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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)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Worth His Weight in Gold

'As an audiotape spread on the Internet, Alabama coach Nick Saban acknowledged Wednesday using a phrase considered derogatory to Cajuns but said he doesn't condone such language and merely was repeating something a friend told him.

Saban, a former LSU and Miami Dolphins coach, used an ethnic slur Jan. 3 while telling Florida reporters in Tuscaloosa an anecdote about an LSU fan's angry reaction to his hiring.

When asked about the LSU fans' reaction, Saban related a phone call from a friend on the LSU board of trustees, whom he did not name. In what seemed to be an attempt at humor, Saban told of the friend's encounter with an LSU fan, who speaks in a Cajun dialect.

"He was walking down the street yesterday before the Sugar Bowl," Saban said on the taped comments. "He calls me. There was a guy working in the ditch, one of those coonass guys that talk funny."'

Wonder what he'll call the Bammers when he ditches them...
Part Three:
UD Discovers She Loves To Teach

Tony Grafton, in a comment about my In Her Latter-Days UD Discovers She Loves to Teach series, talks about teaching's "immense rewards." One's love of teaching obviously lies in those rewards, yet it's hard to talk about them without sounding sappy or grandiose or self-serving.

Or presumptuous. My literature class rewards may share nothing with your astronomy class rewards. Maybe we both experience the I'm successfully conveying information and ideas and even a sort of intellectual ethos to a number of the people sitting in front of me reward, and that's a biggie. But there's more.

For me, it has to do with being given glimpses of unguarded humanity. Students tend to be blithely, surpassingly, curious. Their faces as I lecture on (to take an example from today's teaching) James Joyce's story, "The Dead" are open and avid; you can see their brains churning ... Some of them, I can tell, are preparing to challenge my interpretations ("Why are we dumping on Gabriel Conroy's after-dinner speech?" asked one. "It's a model of its kind."); others are scanning a page of the story for examples of figures of speech to add to those I've mentioned; yet others simply gaze at me in a relaxed, pensive way.

This last group can be very quiet, class after class, just looking and listening. When, eventually, one of them, from the back row, raises a tentative hand and comes out with something rather profound, it's an enormous pleasure.

This is unguarded, unencumbered humanity, learning its way more deeply into life. I get to be present at the birth of some of this learning. At least that's how it sometimes feels. And that feeling is a spectacular reward.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Here's Another Clear Thinker...

...on university matters. (I'll do a little prose-dusting for him here and there because I can't help it.) It's from an opinion piece in the Oregon Statesman Journal, about the proposed education budget for the state's public university system:

Oregon has proven itself a state where a significant number of its residents apparently do not value higher education for themselves or their offspring and are therefore not disposed to support it. It may be a working class mentality, it may be a negative reaction to academia ("Eggheads") [Fine, eggheads. But why capitalized, and why stuck in a parenthesis?], it may be due to a lack of vision among the general population about the difference higher education can make in a person's job and career prospects. Whatever the reason or reasons [just go with "reasons"], the disposition of so many Oregonians not to advocate for the support of higher education in Oregon is probably why so many of the current members of the Legislature are dragging their feet on the governor's proposed budget. In fact, it has been reported that a number of them view the proposed increases as unrealistic and unsustainable. We may have to settle for a low [national] ranking and give up on trying to keep up with the "Joneses" [Drop the quotation marks.]. The alternative for those who espouse the increases being to move to a state where research on the subject discloses more support and a higher ranking! [Number of problems here: "Espouses" is the wrong word. "Support" would be better. Then when you get into the "being to..." formulation it's just awkward -- you end up with a sentence fragment. Rewrite more simply: "Supporters of tax increases should move to a state..." And drop the exclamation point!!]

What's also got me talking to myself [Nice folksy transition.] is the question of salaries for all the administrators at institutions like the University of Oregon. I found it impossible to determine Dave Frohnmayer's salary or the salary of anyone working directly for him or in a teaching or other support position at his school. Using the Internet by way of every search engine I could put to the task, I was frustrated in my effort to find out what he and they are paid. I even called Frohmayer's office and got nothing but a run around...

If the salary secrecy is true, it's pretty surprising. Public employees' salaries are usually public, aren't they?

Anyway, the man speaks a basic truth: The taxpayers of certain states - Florida, Alabama, and apparently Oregon - don't care much about higher education. Their legislatures tend to mirror this.
"Flem Snopes is running Tuscaloosa."

Here's a man after UD's own heart -- a literate and witty columnist in Mississippi who knows how to think about Saban and Alabama:

There is a reason that you pay attention to serious fiction writers. Sometimes they are ahead of the curve and like John on the Isle of Patmos, where he penned Revelation, they warn us in poetic and dramatic ways of ills to come. Mississippi, last in almost everything to do with money, is pretty much first in the written word and one William Faulkner saw this thing coming. In a number of novels he talked of the Snopes clan, a greedy breed of rapacious and oveweening- gain- at- all -cost folks come to power after the civil war. In Faulkner's imagination, they were the ones who would do anything to win, fairness and honor be especially damned.

Flem Snopes is running Tuscaloosa.
"He says no.
You talk to him."

'Gov. Sarah Palin has asked Jim Hayes [scroll down to "92 Counts..."] to resign his post as a member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents. It’s a request that Hayes reportedly declined.

Palin’s Chief of Staff Mike Tibbles spoke with Hayes on the telephone late last week and asked him to step down, according to Sharon Leighow, the governor’s deputy press secretary. Hayes denied that request, Leighow said.

“That was followed up by a phone call by Gov. Sarah Palin herself who requested Regent Hayes step down, and again, it was my understanding, that he said no,” she said.

[This one's shaping up to be a real embarrassment for Alaska, which has had its share of embarrassments lately.]

... The governor, who appoints regents to the 11-member board, does not have the power to remove Hayes. Only the Legislature can do that, with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses.'

[The article ends with a bunch of stuff about the hapless legislature, which'll never pull itself together to vote on this, let alone get a majority vote.]

---fairbanks daily news-miner---

Monday, January 29, 2007

UD's Latter-Day
Love of Teaching

Second Part

Gradually, over a number of years, I noticed that teaching was more and more often a pleasure. I'd walk back to my office, after a discussion of some novel or short story or poem, buzzing. My extremities tingled. My brain sparkled. I replayed in my head funny or challenging things students had said.

Students weren't abstractions now; they were intellectually and emotionally receptive people whom I found moving.

Part of it I think was simply that I got older -- far enough away from my students that their intensities were at once familiar, an occasion of wistfulness, and objectively fascinating. I could see with some clarity what preoccupied them, and how the literature we read played into those preoccupations. But I could also see them breaking away from their preoccupations, engrossed in the selfless pleasure of aesthetic experience and analysis; and I knew that when this happened I was witnessing actual, real-time education.

Part of it was my own growing clarity about the books and the range of ideas I loved. I saw that I offered a modernist sensibility - a delight in complex and beautiful language, an admiration for the philosophical seriousness of this sort of literature, a conviction that difficulty was a hallmark of valuable art and thought.

And of course part of it was practice. I'd been at this for a couple of decades; it was time I began to figure out how to do it.
How UD, Late in the Day,
Came to Love Teaching

Part The First

I began like most Ph.D.'s, tossed in front of podiums with no training. I seem to recall having been a teaching assistant in a seminar (on William Blake?), but I don't think I learned anything from it.

I'm grateful for that thrownness-into-teaching. Most forms of teacher training are stupid and degrading. They convey bogus information, and they make you self-conscious about what you're doing.

I never disliked teaching, but like a lot of academics I thought of myself as a writer and researcher first, a teacher second. As everyone knows, the rewards in most of academia lie in publishing. Virtually none involve teaching. Showing too much facility and pleasure in the teaching line can cost you tenure.

If I were a student paying a lot of money for my degree and serious about my studies, I'd be insulted to realize that the largest incentive offered my professors by the university was less and less teaching, less and less need to deal with students in any way. I'd be irritated that some of my professors' most profound emotions through their teaching careers -- fear, envy, pride, disdain -- revolved around their and their colleagues' teaching loads.

How often have I heard a professor say of a recent high-profile appointment at some university And she only has to teach two courses a year...

Nirvana, for many professors, at least at research universities, is never having to teach.

Although everything in the ethos of the professors' world I'd entered taught me to loathe teaching, to regard it as a kind of embarrassment, I never did. As I say, I never even disliked it.

I was, in my first years, rather nervous before each class - could feel my heart beating. I'd rifle through my notes, fingers atremble. The students were abstractions to me, a set of challenges to overcome: get their attention, deal with distracting behavior, impress the following five points upon them... Still, the teaching thing was okay. I'd grown up in a noisy happy house full of verbal types, so standing there talking away was fine... Yet I never loved it. The occasional class session when everything hummed along was of course exhilarating. But that was occasional.

I came to understand why, no matter what they say about it, many professors detest teaching.

It's hard. Each class, if you take the business of teaching at all seriously, represents a significant and somewhat draining emotional experience. You've got to be up for every fifty minute or so session - to be alert, responsive, provocative, substantive. You've got to deal with a number of dispiriting possibilities: no response from students, hostility from them, indifference to your subject matter (your subject matter may mean an enormous amount to you, making it hurtful to confront indifference to it), a lack of comprehension, an unwillingness to try to comprehend, and so forth.

Somehow you have to evolve the ability and the energy to create a focused and reflective group of people two or three times a week, a group of people who (if you're a literature professor) have willingly read a challenging novel or set of poems, and have something to say about them. A group of people who intuit after awhile the nature and value of the approach to literature you're proposing throughout the semester, and who question it intelligently. There will be resistance to this, or there will be disappointing levels of knowledge and competence.

Because you really put yourself out there, and because a bad class session can end with your feeling both aggrieved and exhausted, teaching is humbling. From humbling it can tumble down to humiliating.

The larger your self-importance -- university professors are notorious for a certain anxious, unsteady self-regard -- the more you're liable to hate teaching. The professional world venerates you. The pishers in Room 12 C think you bite the big one. MacArthur says you're a genius. Miss Nose Ring blows you off as a jerk...
This Just In

Student evaluations suck.

--inside higher ed--
Tis Better to Have Been Human and Lost
Than Never to Have Been Human at All

'...At a Scrabble tournament in Toronto, a piece of software called Quackle triumphed in a best-of-five series over David Boys, a computer programmer who won the world Scrabble championship in 1995. The open-source program's chief designers include Jason Katz-Brown, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also happens to be one of the top-ranked Scrabble players in the world.

Quackle's win did not come easily. Mr. Boys leapt out to a quick lead against the software, winning the first two games thanks to words like "pithead" and "redyeing." But the computer program roared back and took the final three tilts, making a couple of outstanding plays -- like "deviating," placed through two disconnected I's that were already on the board -- that even top-level human players would be hard-pressed to spot.

Quackle earned the right to play Mr. Boys by edging out another Scrabble-playing program, Maven, in a series of games against expert human players. (Quackle finished the Toronto Computer vs. Human Showdown, as the event was called, with a gaudy 32-4 record, while Maven could only muster a 30-6 showing.)

Mr. Boys seemed to have no trouble keeping a sense of perspective after the loss: "It's still better to be a human than to be a computer," he said....'

--chronicle of higher ed--

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Scathing Online Schoolmarm...

...admires the extended use of metaphor in this excerpted Louisville Courier-Journal article. The author is Rick Bozich. A nice piece of writing.

The beast needs to eat. It always needs to eat.

There are expectations to meet. A stadium to expand. Championships to chase. TV viewers to entertain. College football poll voters to impress. A state rivalry to control.

The beast needs to eat. It always needs to eat. Sometimes it eats things that could embarrass the beast. Sometimes it eats things that make me wonder if the beast considers itself bulletproof. [All these choppy, choppy little sentences... Usually, of course, this is a bad idea. But there's a primitive something about the whole beast thing that seems appropriate for this me-Tarzan approach...]

