This is an archived page. Images and links on this page may not work. Please visit the main page for the latest updates.

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)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

"The bright red mash is so corrosive
that forklifts last only six years."

Ah, a long article in today's New York Times about UD's beloved Tabasco sauce.

"The family has the good fortune to have an island made of oil and salt, with constant revenues, and has not had to follow the fortunes of family businesses that depend on one product," Richard Schweid, the author of "Hot Peppers: The Story of Cajuns and Capsicum," wrote in an e-mail message. "This has meant they could reject alternative practices with Tabasco sauce that would mean less quality and more savings."

Avery Island has also helped keep the family together because it is more than just a place where Tabasco is made. It is also home. Many family members grew up working summers on the island, from picking peppers to operating the company's general store. Many still spend their weekends here. Before they joined the company, Mr. Osborn was a civilian military contractor and Mr. Simmons was a construction crane supplier.

They have ideal commutes: both live on the island. Half of their 200 full-time employees do, too. The company has 40 part-time workers. Around 80 clapboard homes for employees dot the island, a holdover from the days when most people didn't own cars and traveling to remote Avery Island was difficult. (The family leases the homes to workers.) Many of the employees' parents and grandparents worked on the island and many still send their children to the island's elementary school.

"Everyone here could leave and work in the oil industry and make twice the money, but why?" said Kip White, 28, a third-generation employee. "We have a good time, and we're like family here."
Snapshots from Home

"So what's this nice shirt with University of Maryland Model United Nations written on it?"

"Oh," said Mr. UD, "a student gave me that. There's a note in the bag it came in thanking me... "

"For what?"

"She was my student when she was a freshman. She was unhappy at Maryland. Not feeling challenged. Said her high school had a Model UN and Maryland didn't. I suggested she might want to start one. Apparently it's gone well, and she's happy and decided to stay."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Student at the University of New Mexico
Writes a Letter to the Campus Newspaper

'UNM's Dedication to Sports Shortchanges Education

I am probably one of the biggest Lobo sports fans in this entire University, and I have been since my childhood. My parents used to bring me to football and basketball games, and I became one of the loudest fans in the stands, next to my father. Also, when it came time to choose my college, there was no doubt I was going to be a Lobo. I enjoy being at this school, and I support all Lobo athletics, but I was absolutely appalled when I picked up Wednesday's Daily Lobo and found out how much our new basketball coach was going to make.

The article compared it to giving out 225 school tuitions or hiring 10 full professors. I can only imagine that the money could be used in other ways, as well. I am especially concerned about this as I am nearing the end of my college career, and I am being stopped dead in my tracks just meters from the finish line.

You see, I am an education major, and I cannot be accepted into the College of Education. This is not because my grades are bad; they are excellent. This is not because I scored poorly on entrance tests; I scored in the top 4 percent in all categories. This is also not because I do not have all the preliminary classes; I have completed all of my basic courses. I am very qualified to be accepted into the College of Education, but the reason I cannot be accepted is because there is not enough money to hire enough teachers to teach the classes I need. I know through conversations with my peers that many education majors are in the same boat as [I]. I also know that the nursing program faces the same problems ....

I am aware that sports events may very well bring in the most revenue for our school, and I fully support athletics, as I mentioned previously. But the question I have is this: When did sports become more important than education? The state of New Mexico is hurting for good teachers and nurses, but our school is failing to supply them because the specific colleges do not have enough money.

I do not want you to go away from this letter thinking I am one of those people who believe that athletics get all the money and breaks. Please understand that I am trying to complete my education and become a teacher, and I am tired of being held back from that dream because UNM cannot get its priorities straight and make education No. 1 - as it should always be. So, instead of spending the cash on a basketball coach, why don't we try to focus on the students? Because some of us do not want to spend six years here - I know I don't. Then again, what choice do I have?

Lindsay Holloman'
Which is Scarier?
Deer or Squirrel?

Southern Illinois University Carbondale student newspaper:

Campus Readies for Potential Deer Attacks

SIUC is gearing up for deer season.

A committee of university staff and wildlife specialists are set to meet Friday to discuss how to prevent deer attacks like those on campus in recent years, a university official said Wednesday.

University Communications Coordinator Tim Crosby said he was not sure what the staff would decide to do to prevent the attacks, but that the focus would be on educating the public.

There have been 15 reported deer attacks in the Thompson Woods and Campus Lake areas since 2005. Several injuries have resulted from the attacks and one of the rogue deer was shot and killed after attacking an SIUC police officer in June 2006.

Last year, university staff put up caution tape and warning signs to warn pedestrians about potentially dangerous deer, Crosby said.

"They were up during the height of fawning season last year," he said. "They were up at several strategic locations where there was a lot of cover for deer."

Public Safety Director Todd Sigler said his department assists in education, but it doesn't increase patrols during fawning season - the time of year when deer are taking care of their young.

"With only a limited number of officers, it's difficult to be everywhere at the same time," he said.

People often disregard the signs and caution tape that warn them to stay out of areas where deer are more likely to be present, Sigler said. He said the police don't take any action against those who ignore the warnings.

The previous attacks have all occurred during the summer, which is probably because most fawns are born in late May or early June and female deer are protective of their young, said George Feldhamer, a professor of zoology.

Feldhamer said he has never heard of incidents similar to those that took place at SIUC and he isn't aware of any clear reasons for the attacks.

He said that when fawns are studied in the wild, humans often come in close proximity to the mother deer without major problems.

"The doe normally stands off about 20 yards and stares at you and that's the whole show," he said.

Anthony Clemente, who said he saw seven deer Monday near his dorm at Thompson Point, said he thought pedestrians could avoid deer problems by using common sense.

"I imagine if you walked up [to] a doe and it had a young deer next to it, it would be defensive of [its] young," said Clemente, a freshman from Gurnee studying mechanical engineering. "But I don't think it would maul you for no reason."

Jennifer Shelton, a freshman from Hillsboro studying early childhood education, said despite past attacks, she is not scared when she encounters the deer on campus.

"I think I feel more threatened by the squirrels than the deer, actually," she said. "I've had a couple squirrels kind of run at me."
Not that Jersey...

...isn't giving it a run for its money.
Won't Make Any Difference.
Alaska's Just About the...

...most corrupt state in the country. But it's a good editorial. (Background here.) Excerpts:

A resolution in the Senate to consider impeachment of University of Alaska Regent Jim Hayes was introduced and referred to committee on Feb. 26, and there - a month later - it sits.

Unfortunate and painful as the process may be, it's time the resolution moved forward for the good of the state, our university and for the future of the board of regents.

... If Mr. Hayes has not met conditions for removal, it's hard to imagine what threshold must be reached.

He missed nearly half the board of regents meetings in 2006 and has not attended either of two meetings held so far this year. His endorsement letter written on home-made letterhead featuring his photo, the university seal and using his title as regent to solicit public funding for the nonprofit he and his wife operated stands in clear opposition to what most Alaskans would consider honorable. The same goes for a similar endorsement letter he crafted using his title as Fairbanks mayor.

... On top of this are dozens upon dozens of questionable administrative actions involving federal dollars - documented in the past four days in this newspaper - that were carried out in part by a man who should be no stranger to the accountability demanded in public venues. The entire debacle - and it can be considered nothing less - will at the very least prove to be a colossal embarrassment to the federal agencies involved and to Sen. Ted Stevens. [Surely Senator Stevens is way past embarrassment.]

... And of course he and his wife, Chris, have been indicted on numerous federal charges of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of public dollars. Mr. Hayes is innocent until proven guilty in the criminal courts, but no one can possibly believe a person could fully perform the duties required of a regent when faced with defending himself in a federal case that will take months, if not years, to resolve.
From the AOL Sports Blog

"If you're a college student, and you're going anywhere other than Lynn University in Florida, then you're in the wrong place.

[S]tudents are spending the weekend at the Final Four, going to all three Final Four games, going to a Georgia Tech baseball game, a Thrashers hockey game over the course of six days ... and they're getting three hours of college credit for it.

... It's part of a class called "The Final Four Experience," which is supposed to teach students about what all goes in to putting on a massive sporting event.

And what makes it worse is the "oh, but it's not all fun and games" paragraph in the article, that's designed to make this seem like it's not just an obscenely fun thing for these kids to do, but an example of educational perseverance.

'Though it may sound like a sports fan's dream, the students will be required to put in some work. They'll take a couple exams, keep a diary and will hold a presentation after the trip.'

Ooooh, a presentation. Here, kids, let me help you out with that report. Feel free to use this verbatim. "Here are some Power Point slides of me doing blow with a half-dozen nude Ohio State cheerleaders. Oh, and I don't care if I fail this class, because I just went to three Final Four games for $3,250, while some people are paying $12,000 per ticket, under the pretense that this is somehow educational. I plan on repeating this class next year, anyway. Go ahead. Fail me. Really."

