while many of them are lovely people..." Lovely people. You know major shit's gonna hit. "Faculty have a substantial weight in the governance of the institution," but they don't know anything about governance, for one thing, and for another the faculty senate is dominated forever by people profoundly phobic about change of any kind. "Tenured faculty are actually managers who should see themselves as part of the university's mission... But most know little or nothing about university administration... Worse, far too many don't appear too interested in knowing more than they do [cue UD!]... I got a blank stare... a glazed look... impenetrable surfaces come over their eyes..." when he tried to talk to them -- us --about governance...
Hm. I wonder what we're thinking when we look at him that way. I can't speak for others, but I find my thoughts drifting to the enormous salary and benefits many university presidents earn. I find myself thinking that it seems a reasonable exchange that faculty get paid somewhat modestly, but on the other hand are left alone to think about higher things and to have a relatively unburdened affective life; in particular, not getting themselves into the lifelong irritable states that university deans and presidents get themselves into.
Trachtenberg suggests making all new faculty take university governance courses. But I don't want to learn university governance. Trachtenberg says that as part of what he wonderfully calls the "tenurati," I'm actually a "manager" relative to the institution. The hell I am. I see myself as part of the university's mission in that I teach as well as I can at the university, and I try to contribute, through what I write, to knowledge in general and to the university's well-being in particular.
Instablogging from the ACTA Roundtable...|
...on the future of university education... This is gonna be stream o'consc...
There's an undeniable ick aspect to all such public, Ivy-located, well-heeled events -- they all involve some degree of snobbery, self-promotion... They tend to be, like this one, overwhelmingly male, sixtyish, white, wealthy...
The Harvard Club, which I've walked by a million times but never til now entered, is your standard well-tended New Orleans house of pleasure, with brooding maroon walls and curtaining so dark you wouldn't know it's a gloriously sunny autumn afternoon out there...
Martin Peretz begins things with a rambling autobiographical nothing sort of address full of uhs. Some of what he says draws the insider laughter that's another unpleasant element of this sort of event... Indeed, there's a parochial, Harvardcentric feel to much of the day so far (this is the lunch break, and I'm racing through this to get back by 1:30, so apologies for typos, etc.)... Peretz says he can't even understand Harvard's course descriptions in political science, let alone the course content they designate... he's full of contempt for Rational Choice but doesn't say why... Prefers Irrational Constraint? ... Yet another unpleasant aspect of such parochial gatherings -- Peretz and others make lame jokes at the expense of Princeton and Yale... In the interests of full disclosure, I must say that Mr UD, a Harvard grad, does this on occasion too, and it's... so lame. Peretz mentions the Minuteman dustup at Columbia, and this is indeed fair game, but he doesn't do much with it... or rather he tries to do too much with it, calling the idiots in the audience who shouted down a conservative speaker "ideological thugs." Ends by saying "These have been rambling remarks," which was the only on-point remark he made.
After that, genial Harry Lewis is a relief -- he gets right to the point: "I wanna talk about the curriculum." Harvard's, that is. He thinks the latest report from the committee on that gives grounds for hope... But he reiterates the argument of his book (about which I've already blogged) that the consumerist model of student happiness combined with a bunch of highly specialized researchers who don't care much about teaching has killed the general core. Like Stephen Trachtenberg, president of UD's own George Washington University, who will speak later, Lewis dumps on faculty: "Professors are cut off from reality... They only care about the impression they make on the small number of peer faculty in their discipline across the country... No real institutional loyalty..."
Young Ross Douthat is next - he has a pleasantly modest demeanor -- he's pale, with a scruffy beard and thinning scraggly hair, so you expect a British accent, but he's one of us. A very well-spoken lad, he offers a list of things that are wrong with elite institutions -- consumerism, again, and a kind of bland corporate attitude on the part of presidents that it's important just to "keep the money flowing" rather than take stands and shake things up. He argues that despite a certain surface diversity, most elite universities continue to be sustainers of existing elites rather than creators of new ones.
Stephen Thernstrom's next -- the very model of an academic: comes to the podium clutching crinkly papers; wears a way-tweedy suit, has wispy gray hair... a Daniel Moynihan hat... looks like Carl Sandberg! As he speaks, comes across as a snob and a crank... though I like the way he pronounces ad hoc ODD HOKE. Complains that "female faculty members" constituted the true source of evil against Larry Summers; and the way he says female makes me think he thinks we're animals... which is kind of exciting in a perverse way...
In comments and questions, the Summers case dominates, which rather bores me... Old news, parochial story... Things indeed get more and more gossipy, with Peretz inanely starting to name names of people who undid his buddy Larry and then saying "Oh no... I guess I shouldn't name names..." [My tablemate, a profoundly well-connected Harvard person, whispers this to me: "Summers was descended from one too many economists. The genes went haywire!"]
Second Session: Who knew? I didn't. Do you think I read conference schedules? It's the president of GW. John Silber was supposed to be here but he slipped and fell and broke his arm. Trachtenberg is smart, funny, has a tres Jewish shtick which I enjoy. ... Ay yay yay... I'm running out of time on this computer, and I wouldn't mind getting a bite to eat... Later...