It appears that Willie Williams is going to enroll at the University of Louisville and help the Cardinals chase a national title next fall. He is a linebacker who can run like Reggie Bush, hit like Brian Urlacher, fly like Superman. He can feed the beast.

He is also a linebacker who symbolizes good tackling skills will always be more important than good citizen skills in big-time football. You take a guy who can outrun a halfback, even if he has trouble outrunning the law. ["Outrun a halfback...outrunning the law." Clever.]

Williams enrolled at the University of Miami in 2004 with a record that included a reported 11 arrests, including a felony charge of setting off three fire extinguishers during a recruiting visit to Florida as well as a misdemeanor battery charge for hugging a woman without her consent. [Funny stuff, and the writer knows enough to leave it alone and simply report. The message that this dude is seriously fucked comes through all by itself.]

Williams played one uninspiring season for the Hurricanes. Word is he left Miami because of playing time issues. There have not been more arrests.

There were reports he would enroll elsewhere. Never happened. Tennessee reportedly balked. As did West Virginia. Other Top 20 programs balked, too.

So Williams spent last season at a Los Angeles-area junior college. Now, after a recruiting visit here last weekend, he appears prepared to bring his 6-foot-3, 235-pound body to U of L.

It makes you wonder if the Cardinals are taking this idea of becoming the next Miami in the Big East Conference too far. [His readers don't need elaboration of the reference to Miami, and UD's readers shouldn't either. Less is more.]

U of L wouldn’t consider hiring a coach or a dean with this guy’s resume. That would be embarrassing. This should be embarrassing. Williams will be a storyline wherever the Cards go. [What would blogs like mine do without recruits like Williams?]

Bryant Northern was booted from the basketball program with a shorter rap sheet. But Northern wasn’t the prospect Williams is. Standards are different if you can feed the beast.

This will be sold as a story of redemption, another Father Flanagan moment. Everybody deserves a second chance. Some deserve a dozen - especially if they run the 40-yard dash in a time that makes pro scouts hyperventilate. [This is absolutely wonderful. Father Flanagan is a marvelous touch.]

...This is a risky walk across a high wire. Some guys reward schools for taking chances. Some fall -- and flatten coaches, administrations and teams on the way down.

Ohio State took Maurice Clarett - and won before things got ugly. But remember what renegades did to Miami, Oklahoma and Colorado.

It happens a lot in football, a sport where an Illinois judge just cleared Tank Johnson, a Bears lineman with a rap sheet, to travel to the Super Bowl, a sport where the Bengals’ 2006 season imploded to the sound of police sirens.

But the beast has to eat. Now, it’s going to eat at Louisville. [Brings his theme to a nice, neat end. Well done.]


92 Counts of Theft
Against a Member of
The University's
Finance Committee

A University of Alaska regent (his term doesn't expire until 2011) on that group's finance committee has been indicted on massive conspiracy, theft, and money laundering charges by the federal government.

He's not just on the finance committee. The University of Alaska Fairbanks student newspaper points out that he's also "chair of the Human Resources Committee, and he's one of two regents who gets a voice on the state committee that deals with student loans and financial aid."

This crony appointment, a gift to the university from Sen. Bridge-to-Nowhere Ted Stevens, used federal money intended for the poor to pay for his kid's wedding reception, his credit card debt, and a plasma-screen tv.

As longtime readers know, UD always turns up, in stories like these, two other purchases: a Cadillac Escalade, and a gated condo overlooking a golf course. UD awaits their mention.

When you add to this story the fact that this person is a church pastor, things begin to look seriously over-written. Any editor working on this would by now have eliminated at least the plasma tv, and at most the man of god thing. But it's all true.

Just as true is the man's refusal so far to resign, and the inability of the university to get rid of him. Only Alaska's slothful, corrupt legislature can do that. It's got until 2011.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Project

Madame and Monsieur UD are off to Boonsboro, Maryland, in search of a guy there who builds Japanese teahouses. They may want one of these, or they may want (UD has only just learned this phrase) a meditation hut. They're not sure.

What they are sure of is that they want to build, high on the hill behind their house, a place to read and write and think and look at the view.

If the thing actually does get built, meditation will be spotty for awhile as indignant desert birds and other angry wildlife skulks about.
Lax Reflux

UD has watched with some surprise as the momentary lax of the parameters story (here's the earlier post on it) has been picked up by more and more papers, this morning attaining the highest circle of the parameters, the New York Times.

UD had dismissed this story as too boony for the bigtime, and had only posted about it herself because the chair of the board of trustees at the seminary in question described the school's hiring a woman to teach theology to men as a "momentary lax of the parameters."

During the lax, they'd put her on a tenure track. Post-lax, they recalled that she was biblically constrained from teaching men, for lo ye shall not put a woman afore ye.

This sort of university item only makes it from heartland pastures to the NYTimes because it is a freak show. To be sure, the story confirms the existence of illiterate fundamentalists in our richly varied higher ed establishment; but beyond this it has no news value or social significance. It's making the media rounds because laughing at what hayseeds do, and at how hayseeds talk, is fun.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

UD's Ghostly Presence

UD appears in this George Washington University newspaper article about grade inflation rather vaguely (the bit where I'm identified as an English professor and given a first and last name doesn't appear) and makes a few comments about grade inflation.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"It Isn't Going to Change, Folks,"

...says folksy Frank Deford in Sports Illustrated. "We love our college sports," and always will, so there's no point protesting athletic programs that impoverish universities morally, financially and intellectually.

The only thing to do is "be honest" about the fact that revenue sports in colleges "have nothing whatsoever to do with education." Bigtime sports should be "removed from colleges' athletic departments and placed in their own new Department of Entertainment."

It's a strange argument, with a strange sort of hopelessness/nonchalance attached... It inspires in UD all sorts of existential questions. We love our college sports. But when is college sports college sports? What's "college" about college sports if we can happily imagine college sports completely uncoupled from any college? The players and coaches in the self-sustaining Department of Entertainment have nothing to do with the college: the athletes aren't students, and the coaches no longer pretend to be university staff. The Entertainment people inhabit a playground physically attached to the college, but there's nothing "college" about them.

So there's nothing really "college" about the bigtime college sports we love. Is there? Beyond mascots and songs and shit?

And if all of this is true (and this is certainly, as Deford points out, the way the revenue college sports story's evolving -- toward more and more professionalism and autonomy, and toward having nothing in common - in terms of salary or ethos or whatever- with any college or university), why not have local professional or semi-professional teams impersonate college teams for colleges? They'd come to play in your stadium, and they'd wear your uniform and you'd do your cheers and all; and they'd play against the team that's impersonating your rival that day.

Or you could take it the other way. You could designate certain ex-colleges Centers of Entertainment (instead of Centers of Excellence)... You could take, say, Oklahoma State and transform it into a collection of sports teams. All students would be players, and all faculty would be coaches and support staff.

However you swing it, the implication of Deford's argument is the disappearance of revenue football and basketball from universities.
Founded by Quakers

'Three Guilford College football players face assault and ethnic intimidation charges following an on-campus attack on three Palestinian students, authorities said.

...[Three students] were beaten with fists, feet and brass knuckles in an attack early Saturday involving at least 15 members of the school's football team, according to court documents. The attackers called the Palestinians "terrorists" and used racial slurs during the attack.

School officials believe a total of about 12 people were physically involved in the altercation ...

The attack is believed to have happened early Saturday morning... Authorities have charged [three students]... with ethnic intimidation and assault and battery, the News & Record of Greensboro reported Tuesday. They were released Monday on $2,000 bond. The men were listed on the school's Web site as members of the football team.

... Guilford [is] a school in Greensboro [North Carolina] founded by Quakers....

"It was the most horrific experience of my life," [one student] told the News & Record on Tuesday. "This was a horrible, unprovoked hate crime."

[He] said he was diagnosed with a concussion and had trouble walking on his own for several days after the attack...'

--news 14 carolina--

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wanting to be Liked

Vaguely depressing essay, by a politics professor, about what it's like to teach at Georgetown University. It's in the Georgetown student newspaper.

Among the things she says, there's this:

I’ll wager that students don’t realize how seriously most of us profs take those student evaluations.

Administrators surely do, and they weigh them in decisions regarding salaries and promotions. Second to grading papers, these can be the least pleasant experience in teaching. We all want excellent evaluations because we want to think we are good at what we do — and we want students to like us.
Professor Shleifer:
Still Paying Dividends for Harvard

'Reactions to Putin’s regime vary, but they form a certain pattern, falling within a given range. At one end of the spectrum, there is virtually unconditional endorsement of the Russia that is now emerging. The leading exponent of this view, the economist Andrei Shleifer, helped – not coincidentally – to lay the foundations of the new order, working in Moscow as one of the drafters of Yeltsin’s privatisations, and beneficiaries of the proceeds. Project director of the Harvard Institute for International Development, financed by the US government to promote ‘economic reform in support of open markets’ in the former USSR, he was prosecuted by the Justice Department on his return to the US for criminal conduct – cashing in on his insider position for investment purposes. Harvard had to pay $26.5 million, and Shleifer and his wife $3.5 million to settle the charges against him. This was the scandal that led to the downfall of his patron Larry Summers, who as Clinton’s deputy secretary of the Treasury set up the Harvard project, and was then implicated in the pay-out, as president of the university.'

Perry Anderson, London Review of Books
Snapshots from Home

Mr UD Will be Interviewed...

...on Iraq, on this NBC affiliate in Baltimore. Not sure when it'll run. I'll let you know.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Snapshots from Home:
Linguistic Ambiguity

So Mr UD and I are at the Sackler Museum on the Mall, and we're surrounded by a big group of teenagers plus three priests who seem to be in charge of them... I notice some of the teenagers are wearing red hats with NEBRASKANS FOR LIFE sewed on them in white script, and I say to Mr UD: "Isn't that nice? You know how states like Nebraska are experiencing a population drain? These kids are already proclaiming their intention to stay!"

Mr UD looked hard at UD and laughed. "Didn't you notice the priests? Don't you know tomorrow's the March for Life?"

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Humongous Dessert Plate
for Minnesota Students

Nicely written opinion piece by Nicholas Maxwell, a University of Minnesota student who notices that the university is a touch over budget on the stadium (it'll cost forty million more than originally announced, bringing the sum close to three hundred million -- though I suppose with this and that the amount could go higher).

As with Rutgers and Oregon and Alabama, Maxwell notices that the, well, university part of the university is being bled dry while the administration spends "$288.5 million dollars to build a facility that will be used to play football during a grand total of six Saturday afternoons a year."

Maxwell concludes:

[A]n on-campus stadium at this point, after recent tuition increases and budget cuts of historic proportions, is a dessert menu item that should have been financed 100 percent with private money. Students should not be paying for it, taxpayers should not be paying for it and the University should not be ordering dessert when it can't afford to pay for the main course.
It's snowing!

Coming down pretty hard, too... where's the damn digital camera...
The Cadillac of Universities

People joke about how some American campuses are on their way to becoming football teams only, the entire academic apparatus of the school falling away.

This article, about Rutgers, gives us a glimpse into this process at a developmental midpoint. Excerpts:

Rutgers University gave hefty raises this season to football coach Greg Schiano's inner circle, with one assistant getting a bump of nearly $30,000, according to a review of employment contracts.

Most of Schiano's six-figure coaching assistants got double-digit raises even as the university reeled under state budget cuts that forced the elimination of 825 jobs.

Salaries for nine coaches now range between $115,000 and $185,000, according to the contracts obtained by The Record under the state's Open Public Records Act. Each also gets a $7,200 annual car stipend and an additional one month's pay -- a bonus for getting the Scarlet Knights into the Texas Bowl.

The contracts for 2006-07 were signed in the fall as the team embarked on its most successful season, one that saw the once-downtrodden program crack the national rankings for the first time in 30 years.

At the same time, the rest of the university was suffering from nearly $80 million in state aid cuts that resulted in the job cuts and cancellation of at least 459 course sections. Athletic Director Robert E. Mulcahy III also announced plans to cut six high-performing Olympic sports that cost a combined $800,000.