"The Final Four Experience." Please. What else does Lynn University offer? Can I get the university to send me to The Bahamas and supply me with rum for a week, and get three credit hours for the "Effects of Alcohol and Sun Experience"? Can I get three credit hours for the university to set me up with a high-priced hooker and call it "The Human Reproductive Experience"?"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Koenig Wins!

UD reported on this case long ago, but she deleted the post. What a pleasure to see that justice has been done.

From the Oklahoma State University student newspaper:

'Former professor wins lawsuit against colleague

Shannon Muchmore
Editor in Chief

A jury has awarded a former OSU assistant English professor more than $150,000 in actual and punitive damages for her lawsuit against a former colleague and current associate professor.

The jury decided Lisa Lewis acted intentionally and with malice to sabotage Andrea Koenig’s bid to receive tenure in 2005. It awarded $136,000 in actual damages and $25,000 in punitive damages in verdicts earlier this month.

Koenig and her lawyers maintained throughout the trial that Lewis had a personal vendetta against Koenig after Koenig began discussing the possibility of a course that studied the Bible as literature. Lewis was furious at Koenig for promoting that idea and told graduate students she would “get” Koenig, court documents allege.

Lewis said she didn’t recall saying that and denied all the charges, according to the documents.

Koenig deferred all questions to her lawyer, Stan Ward.

He said the verdict vindicated his client.

“It’s a scarlet letter type of event for a faculty member to be denied tenure and promotion,” Ward said. “It’s not like I got fired at Wal-Mart and I’ll go work at Target.”

A spokesman for the Oklahoma attorney general said the office is still reviewing its options for continuing with the Koenig case.

“We’re disappointed with the jury’s decision,” Charlie Price said.

The office won’t comment on whether it plans to appeal or when it will make a decision, Price said.

Koenig began working in the creative writing department at OSU in 1999. She was on the tenure track and her contract was extended for three years in 2002. She was authorized to seek tenure for 2005, but a tenure committee composed of five English professors voted 3-2 to deny tenure.

Her employment contract was not renewed and she lost her job in June.

Koenig sued Lewis in July 2005 for intentional interference with a contract and business relationship.

Lewis was not a part of the tenure committee but wrote a letter attacking Koenig’s worthiness for tenure.

The tenure committee relied heavily on Lewis’ letter, which “was nothing short of an impermissible multi-page personal attack aimed at Koenig,” according to Koenig’s trial brief.

Lewis’ trial brief states Lewis acted within the scope of her employment at OSU and was only doing her job.

Koenig has also filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents alleging breach of contract when she was denied tenure.'

Course she deserved it all. Bible as literature! Gawd.

Still, there is that bit Lewis might have recalled about an eye for an eye...
Headline Suggestions Welcome

'A ... man was surreptitiously videotaping female feet in the science library at University of California, Santa Cruz, campus police said.

... It's not illegal to videotape feet so no charges were filed.

... Vince Nova, manager of the Science and Engineering Library, said the man was seen pointing a small video camera in the vicinity of three students' feet. One of the students confronted the cameraman and he fled.

One of the female students spotted him again last Wednesday, and campus police were called. A campus officer searched the man's bag and inspected the camera.

"From the taped contents of his camera, the subject of his filming seemed to be 'feet,"' the officer wrote in his report.

Graduate student Nellie Chu said she wasn't concerned.

"It's odd, but I don't think there's any need to jump to conclusions," Chu said. "Maybe he was doing research."'

Monday, March 26, 2007

That New Weight Room

Only two specially selected sickly old people "hung up" when Oklahoma State University's athletics recently phoned them to ask if they'd give the school their life insurance policies.

"The department hopes to net about $250 million from the proceeds by the time the last donor dies," reports the LA Times.

Not everyone among these "carefully selected donors" is flattered to be a "newly discovered asset," and not everyone observing the scheme is happy:

'Oklahoma State's donors were selected because their age, gender and health "best matched the university's needs," said John Lee, chairman of Dallas-based Management Compensation Group, which is managing the insurance program.

To put it less delicately, the donors selected are expected to die in a timely manner to generate the $250-million payout....

... The [T. Boone] Pickens insurance plan passed muster with Oklahoma state regulators, but Oklahoma State's Gift of a Lifetime Program is generating controversy.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R- Iowa), who has been investigating the tax-exempt status of major college athletics programs, last week told Congressional Quarterly that he had questions about the Pickens program.

So do many college professors in Stillwater who are frustrated by the athletic department's spending spree when faculty salaries and benefits are at or near the bottom among universities in the Big 12 conference.

"The comments I've heard range from morally bankrupt to outrageous," said longtime chemistry professor Lionel Raff. "It's totally inappropriate for any organization to be betting on how long its alumni will live." ..."I'm not going to say that the response has been all positive," [one of its undertakers] said. "But we believe that athletics is the front porch of the university. That's how you advertise nationally. Right, wrong or indifferent, you don't see the science bowl on ABC. You see the Cotton Bowl and the Final Four."'

If ever UD were tempted to think of bluesters like herself out here on the coast as weird, and redsters out there in places like Stillwater as normal, let it be said here, officially, that that particular thought is ... dead as a soon-to-be dead OSU man.



More Commentary:
From Tim Dahlberg,
Associated Press:

'OSU fans will now need to change their reading habits. Instead of turning to the sports pages to see how things are going, they'll read the obits first to see if any of the gang of 25 have croaked.

Could make for some good conversation over morning coffee.

"Hey honey, I see here that old Jim Jones died yesterday. He sure was a great guy, wasn't he?"

"Yes, he was dear. Now if Hank Evans goes too, we'll have just enough for that new weight room."'
In a Badly Written Essay about Tenure...

... at the University of Colorado, its president boasts about the school's bold new approach to it, yet describes little that is new, and nothing that is bold.

He does say this, which has often been said, but is worth saying again:

Colleges and universities have been less than forthcoming with the public and legislators about tenure, leading to the suspicion that higher education’s primary focus is protecting its own rather than guaranteeing the highly effective and productive teachers and researchers that students and taxpayers deserve.... Public confidence in academic tenure, much less its understanding of the concept, is dropping. To reduce this downward trend, we must be transparent in our processes and straightforward in our explanations of why tenure is necessary and how it works.

Colorado has Ward Churchill to thank for all the committees and experts it now has futzing with the matter; Churchill's legacy will certainly be to inaugurate the sort of radical social changes he's always had in mind... But UD would have been happier had the president of one of the suckiest sports factories in the country written on that subject.
Snapshots from Home

The Washington Post's Answer Man takes note of UD's hometown:

'On Strathmore Avenue in Garrett Park, there are signs proclaiming "Nuclear-Free Zone." Is the rest of the world a nuclear zone? What do these signs mean?

-- Hunter Atkinson, Kensington

They mean that if you have a nuclear weapon in the trunk of your car, you had better avoid Garrett Park.

"You could be fined if we found out about it," Ted Pratt, the town administrator, told Answer Man.

The fine, as spelled out in a 25-year-old ordinance, is $100. Factor that into your budget, Mr. Dirtybomb Evildoer.

Dozens of towns across the United States proudly proclaim themselves "nuclear-free," but Garrett Park was the first.'
UD and her Trusty Assistant...

... Christina are now feverishly finishing up UD's half of the forthcoming book UD and Jennifer Green-Lewis have written -- the book whose title has undergone so many changes since she typed it (up there, to your right) that she's not sure what to call it at this point.

Anyway, this is by way of saying that, in this final week of manuscript preparation, posting will be a bit lighter.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

UD Thanks...

...a reader who sends along all sorts of detail on the Moscow State situation [scroll down]:

I studied at MGU [Moscow State] the past two years (04-06) in the Philology Faculty, which shares the 1st Humanities Corpus with Sociology, History, Law, Political Science, etc.

[M]ost of these faculties have about 2,000 students each. The 1st Corpus itself is 11 stories tall, and the 4th-11th floors have about 75 rooms each.

I noticed that there were a fair number of nationalistic and far-rightish lectures in the Humanities Corpus during my time (the First Humanities Corpus is a huge building encompassing sociology, politology, philology, law, and history). A couple of times [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky spoke, though that is somewhat normal given that he is the leader of the third largest political party and votes with the government.

Additionally, I can say that a disproportionately high number of major KPRF (Com-Party) figures teach in that corpus. This includes their municipal elections candidate, who was a dekan of one of the faculties there, and the late (as of Spring 2006) Aleksandr Zinoviev who was himself a sociologist (and lived an emigre from the USSR in Munich until 1999--but he apparently still preferred Russian Communism over 'Basic Law').

Elements of the KPRF are anti-Zionist to the point of being anti-Semitic, and certain Communist MPs were the main signatories of a letter that quoted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion a few years ago.

That said, I do not believe these opinions are very prevalent in academia. Zinoviev himself was a Communist and anti-cosmopolitan/anti-globalist (and assumedly anti-Zionist), but himself a partly Westernised Jew. One lecturer I mentioned, Aleksandr Dugin, where you purportedly had to show your passport to be admitted [to his classes], is properly a Eurasianist. He is something of a Russian nationalist, but very far from a standard anti-Semite or anti-brown people skinhead, favoring instead a geopolitical alliance of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East against Anglo-Saxon hegemony.