Thursday, October 05, 2006
"Is that all you're bringing?"
Mr UD just asked the classic UD's-taking-a-trip question.
I pack light.
The morning is cool, windy, and overcast.
I've stepped from the Metro platform into a Red Line train in the direction of Union Station. I'll go to a ticket machine there and hope a Boston train's leaving pretty soon. Then I'll go to another machine to withdraw some cash. Must remember to keep my receipts!
The Metro car is full but silent. An extremely civil transportation system, this one, with well-dressed people tending to laptops and newspapers.
...Wow! That's something new. As we sped in the dark from Metro Center to Gallery Place, a film appeared out the righthand windows! How do they do that? Vast posters lining the tunnel walls? You fly by and it's like those picture books whose pages you flip to make their images move...
The flashing figures were an advertisment for Target. A strange sort of ad. No content; only a series of variations on red circles, each variation cartwheeling along against the black rectangles of the windows.
In A Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet black Target ad.
We've paused at Wilmington. The overcast's over; it's sunny as all get-out, with thin clouds, under which the city looks toylike.
Christ, the Quiet Car is a tomb. A few rows behind me, the loud, wise-cracking ticket-taker sprawls unconscious. Everyone's half-asleep as we slide along...
Is there a word for the annoyance you feel when none of the annoyances you anticipate arises? Plenty of Quiet Car seats; funereal hush; all stops on-time...
We're in Philly.
"Be careful getting the luggage down. Don't want to hit that lady in the head," says a woman to her husband as he stands athwart UD. She smiles at me as she says this.
"If you hit me, I couldn't even cry out," says UD. "Quiet Car."
Boston, Massachusetts. Early evening if you want to be pretty about it. Height of rush hour would be another description. Big Dig mess. Still, a lovely dusky night in the big city.
The Future of Universities|
I'm on my way out the door to take a train up to Cambridge for a roundtable on the future of the American university. I'll be blogging from there.
Fiddling While Tome Burns|
A British house is madly burning copies of a book it just published about the ancient art of playing the violin at funerals. Turns out the author made it all up.
In 208 pages [the author] told how the Guild of Funerary Violinists – motto Nullus Funus Sine Fidula (No Funeral Without A Fiddle) - had been established in 1580, received a Royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth 1, flourished under practitioners like George Babcotte and Herr Hieronymous Gratchenfleiss, and was almost wiped out by the "great funerary purges of the 1830’s and 40s."
That was the Daily Mail. The New York Times is also sawing away, featuring the hoax on the first page of its arts section.
Database searches for the Guild of Funerary Violinists produced few results, among them Mr. Kriwaczek’s Web site, a MySpace page and a deleted Wikipedia entry on the topic.
The American publisher, Overlook, having overlooked the obvious, will brazen it out and publish the book anyway. It'll make good money as a hoax.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
The Globe is Wonderful...|
...and full of many amazing things, including one Professor Hall at the University of Florida, who, for at least one class session, lost it. Times being what they are, he was filmed losing it.
He has now lost his job. Here's a description, from Inside Higher Ed, of what he does in the video (I haven't seen it):
A video of a lecture shows an obviously gleeful Hall, clad in a polo shirt and perched on the edge of stage, in front of a student audience. His musings seem thoughtful as he demystifies ancient texts by comparing them to modern ideas.
Couple of things. I saw my share of bizarre teaching as an undergrad and a graduate student, but it was always in a minor key: The professor was clearly depressed that day, or hung over or something. But I went to school in Chicago. In sunny Florida, bizarre teaching seems to take the form of extreme happiness.
More seriously, it matters whether this behavior was a one-shot deal, or whether this guy is a career hebephrenic. He seems to have won teaching awards, etc. Certainly take him out of the classroom for awhile; but if the behavior was atypical, give the guy another chance.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
As Long As We're Talking About|
The Trouble with Diversity...
...it turns out that the wonderful play, Spinning Into Butter, which satirizes diversity-think at an American college, has been made into a film, to be released this year.
The fact that persons get a tax break for gifts that actually serve a private goal (getting a child into Elite U) raises some questions, but that is part of a broader issue of whether we should even allow tax deductions for gifts to [the] country club-like elite havens that are today's top private universities, gifts that widen the divide between the rich and merely moderately affluent public flagship universities. Why should we subsidize colleges who have as a major institutional principle the DENIAL of admission of many generally bright and worthy students?
I think Vedder's right that the highly sought after universities who sell admission to the children of extremely wealthy people should make this policy public. (Those universities which, like Brown, will ease up on the demand for money if the family's degree of celebrity is extremely high should also make this generally known.) Beyond the matter of hypocrisy, which Vedder notes, there's a clear financial advantage to universities willing to do this. The more extremely wealthy people, from all over the world, who know about the extreme wealth policy, the more competition among this cohort there will be, and the higher the bids they will make against one another.
Jay Mathews, in the Washington Post, reviews what sounds like a somewhat cutesy book giving college students advice on getting A's.