But football was spared the pain. As much as $3 million from the university was pumped into the $13 million football budget this season.

Mulcahy said he hoped that increased revenues from ticket sales would close the gap and allow the program to be self-supporting as early as next season. Experts say it generally takes consistent winning seasons for programs to begin to turn a profit.

Mulcahy said season-ticket sales for next season's home games already have doubled to 23,000 and sellouts are anticipated. When asked about possible expansion of the 41,500-seat stadium in Piscataway, Mulcahy said: "We have to look at all options. I'm a businessman."

Schiano will be paid more than $1.13 million for 2006-07 as a series of bonuses has kicked in for milestones in the team's winning season. The coach's contract, which runs through 2012, also provides him with a Cadillac Escalade.

The contract may be renegotiated upward, however, after the team's celebrated 11-2 season. Schiano, 40, won several national coaching awards, sparking interest from other teams. The charismatic coach has also snagged some of the nation's top recruits for next year.

"I am going to treat him fairly, given all the great interest in him,'' Mulcahy said, when asked whether Schiano will get a better contract.

... Elsewhere in the university, raises averaged between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent, said spokesman Greg Trevor. President Richard McCormick, who makes $525,000 per year, did not accept a raise this year, nor did most other members of his Cabinet, said Trevor. Mulcahy said his salary was frozen as well.

Martin Amis Answers His Mail

Excerpts from his answers to emails sent to The Independent:

The phrase "horrorism", which you invented to describe 9/11, is unintentionally hilarious. Have you got any more?

Yes, I have. Here's a good one (though I can hardly claim it as my own): the phrase is "fuck off".

How do you think you might have ended up spending your working life if your father hadn't been a famous writer?

Well, that would depend on what my father had chosen to do instead. If he had been a postman, then I would have been a postman. If he had been a travel agent, then I would have been a travel agent. Do you get the idea?
Funny Stuff.

A list of the country's worst colleges. With commentary.

The authors quote from an amazing Cornell University (Worst Ivy) course description:

"Post-National Gastroidentities. We will attempt to answer the question of how food, cuisine, and gastronomy play an important part both in the strategies to instrument normalcy through the imagination of the modern Nation-State, and the ways in which discourses affirming nation, race, ethnicity, hospitality, the universality of humanity, interact with each other fragmenting the national gastronomic field and undermining the unpolluted self-understanding of the modern Nation-State."

Can this be real?
Spot the Professor

At the Carter klatch, a reporter finds a professor. UD's proud to say he's a colleague of hers:

If the Carter Conference is like a reunion for former federal officials, journalists and academics, then Leo Ribuffo is the unpopular kid sulking in the corner.

The George Washington University professor, who participated in a roundtable discussion on Carter's legacy Friday, strayed from the party line about how wonderful and historic the conference is, comparing it to a high school reunion.

"We're going to hear two days of fond memories, which is understandable, but as scholars, I think we should look at things with a certain level of detachment," he said.

The self-described "unreconstructed McGovernite" returned to the theme after former Vice President Walter Mondale attacked Vice President Dick Cheney for giving President Bush false information and bad advice after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"I remind you that there will be a conference like this one day about Bush, and indeed a positive one about Cheney," Ribuffo said.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

English As She is Spoke

A woman has been fired from the tenure track at a Southern Baptist university because women can't teach men.

[A trustee said] that Dr. Klouda's [original] hiring as a professor in the school of theology ... represented a "momentary lax of the parameters."

---dallas morning news---
Classic UGA Lede

'Finally, the University of Georgia will get press for something other than football, alcohol or fraternity misbehavior when the Carter Conference begins this Friday.'

Red and Black, University of Georgia newpaper.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Don's Life

Mary Beard is a Cambridge classics professor, and the classics editor at the Times Literary Supplement. She and I have engaged lately in a bit of MBA (Mutual Blog Admiration). She found me first, but I've now been reading her blog, A Don's Life , and enjoying it mightily. I'll add it to my blogroll when I finally get around to adding various other blogs (Ferule and Fescue, I haven't forgotten you!) to it.

Beard writes much like UD (On her recent trip to Egypt: "If you venture deep inside the find that the inner chamber smells very strongly of piss."). But she occasionally reminds UD that Beard's in England, not America, land of generous heating systems ("I realise that my blog may give the impression that a don’s life largely consists of whirlwind tours to exotic foreign locations. But most of what I do is infinitely more humdrum, and much less blog-worthy. Right now, it involves putting on my fingerless mittens and 'checking references' in the Classics Faculty Library, whose heat has been firmly turned off until the beginning of January."). They differ in other ways, too, as in UD's indifference to alcohol, and Beard's interest in it ("After a day’s stint in the library, honestly, I need a stiff drink.")

But they both enjoy writing about universities, and their lives in them.

'The truly rich schools can and should simply end tuition for all. Harvard, Yale and Princeton, for example, all earn at least $75,000 in endowment income for every student, including graduate and professional students. With other private gifts and government grants, total non-tuition income per student far exceeds $100,000. This is several times the national average spending per student. If Berea College, Coopers Union and the service academies can be tuition free, so can Harvard, Yale and Princeton. The reason they are not is that these schools do not want to engage in a modest amount of belt-tightening that such policies would entail, and do not want to end the explosion in the salaries of their most prominent faculty and administrators that has gone on in recent years. Rent-seeking behavior trumps access issues or the national interest.'

Richard Vedder, College Affordability
Snapshots from Home

Went to the GW bookstore yesterday for a copy of The Portable James Joyce.

"Here are your free gifts," said the checkout clerk.

I got an emery board and a bumper sticker warning people about uterine cancer.
Universities: The Grecian Formula

There's violence in Athens as beneficiaries of a sclerotic state-controlled university system hurl bombs to head off the introduction of private universities.

Private universities? Private universities? Who the hell does that?

...Students and academics claim that bowing to market pressures and ending the state monopoly on tertiary education will lower the standard of education for all and further divert resources from chronically underfunded state universities.

Opponents — who include left-wing opposition parties and labor unions — also fear that additional numbers of university students will reduce the value of state degrees and create a two-tier system.

You can't lower the Greek standard of tertiary education. It's already the lowest in Europe.

You wouldn't want more people educated. Additional numbers of students, especially at competitive private schools, would almost certainly reduce the value of state degrees.

Anything would. The value of most of these degrees is nil.

A two-tier system? You mean like in the States, with public and private universities? What if some of the private were better than the public? Shit...
UD, Already Showing
Anti-Athletic Bias...

...scowls while holding
a badminton racket
at a campsite in France,
circa 1960.

[Taken from an ancient glass slide
by UD's technically proficient sister.]

[Click on the image
for a bigger picture.]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

SOS: Scathing Online Schoolmarm:
Dave Frohnmayer Thinks You're Stupid

I've wrestled with my conscience over subjecting this morning's prose from the University of Oregon's president - an opinion piece in response to a faculty piece in the same paper which pointed out that the president's sports-obsession is destroying the school - to SOS scrutiny.

The president's love of sports has taken a toll not merely on his prose style (assuming he, rather than a staff member, wrote the piece) but on his ability to reason. What purpose is served in close analysis of the efforts of such a person to express himself? Isn't it a species of cruelty to play with this person's words, as a cat plays with a mouse?

Yes. Let's go to it.

President Frohnmayer takes a peaceful, non-conflictual approach to the subject:

In my 12 years as president of the University of Oregon, I have watched debates that pit the various elements of higher education against one another.

These debates assume that the success of one comes at the expense of the other - research or teaching, undergraduate education or graduate, in-state students or out of state.

These are false dichotomies.

Equally spurious is the debate that pits athletics against academics. To argue that one must choose academic excellence or athletic excellence is an oversimplification.

These are actually very true dichtomies, as the president knows, or ought to know, and there's no dichotomy more spectacular than that between sport and educational seriousness. I wonder whether Frohnmayer has asked himself why the Congress is bearing down on the NCAA's tax exemptions for university sports activities. Certainly the government understands that the dichotomy not only exists but has become so sharp that little to no discernable educational activity for many of their students exists at more and more big sports schools. Why should taxpayers support highly profitable sports programs that don't educate their athletes?

The president next falls into the saying-it-makes-it-so trap. Just as Donna Shalala thinks that saying her university is a serious academic institution makes it one, so President Frohnmayer thinks that repeating boilerplate from UO public relations materials makes their content true.

Another way of saying this is that President Frohnmayer thinks you're dumb. He figures he doesn't have to make a case for his claims, the way the faculty, in their piece, did (scroll down).

Academic quality is the cornerstone of our identity as a public research university. It is defined in our mission statement, "a community of scholars committed to the highest standards of academic inquiry, learning and service."

Duck athletics is an integral part of this university, and we should demand and expect the same degree of excellence on the athletic field as we do in the classroom.

The relationship between sports and academics is kept in proper perspective by basing every decision related to athletics on the fundamental principle that athletes are students first.

We take great pride in such measures of our academic success as the graduation rates of our student- athletes.

Cornerstone, mission statement, community of scholars, integral part, excellence, athletes are students first, take great pride... This is hollow language.

The president will note, irrelevantly, that the sports program pays for itself...

I mean, not only is it irrelevant to whether it's destroying the university that the sports program pays for itself; stressing this meaningless fact enables the president to avoid taking up the big story everyone's talking about in regard to college sports: The possibility that - precisely because of indifference to educational values and hot aching passion for games among administrations like Frohnmayer's, the government might withdraw education-based tax exemptions.

Final paragraph:

Our mission is to achieve excellence in all areas of the university - the classroom, the laboratory and the athletic field. From Bill Bowerman to our prize-winning faculty to our 19 Rhodes Scholars, the UO legacy for academic and athletic distinction can and will continue side by side.

Side by side we'll stride into the dawn of academic and athletic excellence! Take my hand and go with me there!


Monday, January 15, 2007

Evenings With Mr UD

Course evaluation forms seem to bring out the worst in everyone. Students fill them out indifferently, or don't submit them at all. Departments, conscious that no one likes them, tinker with them, setting up committees that usually produce longer ones, ensuring even lower participation rates.

In-class forms also tend to evolve ever more convoluted and demeaning mandates -- Professors must not give them on the last day of class; they can only give them on the first day of the penultimate week of Whitsuntide... They can't go out at the beginning of the class session... They can't go out at the end of the class session... There's a second evaluation form that has to be handed out, from another academic unit with slightly different interests... Students may only fill the second form out on the eve of the Russian Orthodox Theophany...

The overuse of these forms -- mandating that every professor distribute them in class for every class; making them a big part of hiring and promotion decisions -- encourages grade inflation on the part of professors who know that giving a student an A means getting a great evaluation in return.

The latest absurdity to which universities have been drawn in their determination to make students who don't want to fill out a form fill out a form is the Money Competition. Students are pitted against one another; the student group (undergrads, grad students) with the highest response rate gets, say, five thousand dollars to use on programming stuff. ...

UD sat down with Mr UD, owls hooting in the background, and talked about this whole thing.

"You've got what we in the business call a 'collective action' problem," he said. "These forms are only useful if very high numbers of students fill them out -- ideally, you want one hundred percent participation if you want to yield anything real. Yet there's absolutely no incentive for any one student to fill out a form. Their responses are not going to make any difference to their own lives. They don't see any result from their filling the things out, so they don't bother. They're only one person, after all."

"Hm. If the problem is that students don't see any tangible result of their efforts, why not stage a public execution of the faculty member who gets the worst evaluations each year?"

"That's no incentive. That's only one faculty member. And some students will be so horrified that they'll artificially inflate their evaluations in order to save lives."

"But bribing students to fill them out, the way Harvard's doing... Playing to competition among the 'houses' at Harvard...Won't that tend to degrade the value of the form? Students will be motivated by a desire to beat another house, and to make money, which suggests they won't be giving the actual business of thinking about someone's teaching very much thought... And what happens when you decide, maybe, to stop bribing them? After awhile, you've accustomed students, like Pavlov's dog, to linking course evaluation forms with possible bundles of cash... Take that away, and your response rate will crash..."