He once had many contacts with the European New Right around Alain De Benoist, GRECE, and the Junge Freiheit newspaper. Then he turned to advise the Russian Communist Party, then began the ridiculous National Bolshevik Party, then promptly left it (since it is not for intellectuals), then cultivated himself as a geopolitical advisor to the party of power. In this realm, he has been moderately successful.

Largely due to America's hostility towards Russia and seeming military encirclement of it, a very harsh, Realpolitik analysis of geopolitics is increasingly popular, and with an ever more anti-American bent. This is true both in the government and the opposition, though anti-Zionism is concentrated in the Left opposition.

There are fascistic elements in both the pro-Putin, Duginist camp and in the KPRF and other opposition groups, and some fascist graffiti can be found even at MGU (from students - but it is usually contradicted with either liberal or communist slogans).

However, the student body and academia, while somewhat nationalistic and concerned with Russia's position in the world, are not terribly anti-Semitic ... Many of these intellectuals are nationalistic and anti-Western, but not particularly racist or fully xenophobic (I think of Eurasianism as a sort of modernised and glorified Soviet nationalism).

I looked for information on this episode in the sociology faculty webpage of MGU, and was unsurprised to find nothing (though, unlike the philology pages, it was very modern and updated). I looked up information on the dekan, and I did find one article he wrote entitled, "The Spiritual-Moral Evaluations of Contemporary Russian Society," which rather gives away that he is a social conservative. Other than that, he has no apparent links to the far Right or the racist end of the Left opposition.

In short, there is truth to the claim that there are academics with certain views at MGU, and held by regularly invited lecturers like Dugin, who might not be treated warmly by much of Western academia. But I find the idea that students were forcibly subjected to anti-Semitic teachings somewhat absurd. The only real direct accusation in the blog post was that the faculty posted something quoting the disreputable Protocols. That's possible -- there is a corner of the intellegentsia that believes the standard conspiracy theories, but if I had a dime for every time something with official approval morally offended me here at my university...

The New York Times (which is the source of the article cited in the post) falls in the section of Western media that disproportionately seeks out alleged instances of anti-Semitism and incidents that make Russia appear to be teetering on neo-Soviet fascism (these come from both liberal and neoconservative intelligentsia -- New Republic, Washington Post, Weekly Standard, London Times, Telegraph). Meanwhile, comparably few stories report the suffering of regular Russians due to the economic and political reforms; and due to the leaders of the past who are always heralded by the same Western leaders and publications. There are very few articles about Russian fear of NATO encroachment (though I notice American paleoconservatives seem to be increasingly sympathetic to this). I would not have much confidence in a NYT article on Russia . . . but if the Guardian begins to complain, then take notice.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

March Madness
Stream of Consciousness

From a writer at The Nation.

... While we await blessed baseball and its promise of renewal, here comes the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men's Division I Basketball Championship--the Big Dance for sportswriters, the Bracket Racket for gamblers, a frat-rat party, a racist entertainment, and a subversion of higher education, perhaps democracy as well.

Calling it March Madness slaps lipstick on a pig.

...In 2002, when I finally got to my first Final Four, I was amazed by the extravaganza. I had expected the usual painted yobs in the stands and the normal adolescent excess, not a corporate audience at a series of networking parties thrown by major sponsors. The Big Dance was a Super Bowl! Coaches looked for jobs; university presidents trolled for sportswriters who looked for drinks. What's the difference, I wondered, between a university that pours Pepsi and wears Nike and a NASCAR team that pumps Bud Lite and wears Drakkar Noir cologne? I wished I hadn't sworn off the word "hypocrisy" as too easy, too banal.

...College basketball coaches tend to be big guys with the confident patter of televangelists; just the kind of mouthy jocks who were allowed to dominate the dorks in high school because their personal goals, winning games to advance their careers, complemented the principal's goal, putting the school on the happy map.

Now, as coaches, they dominate their institutions because their goals are the same as their presidents'--raising money and visibility. Because they are without tenure, they can easily be fired when they start losing, which is why they will do anything to win. Because one or two players can turn a losing basketball team into a winner, coaches are tempted to recruit the illiterate, the felonious, and the "one-and-dones" (who will spend only a season at college en route to the pros).

... Myles Brand has always been the problem. He was the pragmatic fundraiser in college; now, he's the head of a trade association whose main functions are to generate TV income and keep a lid on corruption so it won't escalate into a ruinous arms race, with schools in sky's-the-limit bidding wars for teenage giant prodigies.

... No matter who you think causes the problems here--fans, players, boosters, coaches, presidents, or shoe salespeople -- the only group that could begin to solve them are the faculty of the schools in question, at once victims and accomplices when it comes to sports. They are intimidated by the jock bullies, easily bought off by them, and protective of their own little campus deals--why risk blowing the whistle on the altered or eased grades of athletes when someone could knock off your summer-in-Prague Kafka scam? ...
As With Harvard... with Stanford, alumni are beginning to realize that they must stop being enablers.

A recent Stanford graduate - a writer for the Los Angeles Times - explains:

'Stanford is always just asking for money — which I find odd, since I already paid them a lot. My latest letter says the school is trying to raise $4.3 billion by 2011 as part of the Stanford Challenge.

... For those of you who have never been to the 8,000-acre Stanford campus, it's very dissimilar to most places begging for charity. Darfur, for instance, doesn't have its own new rubgy stadium. AIDS hospitals rarely have as many tennis courts.

Stanford, which raised nearly $1 billion in donations just last year — a record for a university — has an endowment of more than $14 billion. That's more than the Gross Domestic Product of Belize or Sierra Leone — which has diamonds.

New buildings pop up at Stanford like weeds. Weeds with names like Packard and Gates. The just-renovated basketball arena has no advertising at all inside, because a rich guy found them aesthetically displeasing. So he simply bought them all.

Stanford could stop charging undergrads the $43,361 for tuition, room and board and call it an accounting error on its interest. It makes more sense for Rupert Murdoch to ask me for charity money. At least I still use his products.

I understand that rich people like to give money to organizations that make them look good. They want a powerful alma mater, a nice opera house, a buoyant Venice and a tidy stretch of road for Bette Midler to drive on. But they shouldn't be able to write these donations off as tax-deductible charities.

Time Inc. will match my donations to Stanford, but not to actual educational charities. That's despite the fact that only 3 percent of students at the top colleges come from families in the bottom economic quartile....'
Another Buried Lede

'The [University of Florida] Faculty Senate [...] rejected a proposal on Thursday to award [Governor Jeb] Bush an honorary degree this spring. Some members openly criticized his policies.

It is the first time in memory that the group has rejected a nominee put forth by its honorary degrees committee, said J. Bernard Machen, the university president.

The Senate voted, 38 to 28, against the proposal, which came from a former president of the university and was supported by two university trustees appointed by Mr. Bush.

The Senate chairwoman, Denaya Wright, said the nomination was a mistake, not just because some faculty members dislike Mr. Bush, a Republican who called himself “the education governor,” but also because he did not have the right background for an honorary degree.

“Recipients have pretty much always been distinguished scientists, engineers, artists, nurses, doctors,” Ms. Wright said.

The university, based in Gainesville, has awarded honorary degrees to five former governors, including Bob Graham in 2004 and Reubin Askew in 1983. All were Democrats. It also bestowed one on Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, in 2004.

Mr. Bush did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.

Mr. Machen, for one, is embarrassed.

“I think it’s a horrible decision,” he said in an interview. “I’ve heard from lots of alumni today who are very upset.”

Though it rejected Mr. Bush, the Senate approved two other nominees, Andrew H. Hines Jr., a mechanical engineer and former power company executive who is an alumnus, and Barry C. Barish, professor emeritus of physics at the California Institute of Technology.

Kathleen Price, a law professor who voted no on Mr. Bush, said he had let down the university by vetoing a measure that would have let its graduate and professional schools raise tuition.

Mr. Machen said that he feared reprisal from the Legislature, but that Mr. Bush was “probably having a good laugh” about the vote. In sports, the real passion at most Florida colleges, Mr. Bush roots for the University of Miami, Mr. Machen said.'

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back

'The University of Colorado Board of Regents on Thursday drastically shortened the amount of time it takes to fire a tenured professor, approving what CU officials believe to be one of the quickest faculty-dismissal timelines in the country.

Under the new timeline, the process will take about 100 days. In the past, it could take years for the university to fire a tenured professor for misconduct.

"This will be a model that other universities across the country will look to," Regent Stephen Ludwig said. "That's something we can be proud of."

The new timeline, as well as several other changes CU has made to its tenure processes, is due largely to the controversy surrounding CU-Boulder ethnic-studies professor Ward Churchill, who in an essay compared Sept. 11, 2001, victims to Nazis and who, after a lengthy investigation, was accused of plagiarizing, fabricating and falsifying material in his research and writings.