The authors apparently acknowledge that in these grade-inflated times, showing up is pretty much the ticket; yet they also note that some universities are enacting grade-deflation policies.
Mathews highlights what he found particularly good advice. For instance, the authors mention something I've mentioned on this blog too: If a course feels all wrong -- the professor is terribly dull, or adores PowerPoint, or just wants to show you her favorite movies -- drop it right away. (Yes, the course that asks you to watch movies may be an easy A. But you'll hate yourself in the morning.) In many cases, a glance at Rate My Professors will be all you need to avoid or drop a particularly rancid course.
Much of the book's advice can indeed be reduced, though, to Show Up. Listen. Take notes. Think about the course content for yourself, and write papers that reflect independent thought.
It's That Good!|
A typical early autumn Sunday,
la vie 'thesdanienne.
UD, Mr. UD, and UD's sister take
a fifteen minute ride to Great Falls,
First stop (click on each photo
to enlarge), food for the rigors
of the hike to come along the
C & O Canal, and over the raging
waters of the Potomac River.
We choose a restaurant in downtown
Potomac, which greets us with a sign
that says it all: It's that good.
Mad kayakers tumble down the rapids while
crowds of onlookers stand at the Maryland
and Virginia river overlooks. As is often
the case, our threesome is the only group
of people here speaking English.
Mr. UD (all in black, head of the line) joins
a group of other ordinary citizens to help the
historically-accurately-dressed canal keepers
(who arrive in historically accurate Dodge pickups)
close (or open - I can't remember) one of the canal locks.
After our walk on the wild side,
we return to our mum-infested
houselet in Garrett Park.
Update on Ohio University Shocker!|
Nobody, but nobody at Ohio University had any idea there was so much legal trouble on their football and basketball teams until a nice reporter added up all the recent player and coach misbehavior and told them about it in a newspaper article.
It was quite a shocker! OU's athletic director is staggered by " the current situation in which we find ourselves today," as he reviews the seventeen recent arrests racked up by the lads and one of their leaders... a number which, if you want to be competitive about it, puts Duke's to shame.
New policies with real teeth in them are on the way, so you won't be seeing this sort of thing anymore.
Monday, October 02, 2006
A Sucker's Game|
New York Times sports writer Selena Roberts scores.
True, it was a reputed cupcake course. But as an English major at Rutgers University, the honors student Robert Andersen couldn’t just curl up with Chaucer or Twain. The guy needed a science credit.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
I'm Not Sure the Book|
The Trouble With Diversity...
...is so necessary (to use the language the book's author uses to describe the woman in his life, in dedicating the book to her... And why did UD's skin crawl at this dedication?... 'To My Wife: So Necessary.'...? Because it puts rather unfair pressure on the poor thing? Is she so necessary that if she keels over from a heart attack he'll expire on top of her because there's no sense going on? The author's So Necessary seems to boast that the rest of us, who find our mates right as rain, to be sure, but not perhaps SO necessary as the author finds his, can never attain this... this liebestod ...) as to justify a major book event about it on the wonderful group blog, The Valve. But they've gathered an intriguing bunch of articles by Michaels, and by commentators on his work (UD's one of them), and it's worth a look.
University Diaries Has Been...|
...missing in action, as Oso of Slaves of Academe put it to me in an email. My niece suggested this and that, and now I'm able to get the thing to open. If you're still having trouble, let me know.
Insert Coin Here|
Weirdly disembodied opinion piece by the president of the University of Pennsylvania in the Washington Post today. It's a contorted effort to defend her university's continued use of 'early admissions' even as other universities, recognizing how unfair and demoralizing early admissions is, are dropping it.
Penn's president dismisses early admissions as a trivial internecine debate among universities; it's a policy, she claims, which makes little difference in real numbers of students admitted. But this is clearly incorrect. Plenty of rich students with insider information about the admissions game apply via early admissions and get in to places like Penn, destroying the chances of impressive but less informed and poorer lower and middle class students. These students simply can't afford to play the early admissions game, since they typically have to wait until all admissions offers are in to see about what sort of financial aid they've been offered, and therefore can't lock in to early admissions deals the way rich students, fully able to pay for themselves wherever they go to school, can.
The flagrant unfairness of early admissions is the reason so many schools similar to Penn are, one after another, getting rid of it.
Not only that. Early admissions is one of many symbolically potent, discouraging elements of the prestige-university admissions game -- a profoundly money-advantaged procedure in general, whose most scandalous elements are described in the much-talked about recent book, The Price of Admission.
Pious blahblah about democracy ("American democracy," Penn's president intones, "can flourish and our economy remain competitive on a global stage only if we offer the highest-quality education to the most talented children from all socioeconomic backgrounds.") in the context of a rigged upper-class admissions game is the sort of hypocrisy guaranteed to make all of us - including very smart students without the kind of counseling, cosseting, and money rich students get - cynical. Indeed this opinion piece can be read as a coded announcement to rich parents that - with Harvard, Princeton, and other prestige schools dropping early admissions - Penn is the place to put their money.