"All of that might be so; but short of outright coercion -- forcing students to fill out an online evaluation form before they can see their grades for the semester, say -- I don't see much beyond bribery that's going to get you anywhere... Not that I think the bribery approach will work all that well..."

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Would you like me to describe a charming essay about blogs that just appeared on the New York Times site? Perhaps you'd rather hear about the ... wait... need to find the group term... PARLIAMENT!... of owls that has, the last couple of nights, been hooting like hell in the forest beside our house?

Last week, our neighbor cut down two enormous trees between our houses -- our garden is strewn with woodchips, and, further out on our property, massive logs not yet chipped lie scattered -- and it's my theory that these owls had been living in those trees, and that now they're a bit adrift. In any case, at around nine o'clock in the evening they begin a back and forth of hoots, most of them a litany, but some rising to real anxiety.

Everyone in the house gets very quiet when they start. If it's warm enough, I stick my head outside. The woodchips glimmer in the dark. The owls are very close, as close as the foxes and deer that also live on our hill, and their sound is harsh and intimate, roiled with emotion...

It's bizarre, the wildlife here. I'm not complaining.

The blog thing is by a NYT reporter who likes blogging almost too much -- it brings him much closer to his readers, he notes (he checks his comment thread compulsively), and he finds that he cares a great deal about some of them. The blog is marvelously time-consuming:

Sometimes I wonder whether I care to the point that I neglect other things, like, oh, my job. Tweaking the blog is seductive in a way that a print deadline never is. By the time I am done posting entries, moderating comments and making links, my, has the time flown. I probably should have made some phone calls about next week’s column, but maybe I’ll write about, ah, blogging instead.

He compares blogging to traditional journalism:

There has always been a feedback loop in journalism — letters to the editor, the phone and more recently e-mail messages. But a blog provides feedback through a fire hose. The nice thing about putting out a newspaper was that, at some point, the story was set and the writer got to go home. Now I have become a day trader, jacked in to my computer and trading by the second in my most precious commodity: me. How do they like me now? What about ... now? Hmmmm ... Now?
Twenty Games
One Billion Dollars

'...[I]sn't this a good time to drop football at Minnesota?

Gophers football is ground zero for those who point to an over-emphasis and distortion of college football. It provides a platform for Bruininks to make history and a bold unilateral statement...

Bruininks lobbied for an on-campus football stadium. Now, he faces soaring costs for the $288.5 million facility, while the NFL Vikings are seeking a second stadium that will likely wind up about one mile from the Gophers'. Minnesotans will have the unique privilege of walking 15 minutes between two facilities that will play host to about 20 football games a year at a cost of more than $1 billion...

Bruininks finds himself paying more than $3 million to one coach, Glen Mason, to leave, while needing to pay another coach probably more than $1 million to direct a football program that has shown it can't succeed in the Big Ten.

Bruininks is fending off state legislators who wonder why he's paying millions for sports matters out of one pocket while seeking funding for academic programs for his other pocket. It's all the same pair of maroon-and-gold pants, of course.

Meanwhile, as the Star Tribune reported last fall, academics among the Gophers football team under Mason were at the bottom in the Big Ten, with more at-risk students admitted into the Minnesota program than just about any Big Ten school, and with graduation rates the lowest in the conference, especially among African-American athletes....'

---Jay Weiner, Minneapolis Star Tribune---

Thanks to Bill for the link.
University of Oregon:
Much Worse than Ironic

UD'd already gotten a heads-up, from one of her readers, about high-profile faculty discontent with campus athletics at the University of Oregon, and she was pondering how to post about it, when she found this, in The Oregonian. It's written by two former presidents of the faculty senate, and co-signed by ninety other senior professors. Excerpts:

The recent announcements of a $2 million buyout of the contract of Bill Moos, the university's athletic director, and a $4 million learning center solely for athletes are deeply troubling. ...[W]e find it increasingly hard to tell whether the University of Oregon is an academic research and teaching institution devoted to the education of our state's students, or a minor league training ground for elite athletes. Academic departments struggle to make ends meet because of repeated budget cuts, but the president allows lavish spending by the athletic department. These actions have consequences for our students and faculty, and the university's academic stature.

The hard numbers:

The primary losers are our students. The university provides scholarships to several hundred student-athletes, many of whom do not meet admission requirements, yet we cannot find sufficient financial aid to help Oregon's neediest high school students. The athletic department spent more than $1 million from 2003 to 2005 on recruiting, including $140,000 for a single weekend for 25 football recruits. The same $1 million would pay for 62 talented biology, journalism or art students to attend the university for a year, or 15 students for four years.

Students are affected by poor resource allocation in other ways. Class sizes have grown since 2000 because of a 20 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment, without an equivalent increase in full-time faculty. Students are closed out of classes because there are not enough faculty to teach them. Graduate students, the life-blood of a research university, have dropped by 10 percent since 1970. Instead of hiring new faculty and attracting new graduate students, the university has devoted scarce resources to boosting the number of athletic coaches and staff by 25 percent since 1994.

...The Biology Department today has 20 percent fewer office staff than in 1997, but 20 percent more students. Since 1994 its annual budget has increased by 47 percent, from $2.7 million to $3.96 million, while the athletic department's increased by 224 percent, from $18.5 million to $41.5 million. The average cost to teach a student in the biology department this year is $705; the cost per student-athlete in the athletic department is over $92,000. The head coaches of football and men's basketball together make more than all 30 full-time tenure-track biology professors.

Faculty salaries at UO are the lowest in the American Association of Universities. Ancillary support services for teaching and research are fast disappearing. New and current faculty members are being lured away by other institutions. Many faculty now pay for classroom photocopying, business phone calls, and even students' books. Meanwhile, the athletic department furnishes its offices with leather sofas, pays its coaches multimillion dollar salaries, charters private jets, etc.

Our academic reputation is declining. UO's 2004 four- and five-year graduation rates, at 36.4 percent and 56.7 percent respectively, are significantly below our academic peers and near the bottom of the Pacific-10 Conference. Oregon is the only Pac-10 school to be recently downgraded by the Carnegie Trust from the top to the second tier of national research universities. The 2007 US News and World Report college ratings rank us 120th in the country, the best among Oregon public universities but still mediocre. Our overall graduate program ratings are lower than 20 years ago. It is worse than ironic that our academic rankings are dropping as our football rankings rise.

The over-emphasis on athletics extends even to fundraising. The university's $600 million capital campaign is on target to raise $200 million for athletics (not including possible donations for the planned basketball arena). The Oregonian reports that this percentage for sports in a capital campaign is the highest in the nation -- in fact, more than double the national norm. The university has a responsibility to ask donors to support academics first, before donating to athletics.

Finally, there's the athletic program's generosity:

Many people think athletics makes money for the university, but that is not true. At Notre Dame and Ohio State, the athletic departments gives back more than $10 million every year to education -- but at UO, not a penny. A few years ago the faculty asked the athletic department to add a mere 25 cents to football and basketball tickets, to be earmarked for student scholarships. They refused. We asked that a small percentage of every donation to athletics be earmarked for education. The administration refused. All athletic revenues and gifts go entirely to the athletic budget, which has been growing four times faster than the university's.

Oregon's president has Stage III jocksniffery.

Yet, as with Michael Adams at the University of Georgia, and Robert Bruininks at the University of Minnesota, we must not allow our revulsion at the sight of this condition to avert our eyes from its full horror. We must, like UO's faculty, stare it boldly in the face. Until we stare it down.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Michael Wilbon,
Washington Post

The question now for Alabama is: How quickly will somebody else turn [Saban's] head? Clearly, he likes being courted as much, if not more, than he likes coaching. I'd love to be one of the good Southeastern Conference schools -- say, Florida, Auburn, Georgia, LSU -- recruiting against Alabama now. I'd make up a big board with all of Saban's lies over the last two years and I'd show the quotes to all those boys' mamas and daddies. I'd hammer at Saban's credibility in every living room across the South. If Saban had simply said, "I'm considering some options and I'm not ready to talk about this until the end of the season," there would be no issue with him. But his handling of the situation will and should dog him indefinitely.

And there's a question of Alabama's sanity, too. Days after the state told the University of Alabama-Birmingham that it couldn't pay its coach nearly a million bucks, the folks who run the Tuscaloosa campus only 55 miles up the road, the one with the state's crown jewel of a football team, were allowed to pay up to $40 million to this fraud?

A law was made not all that long ago here:
Our new releases cannot have one plot.
For there's no legal limit to the length here
In Writealot!

Concision is forbidden to our writers;
At least eleven plotlines must be wrought.
By order, readers linger for an eon
In Writelot.

Writealot! Writealot!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Writealot, Writealot
That's where the profits are.

Your eyes may never close till after sundown.
By morning pains are shooting through your rear.
In short, there's simply not
A novel quite so hot
As seven million trillion pagers here
In Writealot.

Writealot! Writealot!
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Writealot, Writealot,
At least you know the cause.

The tale may never move from off your table.
Our books are merely part of household gear.
In short, what you have bought
Exists to prove you're not
Without the latest hot potato
Here in Writealot.
Another Alabama Letter

'It is really unfortunate and surprising that Gov. Riley has chosen to defend the payment of $4 million by the University of Alabama to the new football coach Nick Saban. His stipulation that the pay will not come from taxpayer money is oversimplification at its worst.

Even the common man on the street knows that such a big expenditure will now force the university to raise its tuition fees, cut scholarships, increase stadium ticket prices and quadruple the lease payments of its stadium concessionaires. Even the donors to the Alabama athletic program will now have to multiply their contributions to offset the pay raise of coach Saban.

Sadly, ordinary students and middle-class ticket holders will be the main victims of such misappropriation of university funds. How about the parents of the students who now have to suffer additional financial burdens by paying more for their children's tuition fees? Are they not Alabama taxpayers?

Such a very big payout also sends a very wrong signal regarding the priorities of the university. It now becomes very apparent that education is no longer the No. 1 priority in the campus. It is also now clear that boosters run the university, instead of academic minds.

It is also perplexing that the university is pleading for more money from the state educational trust funds, but at the same time has the audacity to squander annually $4 million of university funds to gain football prestige. UA is an educational institution, not an NFL franchise.

Mark Esmero

---montgomery advertiser---

Friday, January 12, 2007

An Anonymous Tipster...

...sends the following to UD.

"University of Tulsa head coach Steven Kragthorpe was earning $327k in 2004, $402k in 2005. I don’t know how much in 2006 – that tax return isn’t available on just yet. The university president earned $276k and 264k in those two years. Tulsa is the smallest Division I-A school in the NCAA and this private university has an endowment of around $750 million.

Rice head coach Ken Hatfield was earning $489k in 2004, $425k in 2005. The university president earned $425k and 604k in those two years. Rice is the second-smallest Division I-A school in the NCAA, but this private university has a staggering endowment of over $4 billion.

Then Rice hired University of Tulsa defensive coordinator Todd Graham to replace the retiring (because he was on a long losing streak and they made him) Ken Hatfield. They got a bargain, paying him about $325k per year. After just one year he’s leaving Rice (no great surprise)... to go BACK to Tulsa (what! Why?). For a reported $1.1 million annual salary!

We’ve been looking at the Tulsa tax return... then the Rice tax return... then the Tulsa tax return...and can’t figure out where the money is coming from. Tulsa has less than 1/3 the revenues, less than 1/5 the endowment, fewer students and lower tuition rates. Clearly they really, really love football in Tulsa."

If you think I understand these figures, you must be new around these parts. But I gather there's some intriguing stuff in them.

UD thanks her reader for sending this along.
Anthony Andro, at the Star-Telegram...

...lists some of the things Alabama could buy with the salary of the state's highest paid public employee.
This Just In.

Mike Nifong has asked to be taken off the Duke case.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm...