CU's chancellor at the time, Phil DiStefano, started the process to fire Churchill in June 2006. Churchill's case is still pending, two years after the initial review of his research was launched.

Churchill has vigorously fought dismissal. He had a hearing on his case in January, and CU spokeswoman Michele McKinney said CU president Hank Brown is waiting for the hearing committee's report.

In the meantime, Churchill is on paid administrative leave and continuing to draw his $96,000 annual salary.'
The Magazine Liberal Education...

...will publish an essay of UD's about the web's effect on the dissemination of university news. It'll be in the summer issue.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fox News is Reporting...

...that all charges against the Duke lacrosse players are about to be dropped.

'The remaining charges against three Duke University lacrosse players originally indicted for rape may be dropped sometime within the next few days, according to a report.

Inside Lacrosse Magazine writer Paul Caulfield told FOX News on Thursday that several sources have revealed to him that the assault and attempted kidnapping charges still pending against Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y.; Dave Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md.; and Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Falls, N.J., will soon be dropped.

Caulfield said his sources include more than just attorneys for the defense.

"There is no case here and they will be hearing a dismissal in the coming days," Caulfield told FOX News.'


UPDATE: Ralph Luker forwards to UD a story in the Herald Sun that calls these claims into question.
One of the Reasons
A Lot of People
Want to Be Professors
Even Though They Might
Make More Money
Doing Something Else

Professor Never Far from Feathered Friend

By Cecelia Johnson Contributing Writer | March 22nd, 2007

John Locke, an [Ithaca College] assistant professor of strategic communication, is rarely seen around campus without a cockatiel on his shoulder. An accomplished cartoonist, Locke is involved with the Rochester Committee on Latin America and the Venezuelan Solidarity Network, attempting to end the embargo and travel ban with Cuba. Contributing Writer Cecelia Johnson spoke with Locke about his enthusiasm for teaching and his love for birds.

Cecelia Johnson: Are you related to the historical John Locke?

John Locke: Sort of. We traced it back to the captain John Locke who brought a ship over to New Hampshire around the 1600s, but John Locke, the philosopher, never had any kids.

CJ: How do you like your job?

JL: I’m convinced this is my life calling. I’ve always been an art director. I’ve always done artwork on some level for my whole career. I enjoy it, but I never ever had the feeling of fulfillment until I started working with students. I wasn’t certain [teaching] was going to click for me, but I love it. [The students are] so bright and enthusiastic and yet there’s a sense of idealism and optimism in [them] that’s just infectious. … It’s a great feeling.

CJ: Do you have any specific goals you’d like to accomplish here?

JL: The [integrated marketing communications major] has an extremely well-developed program, and I can build on what has already been established as far as the creative classes. That’s my specialty, and I’d like to expand the creative classes. ... Instead of having one class for art direction and copy writing, I’d like to have a one-semester class for copy writing and another one for art direction.

CJ: What is your bird’s name?

JL: Groucho, after Groucho Marx.

CJ: Why do you keep him on your shoulder all the time?

JL: When I went to work, I’d leave him in his cage all day. I’d get home around 6, 7, 8 at night. He’d get all excited and dance around on top of his cage. I played the radio for him all day, but I thought, What a miserable life. He’s just sitting in his little room all day long with nothing to do. So I started carrying him on my shoulder and he got really attached. When I started here, I would just bring him in here on my office hour days.

CJ: Where else do you bring him?

JL: It depends on the time of year. If it’s cold, he’ll fall asleep under my jacket, so I can go grocery shopping or whatever. I can’t bring him into restaurants, but grocery stores don’t really care.

CJ: Is he potty trained?

JL: No. Another reason why I got him and not a big parrot is because it’s more manageable and my daughter made me a bunch of [spit up rags].

CJ: Does anyone ever think that you’re a pirate?

JL: Yeah, I get that sometimes, between the earring and [the bird].

CJ: What do you say to them?

JL: “Yeah, OK, I’m a pirate.” ... I get a lot of people who see me from a distance and say, “Oh, is it real?” I say, “Of course it’s real. It’d be really weird to have a fake bird on my shoulder.”
Two Minutes Hillary

The creator of the now-notorious 1984/Hillary Clinton YouTube has been outed, and has resigned from his job at a firm that provides technology to Democratic candidates.

I watched the thing and found it powerful and pointless. Yes, Hillary's pretty robotic, and her flat midwestern speech doesn't help matters. Yet what sort of sense does it make to hitch this eminently plausible and non-scary candidate for the presidency to Orwell's jackboot nightmare? If anything qualifies for "society of the spectacle" superficiality, it's this video, which plays on a viewer's vague acquaintance with a novel in order to make a perfectly reasonable politician look like a Stalinist.
Tenure Again

Steven D. Levitt, at Freakonomics, again opens the Why tenure? question.
Here are some excerpts from his case against it:

[Tenure] distorts people’s effort so that they face strong incentives early in their career (and presumably work very hard early on as a consequence) and very weak incentives forever after (and presumably work much less hard on average as a consequence).

Couple of things to keep in mind here. The overwhelming number of people who come up for tenure get it, and rates are apparently going up even at the notoriously tenure-averse Ivies. Yes, everyone's so scared of failing to get it that they grind madly away; but if they'd calm down and look at the numbers, they'd realize that they'll probably be okay even if they don't ulcerate themselves.

And sure - having done this to themselves, some tenured people probably figure they're in for a long recuperation. Yet post-tenure review, the desire for yet-higher elevation, ego, and - hey - even a deep-rooted commitment to a self-generated intellectual project, seem to keep many, many professors mentally productive past tenure.

The idea that tenure protects scholars who are doing politically unpopular work strikes me as ludicrous. While I can imagine a situation where this issue might rarely arise, I am hard pressed to think of actual cases where it has been relevant. Tenure does an outstanding job of protecting scholars who do no work or terrible work, but is there anything in economics which is high quality but so controversial it would lead to a scholar being fired? Anyway, that is what markets are for. If one institution fires an academic primarily because they don’t like his or her politics or approach, there will be other schools happy to make the hire. There are, for instance, cases in recent years in economics where scholars have made up data, embezzled funds, etc. but still have found good jobs afterwards.

I pretty much agree with this, even from the standpoint of English, which is liable to be more overtly political in content than economics. It's increasingly unclear to me that in this or any reasonably foreseeable American context, tenure is needed to protect politically unpopular views.

Imagine a setting where you care about performance (e.g. a professional football team, or a currency trader). You wouldn’t think of granting tenure. So why do it in academics?

There are settings -- law firms, for instance -- where in order to reward and sustain good work and loyalty over time you issue something like tenure. And the downside of absolute lack of job security can be seen in the careers of university football coaches, who demand huge salaries precisely because they're always being fired and having to find new jobs.

The best case scenario would be if all schools could coordinate on dumping tenure simultaneously. Maybe departments would give the deadwood a year or two to prove they deserved a slot before firing them. Some non-producers would leave or be fired. The rest of the tenure-age economists would start working harder. My guess is that salaries and job mobility would not change that much.

Absent all schools moving together to get rid of tenure, what if one school chose to unilaterally revoke tenure. It seems to me that it might work out just fine for that school. It would have to pay the faculty a little extra to stay in a department without an insurance policy in the form of tenure. Importantly, though, the value of tenure is inversely related to how good you are. If you are way over the bar, you face almost no risk if tenure is abolished. So the really good people would require very small salary increases to compensate for no tenure, whereas the really bad, unproductive economists would need a much bigger subsidy to remain in a department with tenure gone. This works out fantastically well for the university because all the bad people end up leaving, the good people stay, and other good people from different institutions want to come to take advantage of the salary increase at the tenure-less school. If the U of C told me that they were going to revoke my tenure, but add $15,000 to my salary, I would be happy to take that trade. I’m sure many others would as well. By dumping one unproductive, previously tenured faculty member, the University could compensate ten others with the savings.

This sounds okay to me, though I'd want to add some detail about the nature of the new, tenureless contracts these schools would offer. Does Levitt have in mind no net at all? Or would guaranteed, subject-to-renewal eight-year contracts, for instance, be okay? This seems to me a good way to go.

A general problem I have with Levitt's presentation, though, is that it shows no interest in teaching as a measure of institutional value. In this he echoes most universities, where, as I've noted on this blog, being a great teacher can actually hurt your tenure chances. Levitt's model of university life tends toward the production of departments whose individualized research factories regard teaching as an alarming disruption of their assembly line.

Here are some excerpts from an earlier UD thread about tenure, starting with more attacks on it:

“Why,” asks Victor Davis Hanson, “does this strange practice linger on?” If it’s there to guarantee free and unfettered thought, he writes, why is thought in our universities monolithic?