... can only take her hat off to this English major at the University of Alabama, a woman who can write one mean letter.

Let's see how she does it, in an open letter to the university's president, published in the school newspaper.

Nick Saban, the new head football coach at the University of Alabama, is receiving a salary of $4 million per year, as I'm sure you're aware. You're probably not aware of who I am or how much your University is supposed to be paying me a year. [Starts with the obvious: Massa Saban, as one of UD's readers calls him. Hasn't really said anything nasty yet, but you just know it's coming. Cast your eyes to the letter's last paragraph, where she returns to Saban. She knows how to structure a good essay, giving it a nice rounded feel by invoking the massa at the beginning and at the end.]

My name is Sara Penrod. I am a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. I am a member of the University Honors Program and the Blount Undergraduate Initiative. As a National Merit Finalist, I was offered a full academic scholarship to UA and accepted despite great offers from other colleges. My family has a legacy at this university, and I wanted to continue it. [Simple straightforward unemotional writing. Good way to start. Notice that her sentences will become more complex as she moves along and chronicles the complex screw-ups to which she's been subjected by the university's administrators.]

The bureaucratic idiocy I've had to endure at this university makes me wish I had accepted some other college's offer. [Coming in for the kill here, with the word "idiocy."] Before I even started the fall 2006 semester, I've dealt with administrative mistakes. I understand that mistakes are inevitable, especially at a university the size of UA. The main problem is denial of problems and lack of responsibility. [A basic rule from English Comp 101 being followed nicely here: Always concede stuff at various points in your polemic. Makes you look generous, rational, level-headed.]

During the fall semester, my housing, class registration and even my meal plan were messed up. I made many, many visits to the offices of scholarships, admissions, financial aid, student receivables and dining services. I still lived in a study room in Julia Tutwiler Hall for the first month of the semester and had no working meal plan for the whole semester, despite having the money for all of this taken out of my scholarship money.

This semester, I returned from Christmas vacation to find a notice from the University stating that my spring 2007 registration has been canceled for nonpayment. I never received any prior notification, so I didn't know there was an error that needed to be straightened out.

Now I have been booted out of all of the classes I registered for several months ago. This will set me back for the rest of my undergraduate career; since enrollment is limited, I won't be able to get back in the classes I need and will effectively waste an entire semester. [Now we get to narration. Note that she chronicles her woes calmly, but does not avoid strong language, like "booted out."]

No one on this campus seems to know what the problem is. I once again have talked to people in the offices of Student Receivables, Scholarship and even Admissions. The best I can piece together is the problem, it seems, is that my scholarship has been "lost" again [ The two uses of "is" are awkward. A little rewriting needed.], but no one in your administration seems capable of finding it. [The "your" is very good. Reminds us that this is a letter to the president.] No one will take responsibility for fixing the error, and meanwhile my academic career is being ruined. [Ending the paragraph with the word "ruined" is excellent.]

As I said earlier, you don't know me, and you could probably care less. I'm just one more campus-wide ID number. [This late in the game, she can let it all out. Her anger is palpable. Fine. I'd, though, have written just "campus ID number," rather than campus-wide.] If I leave in total frustration at this university's unwillingness to deal with errors, it won't matter to you. I'm just collateral damage, as long as you get your 28,000 students by 2010.

[Here comes UD's favorite part!] As long as you have a winning football team to keep the alumni donors happy, you can pay a football coach $4 million a year and not think a thing about "losing" an $8,000-a-year scholarship for one more National Merit Finalist. [See what a gift Massa Saban is? Rhetorically, he's given the university the equivalent of the Elgin Marbles.]

Perhaps the problem is that I've been working under the assumption that the University of Alabama is an institute of higher learning. I appear to have been mistaken. It is a temple for the worship of dead pigskin wrapped around cotton. [Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. Lovely.]

What's one bright, talented National Merit Finalist and honor student, more or less? I see clearly now where this illustrious university's priorities lie.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Letters from Alabama

'The next time someone in Alabama gripes about the educational ranking in the state, let me remind them of hard empirical evidence regarding how highly education is thought of in Alabama.

The recent hiring of Nick Saban by the University of Alabama for a reported $32 million reflects Alabama's commitment to education.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education web site, the average salary of a full professor (the highest academic rank, and hard to get) was $97,800. That means that football at UA is valued 327.2 times more than academics.

And you wonder why we rank last in just about everything?

Henry Barwood

Montgomery Advertiser
State-controlled Universities...

... as Europe's pathetic system tells us, are almost always disasters. Universities need large degrees of autonomy, and public universities in this country, which enjoy varying amounts of taxpayer support, know that they have to monitor their complex relationships with their states in order to retain enough independence to run their schools with integrity.

Researchers need to be left alone to pursue their research in whatever direction it takes them; social critics on the faculty need the freedom to speak and write as they wish; admissions committees need to be allowed to be selective (most government controlled universities have to take pretty much anyone who applies, since governments want to be able to say that anyone who wants to can go to college); faculties need to be able to challenge presidents and trustees, just as presidents and trustees need to be able to challenge faculties; administrations need to be able to make their own budget decisions to a large degree -- to decide that this year they'd like to give a lot of funding to a particularly promising department or initiative, for instance. Hiring committees need to be able to act swiftly and flexibly to take advantage of targets of opportunity, in order to add excellence, diversity, whatever, to their faculties.

Without this combination of independence and flexibility, American universities wouldn't be the envy of the world. Which they are.

One of the reasons this blog has been particularly scathing about what's going on in Minnesota and Alabama is that (as the quotation from James Dunderstadt in the post just below this one suggests) when public universities act stupidly, they put at risk the greatest asset of America's impressive higher education system: its significant independence from state control. When presidents of public universities demonstrate that they don't know what a university is -- when their jocksniffing becomes a crippling disability -- they anger taxpayers and their representatives. They make it clear that they can't be trusted to run a public university, because they don't know what a university is. Even people who love football can do the math; they know their kids are getting dumber, not smarter, by going to football factories.

So as state legislators start circling around the University of Minnesota, introducing legislation all of which has the aim of removing one layer of autonomy after another, remember that the university brought this on itself. It had choices -- about its stadium, about its football and basketball programs -- and it fucked up. It was supposed to be protecting a set of values -- values anathema to or incomprehensible to most state legislators, because they are values peculiar to the peculiar thing we call a university -- which it betrayed; and now control from on high rather than intellectual integrity on the ground is what the students of Minnesota are likely to get.

Look at the news out of Ohio:

'Gov. Ted Strickland wants to make Ohio's chancellor of higher education part of his cabinet, under his direct control. We think it's a plan worth pursuing, given the highly unsatisfactory state of higher education in Ohio. Placing the chancellor directly under the governor's control, Strickland said yesterday, will increase his ability to foster improvements in college graduation and opportunities for getting a college education.

... Strickland's plan to bring the chancellor into his cabinet is unique among the 50 states, according to an Associated Press story citing a Harvard University expert on university leadership searches. The expert, Judith Block McLaughlin, sounded critical of Strickland's idea, noting, ''It's treating education as if it were a state agency and subjecting it to political influence'' which runs counter to the traditional balance between ''accountability to the government'' and ''intellectual independence.'' But what about Ohioans' unmet need for a decent, affordable college education? The Regents don't seem to have a grip on it and could use help.'

To be sure, regents tend to be useless and ridiculous; and no doubt Ohio's rates of graduation and rates of accessibility could be better. But this editorial doesn't see that without intellectually independent universities, Ohio's students won't get decent college educations. They'll get a chancellor micromanaged by the governor and pussywhipped by his athletic directors.
Alabama, and the Nonprofit Status
of Higher Education as a Whole

'[James J.] Duderstadt said that when the flagship university in Alabama, ranked near the bottom in state spending on higher education — the state’s entire budget for need-based aid in 2004-5 was $3.35 million, according to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs — offers a coach $32 million, it sends the wrong message about priorities. (In a nod, perhaps, to perceptions, Saban donated $100,000 this week to a scholarship fund at the university.)

Worse still, Duderstadt said, is the possibility that the enormity of the contract is the last straw for lawmakers looking to take aim at not just the nonprofit status of college sports but of higher education as a whole.'

---inside higher ed---

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Russell Levine, in the New York Sun...

...lists winners and losers of the college bowl season. Here's one of his losers:

Sure, Alabama is all smiles now as it has landed its savior coach, Saban. But Moore should ask Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich what it's like to deal with a coach with a perpetual wandering eye. Saban should be content at Alabama, but what happens if he can't dominate recruiting the way he did at LSU? What if he comes to [the] realization that the program he left behind in Baton Rouge is better than the one he takes over in Tuscaloosa? Will he desire to go elsewhere? Plus, the precedent-setting contract Moore gave Saban is sure to making him a pariah to athletic departments across the sport.
A Letter in Today's
Montgomery Advertiser

We Alabamians can finally say we are No. 1 one in the nation in something -- the highest paid football coach. We not only have one, but two, of the highest paid coaches within the top six in the United States -- Nick Saban at $4 million a year, and Tommy Tuberville at $2.23 million.

But where is Alabama ranked within the nation in health care, the poverty level and public education? Schott's Almanac, 2007, reports Alabama is tied with West Virginia for the fifth highest infant mortality rate in the country. I am a graduate of one of the two schools mentioned above and I am deeply ashamed of the imprudent use of our university funds.

Football in Alabama is no longer a sport, but a religion. The chapel or cathedral is the 80,000-plus-seat stadium where adherents gather during football season. The high priests are the coaches and players. The faithful attendees of this religion also give generously to the athletic fund and fork out top dollar for game tickets.

When will the religious leaders of Alabama and their faithful members see this as a huge moral problem? Where is Christian radio and TV? Where are the social activists who have championed such causes as racial equality or citizens against drunk drivers?

This distorted religion must be challenged. Are we Alabamians morally strong enough to meet and defeat this false god? Only time will tell.

Jim Oliver
Harvard: Top Choice for Heart Attacks

'Minutes after a Harvard Business School (HBS) professor collapsed from a heart attack on the Allston campus last Wednesday, a few well-trained Harvardians swooped to his aid. “Within six or seven minutes there were two doctors, three defibrillators and an emergency medical staff,” said HBS Executive Director of Marketing and Communications David R. Lampe. An Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) officer helped a team including two physicians from the HBS branch of Harvard University Health Services (UHS), a campus security officer, and Mt. Auburn Hospital emergency medical personnel.'

---Noah S. Bloom, The Harvard Crimson---
Frank Deford...

...on National Public Radio this morning, talks about what happened when Birmingham Southern gave up athletic scholarships.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Uh-Oh. Somebody Just Got Wind
of What's Going on at Minnesota.

The Minnesota House Minority Leader is pissed that not only the football, but also the basketball coach at the University of Minnesota are having their mucho big contracts bought out by the university -- which, whatever the university says, means shaking down students, taxpayers, and other innocent victims for all the millions.

'Seifert said he will ask DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina, who heads a higher education budget panel, to investigate the university's contracts with high-paid coaches. He will also ask the university's Board of Regents to examine "golden parachute" packages for coaches more closely and sign off on big hiring or firing moves. Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said she will introduce a bill to ban the university from using any state money - directly or indirectly - to cover buyouts for coaches.'

They're really piling on. Good thing, too. Unlike the University of Alabama, the University of Minnesota is an excellent, serious university. It's disgraceful that it has let itself get into this deep a mess. The university has allowed its athletic department to damage its academic quality and reputation. It has also mismanaged its incredibly expensive stadium. Fire the university's president.
“We’re going to have to borrow some
from the University at this time."

I used to think of Minnesota as one of the more sensible states... nothing like Alabama, for instance. Yet here it is with a new university stadium absolutely hemorrhaging money, plus an athletic department that... okay, wait, lemme see if I can put this sequence of events together...

1. gave its football coach an expensive contract extension last year;

2. fired him yesterday onaccounta he lost a big game;

3. and now (as this post's title, a quote from the University of Minnesota's athletic director, tells us) is draining academic funds to get the money to pay him off.