“Why then does uniformity of belief characterize the current tenured faculty? Contemporary universities are among the most homogeneous of all American institutions, at least in attitudes toward controversial issues of race, gender, class and culture. Faculty senate votes aren't just at odds with American popular opinion; they often resemble more the 90 percent majorities that we see in illiberal Third-World stacked plebiscites.”

Tenure, further, has contributed to the maintenance of the university as a strikingly unjust hierarchy:

“Our universities are also two-tiered institutions of winners and losers. Despite the populist rhetoric of professors, exploitation occurs daily under their noses. Perennial part-time lecturers, many with the requisite Ph.D.s, often teach the same classes as their tenured counterparts. Yet they receive about 25 percent of the compensation per course and without benefits. Universities cannot remove expensive tenured "mistakes" or public embarrassments, but they can turn to cheaper and more fluid part-time teaching.”

As for job security, “the warning that, in our litigious society, professors would lack fair job protection is implausible. Renewable five-year agreements — outlining in detail teaching and scholarly expectations - would still protect free speech, without creating lifelong sinecures for those who fail their contractual obligations.” No, what tenure has wrought is “a mandarin class that says it is radically egalitarian, but in fact insists on an unusual privilege that most other Americans do not enjoy. In recompense, the university has not delivered a better-educated student, or a more intellectually diverse and independent-thinking faculty. Instead it has accomplished precisely the opposite.”

Max Boot agrees: “Churchill and his professorial colleagues are beneficiaries of the most ironclad protection for mountebanks, incompetents and sluggards ever devised. It's called tenure. To fire a tenured professor requires a legal battle that can make the Clinton impeachment seem like a small-claims dispute by comparison. Even if there is clear evidence of wrongdoing, professors are entitled to endless procedural safeguards against being fired. The University of Colorado wanted to offer Churchill a generous financial settlement to leave voluntarily, but that idea has been torpedoed by regents angry at the idea of buying off this buffoon. An epic struggle looms in which Churchill and his numerous faculty defenders will nail their colors to the mast of ‘academic freedom.’”

He also agrees with Hanson on the intellectual freedom argument:

“The rigid ideological intolerance of American universities makes a mockery of tenure's primary justification: It is supposed to allow scholars to pursue their work without outside pressure. Professors like Churchill are all too happy to take advantage of this freedom to mock off-campus pieties. But few dare to disagree with the received wisdom of the faculty club, where the political spectrum runs all the way from left to far-left.

The primary practical effect of tenure is to make universities almost ungovernable. Those ostensibly in charge — presidents and trustees — come and go; the faculty remains, serene and untouchable. This helps to explain some of the dysfunctions that mar big-time universities, such as the overemphasis on publishing unintelligible articles and the under-emphasis on teaching undergraduates. Armies of junior faculty and graduate-student drudges have been enlisted to assume the bulk of the teaching load because most of the tenured grandees think that instructing budding stockbrokers and middle managers is beneath them. And there is almost nothing that administrators can do about it because mere laziness is no grounds for removing someone with a lifetime employment guarantee.

The solution is obvious: Abolish tenure. Subject professors to the discipline of the marketplace like almost everyone else. But of course this is an idea too radical to be seriously entertained on campus. Comparing the United States with Nazi Germany, as Ward Churchill routinely does, doesn't raise an eyebrow among the intelligentsia, but suggesting that there may be something fundamentally wrong with a system that rewards a Ward Churchill is considered too outre to discuss.”

Amy Ridenour concurs:

"Rarely do I criticize another for being old-fashioned, but I find the very notion of tenure distastefully medieval.


In the Middle Ages there were few institutions offering scholars the opportunity to ponder -- not just few alternatives to universities, but very few universities, period. If that were the case today, perhaps tenure for the purpose of protecting academic freedom would make some sense. But it isn't, and it doesn't.

A simple question: If professors at universities need tenure to feel free to think, how is it that think-tanks do so well without it?"

That’s one side of it, and UD has more than a little sympathy with these arguments. But then there’s this, from Winfield Myers:

“Recently, a friend who teaches at a major state university told me that he and some of his colleagues -- all tenured full professors, all known to be conservatives -- would have been gone ‘long ago’ were it not for the protection that tenure affords. It's the only thing keeping him in his job, he said, and despite the abuses it can bring, nothing else could protect like-minded scholars from being tossed out by the left-wing majority.

I think he's correct in this, and that conservatives who want to see tenure abolished should think through the implications of opening up academe to an even more thorough scrubbing of conservatives or libertarians than we've already seen. Granted, tenure is abused -- massively -- by both the entrenched left and the drunk, the lazy, and the incompetent. I've known dead wood who fit some, or even all, of those descriptions, and their presence on campus is a disgrace.

But until some way is devised to protect professors whose politics are deemed beyond the pale by sanctimonious left-wingers, tenure works to preserve their careers. Perhaps some means can be worked out that would allow universities to fire those who should never have been granted tenure to begin with, or who have abused the system since winning their lifetime positions. Surely, some means of holding professors accountable can be devised that would allow a sense of responsibility and obligation into campus life while protecting the minority of true radicals -- those who uphold high standards and who lean to the right. Reform is long overdue in higher education; let's just be careful not to leave embattled conservatives vulnerable.”

Thomas Reeves says the same thing:

“What about the protection of intellectual freedom? In fact, there is more to academic life than just the knee-jerk leftist reaction that is often celebrated in the media. Genuine thought goes on everywhere in academia and can be viewed in learned journals and books and heard in untold numbers of seminars and lecture halls. (The University of California System spends $30 million a year on scholarly journals.) Many of the best professors spend their lives seeking the truths of the universe, nature, and human conduct; indeed, that’s why they entered the academic profession. When the responsible scholarship of serious and qualified scholars clashes with conventional thought, it should be protected, for in that way alone do we advance. Heresy has long played an important role in history. Ask the historians of science.

Today, on campus, conservatives are heretics, often challenging the established principles of orthodox leftist ideology with scholarship and bold thinking. It is a dangerous business, for the people who talk the most about diversity and tolerance are rarely in the mood to welcome dissent. As an abundance of literature shows, and experience verifies, conservatives are often persecuted on campus. They must sometimes mask their beliefs in order to be hired. But tenure, once achieved, protects them. Eliminate that protection and watch conservative heads roll, both at the hands of administrators and fellow faculty members.

Instead of arguing for the elimination of tenure, conservatives should be defending it strenuously, for without its protection the heresy of thinking outside leftist orthodoxy would be eliminated. Tenure may need adjustments; conservatives should demand more objectivity and fairness in the process. But let us not abandon what has long served us well. Today, the tenure system enables free minds to step beyond the iron curtain of political correctness without fear of serious reprisal.

Tenure is not one of the major problems in contemporary academia. Indeed, it is a blessing for those, all across the ideological scale, who are interested in thoughtful scholarship. Intellectual freedom is among the most valuable features of Western civilization, and we threaten it at our peril.”

Sociology students at Moscow State University, probably the best university in Russia, are complaining about "creeping nationalism... extremist views... [and] conspiracy theories" taking over its classrooms. The university has begun to investigate the sociology faculty, though there's no telling whether a university investigating itself under these circumstances will take the matter seriously.

“The dean’s office has distributed a brochure to all students that approvingly quotes the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ blames Freemasons and Zionists for the world wars, and claims that they control U.S. and British policy and the global financial system,” the students wrote in one of their public appeals. “Studying conditions at the department are unbearable.”

...“The quality of the education has become so low that it has become terrible,” said one of the students, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation by staff members. “For the last two years all of my education has had to be self-education.”

The dean of sociology has issued Brezhnev-vintage denials and assurances: It's just a disgruntled minority... We look forward to a "constructive dialogue" ... that stuff about anti-semitism is a crock...

UD described this development to Mr. UD -- who grew up under Communism in Poland -- at the breakfast table just now. He responded with what seemed an irrelevancy: "The current head of the Romanian fascist party was the Ceausescus’ poet laureate."

"Uh huh. And?"

"Well, Moscow State is excellent in things like engineering and some of the sciences, but it's precisely in softer fields like sociology -- and poetry -- that you'll still find once-Communist, now-fascist hacks in lots of post-Communist places. Corneliu Vadim Tudor was the regime's lapdog... Someone who took orders and loved authoritarianism... Now he's got his own party devoted to it. In the Soviet Union, a lot of university people of his sort were social science types grinding out propaganda. It's probably hard to get rid of them ..."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

***UD Featured on Calculus Syllabus ***

Wondrous are the ways of the web, but none so wondrous as that which I have seen with my own eyes today:

UD is an assignment in a Carnegie Mellon University calculus course!

I told you about my math SATs, right? I told you that I got a special letter from the IRS many years ago begging me never ever to do my returns by myself?

And now look at me! A math assignment!
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

Pope Urges World Peace has become a paradigm-headline for UD, a headline whose emptiness expresses the emptiness of all empty headlines.

You don't always see UD's paradigm-headline in just those words. Sometimes it's Pope Cautions World Leaders, or Pope Notes Rising Youth Drug Use... A non-papal example UD remembers from her Medill School of Journalism days was a huge banner headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, which every day blared out with a huge banner headline:


Another variant of the empty headline -- which almost always accompanies an empty article -- is the Small Town Back to Normal After formulation. This is the piece about how, despite last Thursday's storm, Postmistress Pam is back to stamping letters.

Here's a recent addition to the empty headline stock, from

Easier College Admission for Athletes Sparks a Review by NCAA

As with all of the earlier empty headlines I've mentioned, nothing has happened. There isn't any news. To be sure, the rolly-poly NCAA has had its forward motion impeded a bit by some recent reminders (the Costas show; Antoine Wright's comments) that, as Boyce Watkins notes, it's a whorehouse on wheels. Subsequent to this embarrassment, a certain amount of wink-wink nod-nod has taken place:

The longstanding practice at U.S. colleges of admitting athletes with substandard academic credentials is coming under fresh scrutiny.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has launched a review that might limit the number of these so-called special admits. At the University of Oklahoma, which just completed a four-year review of admissions, Athletic Director Joe Castiglione says some students read only at a fifth-grade level.

For years, football and basketball players have lagged other students in graduation rates. Coaches, administrators and faculty have wrestled with the sometimes conflicting goals of creating winning teams and well-educated students. Now, special admits may become the focus of efforts to reconcile the two.

..."Sports are an important part of the psyche of our institution," says Castiglione. "It's not to be made fun of or laughed at, it's to be embraced. But we have to work on some things."

[Strange comment from the AD at one of the most shameless abusers of athletes in the country. We're not making fun of his charges; he is. They're entirely used for their entertainment value.]

... Such policies risk eroding the reputations of the nation's top universities, says Larry Faulkner, president emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin.

"It goes to the heart of what is the intercollegiate model and what business we are in," Faulkner says. "Our institutions don't exist principally to provide entertainment to the public." [Certainly Castiglione's, and many other institutions, exist precisely for that principal purpose.]

... Faulkner is a member of an NCAA task force on admissions that called in October for a review of the special-admit system. NCAA officials might recommend changes within 18 to 24 months, says Myles Brand, president of the Indianapolis-based sports governing body. Rules changes would require the assent of the body's 18-member board of directors.

Among the possible steps, according to the task force: setting a maximum number of special admits per team or athletic department, adding programs to monitor and assist students, and collecting information on the progress of special admits who are athletes so the data can be submitted to faculty boards. [Blahblah.]

Brand, 64, says he doesn't support limiting special admits [Quelle surprise], so long as athletes have a chance to graduate once they're given assistance. Yet Brand says the NCAA doesn't track graduation rates for specially admitted athletes and doesn't know of any school that does so. [Rollin' along, singin' a song!]

`A Student First'

University administrators agree with Faulkner, in principle, when he says the athlete is a student first." [Sure, sure!] Even so, they say schools must meet the needs of the communities they serve. [It's a matter of needs, not entertainment, man!] Fans, alumni and financial supporters care about sports, says Tom Reason, associate director of admissions at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

"Athletes are a group that has been identified as important to the institution and to society," Reason says. "You can't deny the reality of it." [Longtime readers know the thrill UD always feels on being lectured to by a Reality Instructor...]

... Administrators argue that without special admits, it would be difficult to compete in sports against schools that have lower academic standards. [It's a race to the bottom... as Oscar Wilde might put it...]

... Oklahoma has been increasing the number of special admits given to its football, baseball and women's track and field teams, according to admissions records. Castiglione says the athletic department is trying to improve its 60 percent graduation rate. [This is like balancing the budget and lowering taxes.]

..." In an ideal world, you might wonder if we wouldn't be better off getting rid of athletic scholarships, then it would really just be about going to school," Wisconsin's Reason says. "But things have evolved in a way that's dramatically different. You have to accept the reality of it and help the kids the best you can." [This is by far the slimiest bit of university sports rhetoric out there. We're here to help the kids.]


Monday, March 19, 2007

A Florida University
In Trouble with the Law

'Angry state legislators called for a criminal investigation of Florida A&M University's continuing financial woes today... They said it's time to turn the books over to the attorney general's office of Florida Department of Law Enforcement.... "There could be a decision by the Legislature not to fund it," said [one legislator]. "The university would cease to exist." ... [Along with ongoing payroll discrepancies,] FAMU didn't have records for $1.8 million in athletics department collections, and university property that went missing sometimes was not reported to police agencies, the audit said.'

---pensacola news journal---

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Slipping and Sliding Along...

... mushy Spring Street, with a quick visit to Balthazar... Can't get a table, even early Sunday ... But it was wonderful just to walk through the place, a real French bistro in New York, full of warmth and life on a cold morning...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I'll be in Greenwich Village...

... for the weekend.

I'm again accompanying my sister to a Damian Dempsey concert, this time at the Knitting Factory.

Staying at the apartment of a Garrett Park friend who teaches at NYU.

FORGOT that this weekend includes St Patrick's Day.

Will blog from there.

'"Nightline" aired a report on November 2, 2006, about the college admissions process that focused on the advantages that candidates can have if they come from a wealthy family perceived as potential big donors to the school. In this regard, we reported on the admission into Duke of two children of the designer Ralph Lauren, who later made a six figure contribution to the university. We also noted that the then Vice Chancellor of Duke, Professor Joel Fleishman, recommended that the children be admitted to the university, solicited donations from the Lauren family, and later was appointed to the Ralph Lauren Company's board of directors. We want to make clear that we did not intend to imply — and have no evidence to suggest — that Professor Fleishman's appointment to the Ralph Lauren board in 1998 was in exchange for or conditioned on the admission of the Lauren children to the school in 1989 and 1992.'

Friday, March 16, 2007

Scholarly Ethics

A reader sends the following Columbus Dispatch article (here excerpted) to UD. It's about a person to whom Ohio University offered a job. Subsequent fact-checking then uncovered problems:

'...The history chairman noticed the reference to [a Sally] Hemings book on [Thelma Wills] Foote’s curriculum vitae and searched online sources because he didn’t recognize the publisher.

The chairman had been asked to nominate history professors to serve on a committee to review Foote’s potential tenure as a full professor. Tenured professors at OU are required to have written at least two scholarly books.'

[Here's the book cover; go to Amazon and decide if this is a scholarly book. Its publisher, Malibu Press, appears to offer only this book.]

'In a cover letter to the university, Foote said she coauthored the Hemings book with television actress Tina Andrews.

But university officials found only a five-paragraph introduction by Foote, with Andrews, a former Days of Our Lives star, credited as the sole author.

Ogles wrote to Foote, asking for a clarification of her role. She responded that her contributions had been substantial but unacknowledged, which she described as common practice in the film and television industry.

The book, Sally Hemings: An American Scandal: The Struggle to Tell the Controversial True Story, was later made into a CBS mini-series. Ogles tried to reach Andrews through her agent to verify Foote’s role but was unsuccessful.

"She may very well have been a behind-the-scenes consultant and editor, but she should have told us so instead of leading us to believe she was a co-author," Ogles said.

Foote, who most recently worked at the University of Southern Denmark and now lives in Rome, couldn’t be reached for comment last night.

In an e-mail to Ogles, she wrote, "My reasoning in listing myself as co-author within my CV and letter of introduction is that my scholarly work done for the book publication merits that distinction."

She later told the student newspaper The Post: "It may turn out that things don’t work out. You know how people are; they tend to seize on people’s mistakes and make the worst of them."

Hours later, she sent Ogles a one-sentence e-mail message withdrawing her acceptance of the job offer.

Despite Foote’s strong qualifications, Ogles said he would have likely rescinded the offer if he hadn’t heard from her first.

Stung by a plagiarism scandal in its engineering school, the university has created an academic honors council and stressed the importance of ethics... '
The First Shall be Last

'This afternoon Penn lost to Texas A&M in a game that might have matched up the school with the highest academic standards in the Tournament against the school with the lowest.'
How Italy Stays That Way

An article in Science Careers describes the combination of corruption, instability, and sloth that keeps Italian universities in the global pits. An excerpt:

"The system is self-referencing," complains Michele Cascella, an Italian research scientist now at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland. "Have you ever seen an Italian university advertise a position in a top international journal such as Science or Nature?" ... There is also the appeal of other countries. Italy's young scientists are leaving for institutions abroad at an estimated rate of 6000 per year. Schemes to stanch the flow and facilitate their return have been in place for years, but with little effect. One brain-gain mechanism was introduced in 2001 by a previous government, with a budget of €50 million that paid for about 500 contracts in universities and research institutes for up to 4 years and with a view to tenure. The scheme was scaled back when the previous government channelled funds into making these posts permanent--but very few tenured positions have been secured, mainly because the procedures for appointment were so vague and complex that there was no consensus on how to apply them.

Self-referencing is a polite way to put it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

House on Fire Update

'One of the oldest homes in Garrett Park was severely damaged by a fire Wednesday afternoon, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service officials.