Making Minnesota look even stupider is the stadium itself -- a temple to the local money gods (GO TCF BANK!) whose cost overruns, in the tens of millions, look likely to go yet higher.

Minnesota students should be aware that they're about to pay a lot more money for a much lousier university.

UD thanks a reader for the link.
Advice to Myles Brand
On Keeping His Hoes in Check

'Good. I am glad they did it. Finally, the NCAA has embarrassed itself at just the right time. The goofy hillbillies running the coaching turnstile at Alabama, in their perpetual effort to find a way to regain lost glory, blinged out their latest coach, Nick Saban (roughly $32M over 8 years), so much that Congress is starting to take notice.

Thank God.

As a professor at several universities with big time athletics programs, I have always been sickened by the way academics has taken a back seat to making money on TV.

I am a Finance Professor, so I love money as much as anyone else. But I also know that money can turn a pastor into a demon, a professor into a pimp, and a university into a sweatshop.

Last year, a lawmaker questioned whether or not corporate interests have turned universities away from their academic mission. In a letter to the congressman, NCAA president Myles Brand wrote that the salaries of college coaches are “commensurate with other highly paid and highly recruited faculty and staff.”

Wow. That was officially, without question, the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

After hearing his “profound” statement, I wanted to say to Dr. Brand “Dude, you have a PhD. Can’t you come up with anything better than THAT?” Brand is definitely not earning his mega salary, as every good pimp knows that solid, two-faced public relations is critical to “keeping your hoes in check”.

OK, I’ll stop being silly. But I can’t help it. The hypocrisy of the NCAA is so daunting that you can only laugh to keep from killing someone. Esteemed academics have turned themselves into laughing stocks, absolute clowns in front of the entire world.

Their quest for riches is not as problematic as the fact that they are simultaneously forced to explain why the athletes should not get a serious cut of the money.

They remind me of the dirty pastor explaining why “the lawud” wants you to give him an extra $500, or Anna Nicole Smith explaining how she truly loved the 90 year old billionaire to whom she was married.

While coaches are continuously fired for not winning games, they are almost never fired for not graduating their players. In fact, a coach with a high graduation rate and low winning percentage is more likely to be fired than one who wins games and doesn’t graduate anyone.

Does this sound like an academic mission to you? Me neither.

As I watch my alma mater (Ohio State) play in the national championship (with 18 corporate sponsors paying millions for their ads) on January 8 (the date chosen so that the event can replace the revenue generated by Monday Night Football), I congratulate both teams (who will receive roughly $18 million dollars each for simply participating).

I will watch the game with anticipation (along with the thousands of people in the stadium who paid hundreds of dollars for their tickets), to see the great Troy Smith (who is not going to be compensated). If this is not a great amateur experience, I don’t know what is.

Ohio State guard T.J. Downing said. "We're the reason this money's coming in. We're the guys out there sacrificing our bodies. We're taking years off our lives out here hitting each other, and we're not being compensated for it."

Given that I once taught at Ohio State, I am proud that my former students have been trained to know when they are being screwed. There is nothing wrong selling a product, but you should at least be consistent and fair in the process.

Professional coaching contracts in an allegedly amateur sports league makes as much sense as The Michael Jackson, R. Kelly Child Sitting Service.

And I’m not buying either one.'

---Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor, Syracuse University---
Pacific Western University... the creme de la creme of diploma mills, the Harvard Yale Princeton of diploma mills, the Ecole Normale Superieure of diploma mills... Its alumni include top federal, state, and local officials, among them the Ohio House minority leader, Joyce Beatty, who will have a great deal to do with improving Ohio's schools.

Bit of a stomach-turner in her recent past: She was awarded an honorary doctorate by a legitimate university, based in part on her having earned a doctorate at Pacific Western...

But it's all sort of a stomach-turner. One of the highest ranking government officials of an important state is a cynical purchaser of a bogus degree. She will now direct her seriousness about academic attainment to the educational benefit of millions of her fellow citizens. Yick.
Pre-Cellphone Pathos

'The two-time Oscar-winner [Hilary Swank], who received the 2,325th star on the [Hollywood Walk of Fame]..., wiped away tears as she looked back on her rags-to-riches rise to fame. "I remember my mom using a roll of quarters to call agents from a pay phone and telling agents they should sign me," she recalled at the dedication ceremony.'
An Embarrassing Stain
in Penn's Annals

'Robb was charged with beating his wife to death, and no matter how the case is resolved, it will forever remain yet another embarrassing stain in the annals of the distinguished Ivy League school.'

Later, that same story...

'So does Penn attract bad eggs, or just suffer the image problem when a rotten one splats on its public face?'

---Philadelphia Inquirer---

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sum Bitch.

"It is, indeed, amazing to contemplate so vast a vacuity. One thinks of the interstellar spaces, of the colossal reaches of the now mythical ether. ...[I]t is impossible for intelligence to flourish in such an atmosphere. Free inquiry is blocked by the idiotic certainties of ignorant men."
UPDATE: University of Pennsylvania Murder Case

Professor Rafael Robb has been charged with murder.
UC San Diego Student Paper:
Vote No on Sports Fee Increase

'The unkind truth is that the sort of vibrant, high-profile athletics program that would transform the campus attitude would cost far more than undergraduates are willing to pony up. At some point, if UCSD is truly dedicated to an athletics program that fully engages the campus community, the school's administrators and faculty will have to bite the bullet and allocate their own funds to the athletic department, which means tough compromises all around. And that will only come about if the ball of financial responsibility is dropped squarely in the court of UCSD's administration and faculty.

It's something of a wonder that UCSD is able to field the variety and quality of teams that it does, given the department's shoestring budget. A "no" vote on the fee referendum - athletics advisers have warned - may mean the death of several UCSD intercollegiate teams. It's a shame that dedicated athletes could be left out in the cold, but the long-term financial health of the athletic department is at stake, and without at least a modicum of support from the other key players on campus, athletics programs will continue to find themselves in the hole.

Somewhat paradoxically, whether you support UCSD athletics or not, a "no" vote on this January's fee referendum is the only choice.'

In other words, we the students are paying as much as we're willing to pay for sports. If faculty and administration would like to take pay cuts and prop the program up with their money, fine. Leave the students alone.
1. Place Self Firmly Behind Spokeswoman.
2. Decline Request for Interview.

'As the case weakened last month, with the victim changing parts of her account and the prosecutor dropping some charges against the three players, Baker declined a request for an interview through a Vanderbilt spokeswoman.'

That would be Houston Baker, who left Duke in a huff and went to Vanderbilt because Duke wouldn't act quickly enough to rid itself of people Baker absolutely knew were guilty of rape.
A Boat on Thorny Waters

'While [University of Florida president] Machen says he'll mention the [NCAA] tax-exempt issue to [Senator] McCain, he doesn't see the Arizona senator - often called a maverick and a fiscal hawk - as a likely proponent of rocking the boat on this thorny issue.'

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Andrew Zimbalist...

...says it all again in today's New York Times. Excerpts:

... Saban had three years remaining on his Dolphins contract at about $4.5 million annually. The Alabama deal will guarantee him $4 million a year for eight years. He can also earn performance bonuses of $800,000 a year in bowl-game bonuses.

Though the full contract details have yet to be reported, based on other Division I-A compensation packages, one can assume that there will also be other bonuses, free use of a car or two, free country-club memberships, a heavily subsidized mortgage, upward of $1 million in severance pay and a handsome pension, among other perquisites.

In short, a university outbid an N.F.L. team for a head coach. But Saban’s record after two years in Miami was an uninspiring 15-17....

...[C]ollege athletics are not supposed to be run according to the rules of the marketplace. They are supposed to be run according to the norms of the university.

Athletic departments should not be able to have it both ways: either they are part of academia and are treated as nonprofit institutions, or they are professional enterprises, whose players are paid a salary and covered by workmen’s compensation, and they pay taxes like other business entities.

Kitsch Champeen

Kitsch is sometimes an elusive category. Here, from Andrew Sullivan's site, is a painting that one of his readers sent, which captures, better than anything else UD's seen lately, kitsch.
Prisoner's Dilemma

Why is it so intriguing to everyone -- UD included -- when a professor murders? And why does it jump from intriguing to absorbing when the professor's at an Ivy League university?

This blog has very selectively covered cases of professors who murder . Every case I thought worth mentioning involved a husband killing his wife, usually because she wanted a divorce, or had recently divorced him.

And here - perhaps - is another one, just like that, at the University of Pennsylvania. The man has been named a "strong suspect," and is expected, soon, to be charged. He's been taken off the teaching roster for the coming semester.

He's an expert in in game theory , a formal way of analyzing human motive and action; and almost certainly, if this man did the deed, commentators will talk about the irony of a highly-placed academic, specializing in strategy, messing up so badly when it came to strategizing his wife's death.... But then, this was, like O.J.'s, a crime of volcanic rage. Whoever did it bashed her head so horribly that he obliterated her face. The police point out that the robbers the faked break-in scene intended to conjure would be peculiar indeed to bother pulverizing this random woman...

Anyway. Maybe our fascination involves the way events like this remind us of the visceral passions that rule many people, regardless of intellectual advancement... Something like that.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Missing Link

'Discerning the link between paying Saban $4 million annually and the NCAA's scholastic directive may require bringing in help from Alabama's academic branches of economics, mathematics and philosophy.'

---richard oliver, my san antonio---
When you're talking about the excellence
of your university, and you can't spell its...'s a problem.

"[T]he commitment to excellence from the university is plain for all to see," writes an Alabama blogger; and, he argues, hiring Nick Saban is somehow part of that.

Throughout the piece, he spells "its" "it's."

'Alabama has done what it took to restore the honor and dignity of it's name and it's fans.'

How much dignity can a writer have when he can't spell 'its'? It may seem a small thing, but when your rhetoric's grandiose -- all about your honor and your dignity and the excellence of your education -- and you spell like a third-grader, the reader laughs, and dignity disintegrates.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Blimey. It's the Guvnor.

'Gov. Bob Riley said Friday he supports the University of Alabama's decision to pay new football coach Nick Saban about $4 million a year - an amount some have called excessive in a state that often ranks near the bottom nationally for education.

Riley said he called Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore and congratulated him on hiring Saban, a high-profile coach who won a national championship when he was head coach at LSU. Saban has been coach of the Miami Dolphins for the last two years.

"If he does what the fans hope, if he wins, the payback will be multiplied tenfold," said Riley, who as governor is also the ex-officio president of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

"We need to be competing at the highest level in everything we do," Riley said, adding that Saban brings a reputation for excellence to the university's football program.

Riley said the funds to pay Saban will come from ticket sales, licensing agreements and other Athletic Department sources and not from taxpayer funds. He added that when the football team is winning it increases fan support and revenue for other Crimson Tide sports teams.

Riley's comments were in response to criticism that $4 million is too much to pay a football coach in a state that ranks 46th in the country in household income.

Riley said it doesn't bother him that Saban will be making more than 20 times what he makes as governor.

"You don't run for governor in order to get rich," Riley said.'

You take a job at a tax-exempt educational institution in order to get rich.
An Alabama Newspaper Reader
Responds to the Saban Thing

'As much as I love this state, I'm sometimes embarrassed to be an Alabamian.

I guess I'll just take a deep breath and repeat the unofficial state motto: "Thank God for Mississippi!"'

And yet by university standards, Mississippi looks a great deal better than Alabama lately. It's got scads of problems, to be sure, but in terms of graduation rates, serious response to sports and alcohol problems, and general academic quality, Mississippi has it all over Alabama at the moment. And Alabama has, with the Saban hire, made things much, much worse.

Rick Telander is the best sports writer in the US, in UD's opinion. When grotesque things like Saban at Alabama happen, he's the definitive source.

Everybody who loves Nick Saban and thinks he's a moral, straight-ahead guy, please stand up.

You Alabama straw-chewers can sit down. (Your lives are so impoverished in the post-Bear Bryant era, you'd hire an al-Qaida operative if he'd guarantee yearly whup-ups of Auburn and LSU.)