An improperly discarded cigarette butt started the fire at 11204 Kenilworth Ave., shortly after 2 p.m., according to investigators.

The homeowner suffered first- and second-degree burns over a third of his body, Fire and Rescue Service officials said.

Damage to the home, built in the late-1800s, is estimated at more than $1 million, officials said.

Garrett Park Mayor Carolyn Shawaker said neighbors and the Garrett Park Civic Association would most likely organize a relief drive for the displaced residents, but had no further details.'
One of UD's Favorite Diploma Mills...

...has been hounded out of another state. It takes a lot out of UD to track the fates of these non-traditional institutions who only want to help people better themselves online... to watch them attempt to put down roots in a community and then, sure enough, as reporters, employers, and legislators gang up on them, to uproot their homes and their children and try to start a new life somewhere they hope will be more welcoming...

Luckily, there's Alabama.

Here's an earlier posting of mine about Preston University:

America has much to learn from the university licensing standards of Pakistan. The Pakistani government, after investigating Preston University, a far-flung entity with campuses in their country, “classified all 15 Preston campuses in that country as ‘illegally operating.’ The Islamabad campus in particular was deemed ‘seriously deficient,’” writes a reporter for the Billings Wyoming Gazette.

Why then did a high-level Wyoming delegation which went to Islamabad and was shown a good time by Preston while it inspected its campuses (Preston has a presence in Wyoming too), determine that Preston was “in compliance with Wyoming law”? Why did some of the delegates go further and introduce legislation on their return that will help checkbook universities like Preston?

Well… first off, it looks as though these folks examined only the architecture and interior design of the campus, not whether anything went on in its rooms. They declared themselves satisfied that it has a “clean,” “two-story building,” in “good condition” with “adequate space.” I used to live in a two-flat like that, but I didn’t try to get it accredited.

Given their interest only in whether Preston’s buildings stood up, it’s not surprising that, as the reporter notes, “seven months” after the ten-day trip, the four visitors “have little to show” for it:

“For example, each of three inspection reports by Deputy Superintendent Quinn Carroll and the department’s finance director, Fred Hansen, was about 1 - ½ pages - about as long as the application form for opening a private fish farm in Wyoming.”

Gills flapping, an outraged member of the group responds to this challenge with Diploma Mill World’s magic word: “I can’t see how anyone has a problem with a decently priced education with nontraditional students.”

Nontraditional! sings Tevye. Nontraditional! We are simple people! Leave us alone!

As the reporter probes the story a little more, things get ontologically obtuse very quickly.

Current laws, one of the delegates explains, “don’t gauge the quality of a school’s academics - only whether a school is really a school.” But - but - when is a school not a school? When is a school a school? What beyond academics distinguishes a school qua school? Is a school really a school, as Wyoming suggests, if it has a building with the word “school” on it?

And here's the update, from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

In response to a crackdown on diploma mills in Wyoming, an entity known as “Preston University” is moving part of its operations to Alabama, where laws are laxer.

According to the Associated Press, the, ah, institution will continue to operate an online business program in Wyoming under the name “Fairmount International University.” It has campuses in Pakistan and Dubai as well. In 2001 Preston was caught pretending that it employed professors that it, in fact, did not.

Wyoming, once a haven for dubious institutions, has since gotten tougher, causing a number of diploma mills and similar operations to flee or otherwise to shift gears.
Intro American Poultry

Interest is growing around the nation in Texas A&M's popular major, "Agricultural Leadership and Development," which has graduated... or, well, incubated... some of America's finest athletes.

Everyone already knows about Antoine Wright, who has "detailed an academic career spent in classes like 'Floral Design' and 'Poultry Science' featuring 'a quarterback, me, a running back, and a farmer.'" Wright noted in a recent interview that "he and other athletes were steered toward A&M's College of Agriculture to keep from flunking."

But more recently, we've read of

two players from A&M on this year's Academic All-Big 12 team [who] earned that distinction by getting a great GPA in 'Agricultural Leadership And Development,' a major Wright has called out as mostly fictional. A&M football stars and scrubs alike -- like Reggie McNeal, Kellen Heard, and Courtney Lewis -- seem to develop a robust interest in raising livestock once they matriculate at A&M.

Here's that program's mission statement:

The undergraduate major, Agricultural Development, was created in the early 1990’s by the Department of Agricultural Education to provide an educational strand that emphasizes leadership theory, productive use of people-resources, and acquisition of skills in scientific agriculture. The multidisciplinary degree program is designed to develop students for leadership positions in local, regional, state, and national groups and in organizations and agencies that are directly and indirectly involved in agriculture and life sciences.

Students recognize the importance of this degree which has been described as “leadership and communications in agriculture.” In fact, of all the majors within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Agricultural Development has the 4th largest enrollment surpassed only by Animal Science, Biochemistry and Agricultural Economics.
One of UD's Favorite Writers,
Linda Hirshman, Goes After
Another Opt-Out Woman

The New York Times ... last Sunday ran a piece from its apparently bottomless reservoir of stay-at-home-moms on the Upper West Side. Once again, the idealistic author studied art, found the corporate world too common for her pure soul, and wound up being a marital nanny for a rich lawyer decades her senior. Let's recap: He is an attorney. She is doing a job you can buy in most places for a sawbuck an hour. ... This is the fate of dreamy young women who don't prepare for the real demands of the world of work and marriage.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm
Looks at a Madison Wisconsin
Newspaper Article

'University of Wisconsin graduate Mary Gilbertson is outraged by the prospect that the tiny Department of Comparative Literature will be closed, despite strong protests from faculty, students and alumni.

Gilbertson, a New York City resident who graduated in 1962, described herself as "an enraged alumnus" speaking for some in the department who are afraid to speak out. [Why be afraid to speak out?]

"As a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, this is disgusting. It has been one of the most famous departments, with a tremendous reputation," she said in a phone interview. [Weak argument. What matters is what it's been in the last twenty years or so.]

"I have some sense of how much the university is raising. What is happening to that money that they have to treat people this way?" [Again, badly argued. Emotionality and personalizing -- she's disgusted; they're treating people badly -- are non-starters. As long as defenders of the program sputter like this, the university has nothing to worry about.]

Gary Sandefur, dean of the College of Letters and Science, said there are no plans to close the 90-year-old department at this time, but he added that no new money will be invested in it. After current faculty members leave or retire, the department will come to an end, though the major will not, he said.

Comparative literature is the study of literature in its original languages from a cross-cultural perspective. [The writer might have mentioned that the field is imperiled everywhere, as interdisciplinary work comes to characterize virtually all literary study.]

Budget constraints mean that the university cannot afford to rebuild the department, Sandefur said. Comparative Literature has lost faculty for various reasons, including the dismissal of Professor Keith Cohen by the Board of Regents last year after he was convicted of a felony count of exposing a child to harmful materials. He admitted to sending naked pictures of himself and others to a 14-year-old boy he had communicated with in an Internet chatroom. [Perishing field + perv dept chair = problems.]

Though set procedures including a self-study, a review and recommendations to two planning councils must be followed before a department closes, Sandefur said Comparative Literature has been troubled for some time....

[A] former department chairwoman who is now on sabbatical conducted a spirited campaign to maintain the department after Sandefur asked her in April 2006 to voluntarily close it down over the next year or two. She declined, publicized the proposal on the department Web site and notified faculty, students and alumni.

About a dozen alumni responded with letters to Sandefur in support of the department, and faculty and students attended meetings of the Academic Planning Council, which advises the dean, to express support. The council recommended that Sandefur work with Saiz to get faculty from other departments involved in teaching courses in comparative literature, an effort that so far has not met much success, the dean said.

"The number of full-time faculty has decreased and workload has increased. Trying to keep the department afloat by drawing from diminished faculty numbers in other departments is a Promethean endeavor, pushing the stone up the hill," [the former chairwoman] said in an interview, adding that other short-staffed departments would not likely be willing to share staff. [Confusing Sisyphus and Prometheus wouldn't be that big a deal if this woman weren't former chair of a Comp Lit department.]

[She] said comparative literature is especially important considering the world situation at this time.

"We work to train people to work fluently in other languages and know other cultures and histories and then engage in comparative analysis," Layoun said. "Given the fiasco of some of our international policies, this is crucial training. Kuwait is supporting comparative literature, but Wisconsin isn't."' [Huh?]


Swensen on Distributive Justice

'Harvard has to disclose how much it pays its top financial managers. In fiscal 2005, [Jack] Meyer earned $6 million, and two other managers earned about $17 million each.

Those figures — which had been higher in earlier years — drew sharp criticism from others at Harvard that the team was earning unseemly amounts, given academic pay levels.

[David] Swensen, the Yale investment chief who made $1.6 million last year and does not have any in-house managers, said he was not surprised at the friction. “Paying some people $35 million where others earn $35,000 tears at the fabric of an institution,” he said.'