So it's nice to see nobody else is standing. (I'm not counting you hedge-fund managers, felons and Halliburton execs.)

But here's the deal: Saban is the new face of college football. Like it or not.

And deep inside, all you college fans -- sitting there shaking your heads in disgust -- you love it. It's part of the show. And you do love the show.

Talk all you want about ethics and graduation rates.

But W's are all you care about.

Colleges don't pay their players. So they pay their coaches. They build massive training facilities. Their football teams travel like royalty -- can you believe Ohio State and its legion of coaches and athletic-department jetsam will spend 11 days in Arizona for the BCS title game? -- and they'll do about anything to win.

Hence, a school like Alabama will guarantee a guy like ''Never-Don't-Mean-Never Nick'' Saban more than $30 million for eight years to breach a signed contract, lie bald-faced to the masses and kick Arkansas' booty. (Hopefully.)

You see, the Tide lost to the Hogs this season, as well as Auburn and LSU.

Indeed, Alabama finished 6-7 after a loss to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl. Kenneth Lay wasn't available.

So come on down, Nick!

Saban, with a mouth so rubberized it could bounce, said he hadn't planned on leaving Miami, ''but still, if my heart was somewhere else, it would be wrong for me to stay.''

Like he's moving to Tuscaloosa to consolidate body parts.

Hall of Fame former Dolphins coach Don Shula blasted Saban on the radio Thursday, saying, ''If you don't mean it, don't say it.''

Remember, of course, that Shula is just-fired 'Bama coach Mike Shula's dad.

No matter, the old notions that a man's word means something, that dignity comes from steadfastness, that money doesn't rule all, are long gone.

And the street is two-way.

When Minnesota clown/athletic director Joel Maturi fired veteran and successful coach Glen Mason on Sunday -- because Texas Tech rallied from a deep hole to beat the Gophers in overtime in the Insight Bowl last Friday -- he showed why coaches are encouraged to lie and breach and profiteer whenever needed.

I'm not sure how many times in the last couple weeks I heard Saban say he absolutely was not leaving the Dolphins for the Crimson Tide or anywhere else.

But it may have been more times than I have heard Stuart Scott say, ''Boo-yah!'' in the last decade. And, of course, it was just as meaningful.

College football is a mess, even though the 32 bowl games provide us with such splendid and effortless (for us) entertainment. The fan-based yammering for a fool-proof championship game won't let up.

Yes, Boise State is 13-0. And if Ohio State loses big to Florida in a sloppy title game next Monday, don't the Broncos deserve a shot at, well, something?

But the reason there is no playoff tournament -- whether with four or eight or 16 or all 119 Division I-A teams -- is that the players are supposedly college students, and there's a limit to the expectations and physical burdens you can lay on amateur youth involved in extracurricular activity.

Not so coaches.

Just as you forgot about the sneaky maneuverings of Steve Spurrier, who went from college to the NFL to colllege again, making money all the way, you'll forget about the slipperiness of Never-Never Nick.

You forgot abut Lou Holtz going to the NFL and bolting when it suited him.

You maybe haven't forgotten about Gary Barnett e-mailing his Northwestern players and telling them he was going nowhere, just days before he fled for Colorado.

But that affront lingers because it happened here in Chicagoland, and because it was early in the amorality that is fast becoming the coaching norm.

Everybody loved the high action of the recent Fiesta Bowl, with 22 points scored in the final 86 seconds of regulation and 15 more in overtime and Boise State squeezing past Oklahoma 43-42.

But ask Sooners coach Bob Stoops -- himself a one-time bonus baby -- how much fun it was getting knifed by Boise State coach Chris Peterson.

It's crazy to think a budget-tightening state like Alabama can fund $4 million a year for a football coach at its flagship state university.

But then Greg Schiano, Rutgers' head coach, is the highest-paid employee in the state of New Jersey.

And New Jersey is hurting, too.

The point is, we need our circuses. We will have our circuses, by God.

And the ringmasters, ready and running and phony as sin, can you blame them for taking what they can get?

---Chicago SunTimes---

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The First of Many Lawsuits
On Their Way
at Duke University

'Kyle Dowd filed [a] lawsuit Thursday against Duke University and visiting associate professor Kim Curtis.

Dowd, who graduated with David Evans in May 2006, was not indicted in the rape case but says that Professor Curtis gave him and another lacrosse player in class a failing grade ... as a form of retaliation after the Duke Lacrosse scandal broke. The two players were apparently receiving passing grades until the scandal, and Duke University revised their grades upward months after graduation.

This does not affect the pending sexual offense and kidnapping case against David Evans, Reade Seligmann, and Collin Finnerty. But it is significant in being the first of likely to be many legal and moral hits against Duke University - critics say that Duke failed to stand by its own students as they came under attack by members of the faculty and community.

It is also noteworthy for its timing, coming one day after Seligmann and Finnerty are reinstated and weeks after a turnaround statement by Duke University President Brodhead, calling for DA Mike Nifong to step off the case.

Duke is being sued for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Curtis and Duke are being sued for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and punitive damages. For all but one of those claims the lawsuit states that the plaintiffs were damaged in excess of $10,000....'

If the claim is true (Duke's having changed the grades Curtis gave ain't gonna help her defense), the student was right to sue.
More Responses to Dumbass Alabama

1. Richard Vedder, at College Affordability, calls it the "abomination in Alabama."

2. A.G. Rud lightens things up.
Big Alabama Story
Picked Up By Associated Press:

In a poor state that struggles to fund public schools, the $4 million a year offered to the University of Alabama's new football coach sent the wrong signal to some.

"That certainly makes a strong statement in a state that funds education at one of the lowest per-pupil rates of any state in the country," said state Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, chairman of a House committee that writes the education budget. "I think we've let it get out of hand."

... "You couldn't have a more stark picture of education priorities in the state of Alabama," said Jim Carnes, communications director for Alabama Arise, a coalition that represents the poor. "We put that kind of money into a college football coach and leave our younger children at the mercy of inadequate schools and underpaid teachers. We strongly need a priority adjustment."

... Cleo Thomas, a former member of the board of trustees at Alabama, said spending millions on a football coach makes the public cynical, particularly when politicians talk about raising taxes for education.

"I think he's clearly the right man for the job, but that seems like an exorbitant amount," said Thomas, an Anniston attorney who was the first black student government president at Alabama.

"How do you explain to the people of Alabama the needs of the university when you have these kinds of resources available to pay the coach?" Thomas said. "How do you make the claim for more public funds, which are scarce, if there are surpluses that permit $4 million coaches salaries?"
Alabama Teachers Dancing in the Streets

'Dolphins fans, feeling jilted as their coach absconds to Alabama, can take solace knowing he left us for higher cause. The gargantuan salary Nick Saban will collect from his new employer is all about furthering ``educational purposes.''

It's the law. Spelled out in the federal tax code. Teachers throughout Alabama must be dancing in the streets, knowing that their flagship university has earmarked $32 million in salary and another $4 million in incentives (not to mention the $4 million buyout to get rid of its previous coach) toward educational purposes.

Most of Nick's salary will be funneled through the 'Bama boosters club, technically a 501c (3) charitable organization. Roll Tide boosters get to write off their contributions on their tax returns. For instance, when one of Alabama's well-to-do fans leases one of 123 skyboxes in Bryant-Denny Stadium, he's able to write off 80 percent of the $42,000 annual fee as a charitable donation. All that drinking, cheering, cussing in fancy digs -- that's as good as a writing a check to the March of Dimes.


Dolphins fans not only have themselves a losing, coachless team, but, as taxpayers, they get the added satisfaction of subsidizing their ex-coach's new salary.

Critics of big-time college sports have been warning about an ''arms race,'' with universities stealing coaches away from other universities with ever-escalating salaries. College football and basketball coaches (making $1 million, $2 million, even $3 million a year) were becoming some states' highest-paid public employees. Including Florida.

But the Saban hiring takes the arms race to another level. Suddenly, universities are hiring away top-paid head coaches from professional teams, despite that nettlesome tax code requiring colleges to use their exemption for ``educational purposes.''

Of course, one primary ''tax-exempt purpose'' listed on the NCAA's federal tax returns has been to ''retain a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports.'' The Saban hiring establishes a ''clear line of demarcation'' by flat outspending the pros.

College jock factories blame ''market'' pressures for coaches' ever-crazier salaries. Not hardly, said Andrew Zimbalist, the Smith College sports economist and author of books on the relationship between public money and big-time sports. (The Bottom Line: Observations and Arguments on the Sports Business was published in October.)


He called the college market ''very skewed.'' Professional teams work under real market pressures and stakeholder expectations. Besides, they have to pay their players. Big-time college football programs, Zimbalist said, have operating budgets a fourth the size of a typical professional team. Yet, as of Wednesday, college coaches -- charity cases under the federal tax code -- are on their way to comparable, or better, pay.

Not that the corruption of college sports by big money is anything new. In 1929, the Carnegie Foundation Report on Collegiate Athletics warned that commercialism, ``more than any other force, has tended to distort the values of college life.''

The college coaches' salary arms race has caused a few congressmen to question why taxpayers should subsidize one university's football program at the expense of another. The Saban hiring will raise even more bothersome questions. But campus stadium skyboxes come with private bathrooms, wet bars and considerable political clout.

The tax loophole might be insane, but congressmen do enjoy watching college football in luxurious comfort with fat-cat contributors.

The only change likely to come of the outrageous Saban deal will be the size of other college contracts.

Just see what happens when rival coaches learn how much more Nick made when he quit the pros and went off to do charity work in Alabama.'

---Fred Grimm, Miami Herald---
Regular, and Whitening Rinse, Crest

'Simon Fraser University chancellor Brandt C. Louie was so opposed to taking two small crosses off of the university's coat-of-arms that he persuaded governors to let his office keep it.

"The university is going to have two crests," said Louie yesterday. "One will be used by the university and the other by the office of the chancellor."

And Louie said SFU alumni won't need to buy themselves new ties, as the old crest is still an official symbol of the 40-year-old university.

"I still am opposed to the change, but the board of governors felt it was something they wanted to do to modernize the crest," said Louie. "I argued against changing it because I believe that, basically, tradition should be respected." Two "crosslets" in the top corners of the crest will be replaced by open books, he said.

He said there has never been any question of Christian or non-Christian groups at the university being in a dispute over the coat-of-arms.

"Because we're now a university with global aspirations, a lot of students outside North America thought we were a religious institution because of the crosslets in the corner," he added. "We said, 'No, we're a secular, public university. That happened to be the crest that was given to us when we were founded 40 years ago.'"

He said there are no cost implications, as existing letterhead will be used up before any change is made. The old crest will stay on the chancellor's robes, letterhead and invitations and will remain on existing buildings and SFU property.

The original crest was created in 1964 by Lord Lyon, King of Arms, at his home in Edinburgh. He found the coat-of-arms for the Clan MacDonald, the maiden name of Simon Fraser's wife, which featured the crusaders' crosses.

It wasn't until SFU decided to change its crest that officials discovered the old one had never been registered, said Louie. "So we are in the process of registering both crests for the university," he said.

Louie will be wearing his ceremonial robes, boasting the old crest on its shoulder and sleeves, at spring convocation in June.'

---the province---
How Alabama Stays That Way

'Of all the problems and needs confronting the state of Alabama, it's telling that the one thing that grips the attention of folks here is the hiring of a college football coach [at the University of Alabama, for four million dollars a year, the highest paid college coach in the United States]. We can accept being at or near the bottom in many quality-of-life rankings, but not in football.'

---the birmingham news---

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"I don't think there's any empirical evidence that says the overall quality of a school improves as a result of having a Division I athletic team or even a successful Division I team."

We'll let Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist, have the last word.

No we won't. Here's James Duderstadt: "[Football and men's basketball] are not about opportunity. They're designed to entertain the public and generate dollars."
More on Fees

'At Miami of Ohio, the average student pays $635 a year to the athletic department in mandatory fees. At James Madison, it's $1,186, although the school says the general student body uses athletic department facilities.

The fee at Ball State is $412. For that, students receive free access to all games, but Student Government Association President Asher Lisec said a relatively small number take advantage of that. She said she's glad to hear talk from Ball State officials of lowering the fee.

"If you look at the number of students we have involved in NCAA athletics, it's not a very high percentage," Lisec said. "So that's $6.8 million in student fees going to a select few students."

But it isn't just midsize schools reaching into students' pockets. Chris Cameron, opinion editor of the Daily Tar Heel at North Carolina, described himself as a "huge" basketball fan. But he objected when the athletic fee at his school increased $50 to $248 for next school year. It was $98 two years ago.

"I think it's completely ridiculous that they're making us pay that," Cameron said. "At least a tuition increase has a direct impact on the quality of the academic education."

[Indiana University] instituted a controversial student fee for athletics in 2004-05, which brought in $1 million, but it will be rescinded before the 2006-07 academic year.'
A student at ...

...East Carolina University defends another fifty dollar increase in student athletic fees:

"A competitive athletic program does a lot for the university. It gives East Carolina University a better image."
Cloaking the Issue

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

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

...almost every university sports program loses money. Bigtime. Even when they report how much they lose, economists tend to believe they're not really disclosing how shitty things are. Many economists "think deficits [are] probably greater" than what universities report. Economists are "skeptical that athletic departments fully accounted for the use of services funded by the general university, including administrative time and services."

[S]ports spending is growing two to three times faster than university spending as a whole. According to USA Today, athletic expenses in Division I-A increased about 8 percent per year from 2002-03 to 2004-05.

Former Michigan President James Duderstadt, a member of the U.S. Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, said it's "well-accepted" that, at a large state university, the cost to the school per student is from $10,000 to $25,000. Yet some big schools such as Florida and Louisiana State, which will compete in this weekend's Final Four, average more than $100,000 in athletic expenses per athlete.

"It's an interesting way to look at university priorities, isn't it?" Duderstadt said.
Oh, and it's getting worse by the minute.

'President Myles Brand isn't happy about the growth rate of sports spending, and the effect that could have on academics. In his State of the Association speech in January, he said the current path is "not a long-term sustainable approach."

"These problems mean that the universities will have to increase their subsidy to athletics," said Brand, who declined to be interviewed for this story. "Some subsidy, in almost all cases, is required, and that is acceptable. But the greater the subsidy, the less funding is available for core academic activities of the university."'

That "core academic activities" thing is cute. Myles is cute. He's cute when he gets all serious about academics. He's cute when he gets pumped up about the tax exemption, which does so much for the youth of America...
The writer begins... rehearsing some of the very grody details about the way sports-lousy schools operate. For instance, "Ball State's athletic department receives $3.6 million from general university funds, not to mention $6.9 million in student fees."

The practice of imposing high mandatory athletic fees on students is disgusting. Students at a number of universities realize this, and are waging variously effective campaigns against it.

Fees tend to work in this way: The team's fucking up and losing revenue, so it decides to hire a two million dollar a year coach to save its ass. The student fee goes up by fifty dollars. Or the cost of the school's amazing new stadium just increased by tens of millions of dollars -- as at the University of Minnesota, whose playlot just went up sixteen percent. Add another fifty to the student fee.

Of course Minnesota swears none of the unanticipated little extras that have brought the cost of the stadium to close to three hundred million dollars will come from student fees. Do you believe them? I don't.

But before they eventually jack up the fees, where does the money they're going to try unsuccessfully to make cover the costs come from? You. Me. That's the beauty of the tax exemption.

A professor at Ball State can't help but notice that "We can accredit the football team (in NCAA Division I-A), but not the master's program in public administration... It would take $150,000 for two more professors. It takes five. We have three."

This is part of the problem defenders of the whole "sports are about education so the exemption is appropriate" thing have. For the most part, sports does nothing or less than nothing for the academic reputation of a university. To be sure, it keeps everybody happy and stupid, but this is not the point of a university. Ball State's president is totally direct on the subject: "Division I athletics gives you an opportunity to achieve national recognition that you could work 50 years on the academic side and never achieve. When alums come back, they don't sit in an English class. Maybe they should, but they don't."

What sort of national recognition does the president have in mind? Ball State is a university, but not a very good one. It has virtually no national recognition as a result. So the president of the university means that Division I athletics gives Ball State a national profile as a sports facility. So in what sense is Ball State a university? And why does it get an education-based tax exemption?
LONG article on college sports...

... in the Indianapolis Star, which I'm still reading... So why don't I blog my reading of it?

Somewhat lame title --


-- but it does do the trick of summarizing with a certain degree of wit the content of the piece (I've read about half of it).

The occasion for the piece is the recent season of bigtime college football games, but the writer really wants to focus on that pesky tax exemption everybody's been talking about lately. Hold on...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ruhlman Rules!

The plagiarist/diploma mill grad (background here) on the history faculty at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga gets rave reviews on Rate My Professors.


He is a great guy. All you have to do is read your textbook and you will be fine. He reads straight from the book. No need to go to class. ... He goes by the book so all I did was highlight in it. Great guy, really liked his class. Take him.... He reads his lectures straight from the book, so all you have to do is highlight in class. His tests are pretty simple, but you have to study minimally. ... He's a really nice man and is willing to explain anything. It gets really boring sometimes, but he shows movies pretty often... Please take him! He's the sweetest guy on the planet - but he talks really low, and basically reads the book to you. Attendance is not required or even checked.... He's really nice, and willing to help. Go on movie days - those are good.... He reads straight from the book, so if you have to miss class, you really won't be behind...Teaches straight from the book pretty much word for word. ...Professor Rulhman gives lectures straight from the book; his tests are based solely on the notes...that are in the book .... The tests are super easy...


Update: Ralph Luker weighs in.
Diploma Milling... the name UD gives to the tendency of large groups of employees at the same public school, fire house, or federal agency, to buy bogus degrees from the same diploma mill at the same time.

Any business can set off diploma milling by granting pretty much automatic pay raises to employees who can show that they have an advanced degree.

Because of its dramatic nature, however, diploma milling is beginning to attract the attention of employers, as in this San Antonio case:

San Antonio firefighters with degrees in their field won't earn more money.

The firefighter's union ended up on the losing side of an arbitration ruling on Friday.

For years, firefighters were eligible for an increase in pay, if they earned a degree. But with the ease of obtaining a degree online, the city reversed its policy and the arbitration panel backed the city.

... Going back to at least 2001, Chief Robert Ojeda said a degree from Lacrosse University qualified under the incentive pay clause of the union's contract. Lacrosse took "life experience" into issuing their fire safety management degrees and the number of firefighters applying for that degree was snowballing.

"This time there was 12 people. The next year there was going to be 36 people who put in for that degree," [a spokesman] said.
Trustees These Days!

Here's a response - to a recent closely reasoned, scathing Faculty Senate attack on the University of Iowa's dysfunctional trustees (background) - from the president of the trustees:

"[The Senate report is] so full of half-truths, untruths and innuendoes that I wouldn't know where to begin in answering it, so I won't."

The report was written by the president of the Faculty Senate, a law professor whose whole joy in life is the close analysis of half-truths, untruths, innuendoes, truth-claims, and other complex assertions...

There's an instructive difference here between trustees, who tend to be corporate anti-intellectual types, and professors, typically individualists who like to think. Of course, trustees almost always win against professors (there are striking exceptions to this at places like American University and, years ago, Adelphi University), but it's nice on occasion to see faculty get their way, as they have at Iowa.

And to see expressed, very clearly, a certain trustee attitude toward professors, and toward serious reasoning.
Same Large Orange Fox
I Saw Yesterday Is Currently
Sauntering Along the Street
In Front of My Window

Foxes perform a valuable service to humans by controlling the small-rodent (mice, gophers, moles, rats) population, so they should be viewed by humans as an ally. Usually this benefit far outweighs the occasional damage they may cause.

I have decided to adopt this "ally" philosophy.
Diploma Mills, 2006

As we gaze back fondly on last year's diploma mill stories, this one has got to be the winner:

The Southtown [newspaper's] coverage of shenanigans, financial woes and academic shortcomings in Calumet Park School District 132 [in Chicago] helped force a state takeover of the school system in June.

Calumet Park has one of the state's worst elementary school special education programs. Its director, Judith Blakely, purchased her Ph.D. for about $250 from an Internet diploma mill specializing in metaphysical theology. This is one of three fake credentials on her resume.

Doris Hope-Jackson, the superintendent who tried to get rid of Blakely, was relieved of her duties by the school board president.

Blakely had it all: Bogus degrees on every level; cheesiness (most bogus degrees cost at least a thousand dollars); rank indifference to subject matter; and protection from a corrupt school board. No contest.

Monday, January 01, 2007

BLAH EDITORIAL... the Orlando Sentinel this morning, merely rehearsing the amazing statistics about Florida's shameful university system:

... Florida's college students crowd into fewer classrooms; the state has the most students per full-time professor in the country. ... Florida pays professors less, making it harder to attract and keep good faculty; the state ranks 41st in the nation in the experience level of its instructors. ...[F]ewer Floridians are getting a college degree; the state produces fewer graduates per 1,000 population than the national average.... [N]o Florida university -- not even the flagship University of Florida -- is ranked among the nation's top 25 universities.

It's a short, disengaged piece, which doesn't really seem to care about any of this.

'In Dartmoor superstition, it was always thought an omen of good luck to spot a single fox; however, if several were seen together, then that was considered to portend bad luck.'

A moment ago, taking out a pile of wrapping paper for recycling, I disturbed an orange fox making its way across my front yard. Surprised but not too perturbed, it stopped and looked at me from a few yards away, then slid into the little forest beside my house.
Online Altruism

My first act of the new year was to give money to a woman in Azerbaijan. She's starting a business and needs investment.

I did it via a website that makes this sort of thing easy -- a matter of seconds.

Wish I could say I thought of it myself, but it was a Christmas gift from my niece Giulia's new husband, Andrew Ferre. He gives the money in your name, and you activate the account and choose a worthy entrepreneur.

I mention it because The World Question, which asks a bunch of scientists at the beginning of each year what they're optimistic about, includes this, from Dan Sperber:

I am optimistic about the development of both individual and collective forms of altruism on the Web. Moreover, I believe that what we see on the Web has more diffuse counterparts in society at large. The Web is a network of networks where, at every individual node, many communities overlap, and where local allegiances have at best a weak hold. The World Wide Web is the most dynamic and visible manifestation, and a driving force of a world that is itself becoming one wide web. In this world, more and more altruistic acts—acts that had in ancestral times been aimed just at one's kin, and later extended to tribe, sect, or country—may now, out of sensible sense of common destiny, be intended for the benefit of all.
Words and Phrases
To Send to the Blazes... we begin a new year. Click on the title to find the 32nd List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness, released every year at this time by Lake Superior State, Michigan's smallest public university.

Among those listed, UD's candidate for most worthy of banishment is "We're pregnant."
The Madisonian Model

'[In an] area of nearly one square mile — between Lake Mendota, Lake Monona and Blair and Lake Streets — [the University of Wisconsin's city of Madison] has 120 places that serve only or mostly alcohol. They have a capacity of more than 11,000 people, city officials said. ... According to a recent police department analysis of attacks in which someone was injured downtown, about 75 percent of the victims and perpetrators were intoxicated. The analysis also found that after midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, police officers, paramedics and firefighters often spent half to all of their working hours responding to alcohol-fueled fights and disorderly conduct. Noise, public urination and vandalism are constant concerns.... [One resident] said she quickly grew irritated at being awakened at 2:30 a.m., when the noisy bar crowd usually begins to make its way home, dropping empty beer cans and other trash along the way. One morning she woke to find that garbage had been torched and the flames had charred a tree.

“I want to live downtown, but I also want a decent quality of life,” [she] said.