---new york times---
Classic Example of
A Buried Lede

'Relatively low salaries among faculty members at the University of Northern Colorado will likely be the focus of an employee-satisfaction survey planned for this spring.

The survey could also be a referendum on the job performance of UNC president Kay Norton, who has been criticized for her management of Colorado's third-largest university.

Faculty members are demoralized by the fact that their salaries are the lowest among the country's 154 doctoral universities, said Laura Connolly, an associate professor of economics at UNC.

"It's a situation that is steadily deteriorating," Connolly said.

She and other faculty members derided the salary situation last week at a Board of Trustees meeting, saying morale is at an all-time low.

"This is not a rosy situation," said Norman Peercy, chairman of the faculty senate. "The problem is we are looking for leadership, and we don't have that now."

UNC lost at least 22 top faculty members last year to universities that pay better, said faculty leaders. The school cannot attract candidates to fill those posts because the school cannot compete with other institutions, Connolly said.

"We've been failing to attract good people because we just can't keep up," she said.

The average salary for a full professor at UNC in 2004-05 was $68,583, according to a faculty study, which is about 40 percent less than what a full professor makes at CU-Boulder.

Many say the decline in salaries began when Norton took over as president in July 2002. Norton - whose background is in law - led a reorganization of the university based on a business model to cut costs.

The university also opted to move up a step and become a Division I school in athletics. That, critics say, has led to a $604,000 loss in the athletic budget this year.

"I don't think the administration and the Board of Trustees believe that education is the primary focus of the university," Connolly said.'

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

House on Fire

Strange how the mind works. My friend and co-author, Jenny, and I had just finished up a rewriting session at my house this afternoon, when we both noticed smoke -- toxic-smelling smoke -- all over the sky. Not the smell of leaves burning or a fireplace. White clouds were becoming black.

I vaguely thought of the shopping mall about a mile away... something there, perhaps...

Not until ten minutes or so later -- after Jenny had left -- and not until I heard the sirens in Garrett Park, did I realize it was a house ablaze, just down the street from my own. Yet that was the obvious thing -- a house on fire, near mine. I think I just didn't want it to be that; I had trouble believing it could be that.

Good thing other, reality-based neighbors, called the fire department right away. How long would I have sat there, denying an obvious fact?

So -- strange how my mind works...

It's been a couple of hours. The house is destroyed. My neighbor tells me he watched it go from smoldering to exploding: "Flames suddenly shot out of all the windows." A few fire engines remain, loudly idling, and neighbors are everywhere, on foot and in their cars, gaping. Chatting. A little parade of bicycles, silver scooters, baby strollers, and dogs, dogs, dogs, passes by, everyone wanting to take a look.

'On HBO's "Costas Now," the New Jersey Nets' Antoine Wright outlined the academic rigors.

"In certain classes you see, you know, a quarterback, me, a running back, and then a farmer," he said. "So, it definitely was a little bizarre. But, we're all in poultry science for a reason. We're in this class because we need to get this grade. We're not really trying to learn about chickens."'
A Rare Case of
Congenital Plagiarism

The New York Times is covering a case in which plagiarism appears to have been handed down from father to daughter.

Jacqueline R. Griffith seemed to be flourishing as a tenured assistant professor in economics and finance at Kean University in New Jersey — that is, until another member of her department accused her of having plagiarized sizable portions of her doctoral dissertation.

Her father also apparently plagiarized his academic work, but his university didn't care, and he's still teaching. The daughter's had to resign:

... Nova Southeastern University, an independent institution in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which granted her a doctorate in business administration, [is] investigating the plagiarism accusation.

...Asked in a telephone interview whether she had copied her dissertation, Ms. Griffith said, “I don’t believe so,” adding, “But let me call you back.” Fifteen minutes later, her lawyer, Corinne Mullen, called, saying she would look into the matter.

I don't believe so... Let me check...

Ms. Griffith’s troubles, somewhat like her father’s, began with a disgruntled colleague — in her case, Bruce M. Skoorka, also an assistant professor of economics and finance. ... Mr. Skoorka said in an interview that he began criticizing the quality of professors being hired, promoted and given tenure in his department — including Ms. Griffith — nine years ago. In 2001, he filed a lawsuit against the university, charging that he was being discriminated against and harassed in part because of his complaints.

UD always thinks it's classy -- Auburn did this with the guy who broke the Thomas Petee story involving bogus independent studies for athletes -- when universities persecute people who uncover academic fraud.

In the litigation, he included one memo from a senior professor, Carol M. Condon, saying Ms. Griffith should not be retained because she lacked the required qualifications and because of inaccuracies in her file. One important inaccuracy, the memo said, was her claim to be co-author of two books that were written by her father.

The memo noted that the title page of the actual publications showed the single author to be Mr. Jonnard. Ms. Griffith was only thanked for her assistance in the acknowledgments.

Griffith really goes all out.

Looking for more, Mr. Skoorka examined Ms. Griffith’s doctoral dissertation, approved in 2001, and found another that seemed very similar, written at Louisiana Tech University in 1995. He said in an interview that he was “determined to do something about this.” He hired a detective to find the author, whose name, Helen B. Mason, had since changed to Helen Sikes because of remarriage.

Now a professor at Centenary College of Louisiana, Ms. Sikes said recently that when the detective called her last summer, “I thought it was a joke, a sick joke.”

But after examining Ms. Griffith’s dissertation, she said, she concluded that “90 percent of the narrative” was a copy of her own. She joined Mr. Skoorka in sending letters to Kean and Nova in December, charging plagiarism. The professors asked that Nova revoke Ms. Griffith’s doctorate and that Kean dismiss her.

Both institutes are currently dithering about it.

... Universities differ in their handling of plagiarism. “Reported cases reveal ad hoc responses at best, and indifference or denial at worst,” said Timothy M. Dodd, executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University, which counts more than 350 colleges and universities, not including Kean or Nova, among its members.

... Before she resigned at Kean, Ms. Griffith appeared to be trying to set things right. Her lawyer, Ms. Mullen, said she was rewriting some pages of the dissertation. Ms. Griffith called her former faculty adviser at Nova to ask if he would read the new pages. She contacted UMI, which maintains a database of doctoral dissertations, to see if she could substitute a new version of her work for the one filed earlier.

Her former faculty adviser, Alan Gart, who left Nova about six years ago and moved to Pennsylvania, confirmed that he had received a call from Ms. Griffith in January or early February, saying, “I did something bad; I copied,” and asking him to read some redone pages.

He said that he barely recalled her — “I only remember one thing, that she was in a hurry” — but that he agreed to read the pages, even though he no longer had any ties to Nova and no authority.

“I tried to be a nice guy,” he said.

Mr. DePiano, Nova’s academic vice president, said, “I don’t know of a situation where after the formal dissertation process was completed, revisions were later accepted.”

I wouldn't want to take on that job. You'd have to spend a lot of time tracking down the source of the second plagiarized dissertation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Receptacle is Also True

Here's an editorial from the Daily Emerald, student newspaper of the University of Oregon, with a little UD commentary:

The University recently paid $17,250 for former Stanford Athletic Director Ted Leland to advise the Athletic Department on how to best position itself over the next 10 to 15 years. He was reportedly paid $2,300 a day for his efforts [Note the amount. That's a lot, courtesy of students and taxpayers. Let's see what was done with their money.], and was asked only to give separate oral presentations to University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer and outgoing Athletic Director Bill Moos. [So his obligation was to chat with two people, one of whom is irrelevant to the future of the program.]

The fact that the University would pay so much for a report - which Frohnmayer said simply confirmed what he and outgoing Athletic Director Moos already knew - seems, at its most basic level, like a bad deal for the University. If the University simply wanted to hear a third party say that the Athletic Department was on the right track to break up the administration's echo chamber, we're certain any of the University's thousands of students who are facing massive debt would have done it for $5,000 - hell, they probably would have settled on class credit and a $300 gift certificate to the University Bookstore. The average UO student graduates with as much debt as this report cost.

But more troubling than the expense of the report is the fact that none of it was documented until faculty and the press learned of its existence and pressured the president to entreat Leland to write down his findings. [Disclosure? Public institution? Screw that.]

Because the report was not initially written down - which technically defied Leland's contract and the standard, ethical practice of departmental reviews - it calls into question the integrity of the report and whether the public will ever know what was disclosed during those private conversations. [Written down? Ah, it's only a little fun for us boys... C'mon...]

Frohnmayer told Leland to write something after the press already knew there was never anything documented. One would hope that Frohnmayer and Leland are trustworthy people, but we can't be sure if Leland mentioned something in his oral report that was omitted from the written report, which was put together with the knowledge that it was going to be publicly scrutinized.

It also begs the question: Was there something Leland reported on that the University didn't want anyone to know about? There is one thing it could be: A few months after the oral report, Moos' contract was bought out by donors for $2 million, and the donor who bankrolled most of the payment, Pat Kilkenny, is now the new athletic director. What went on behind close doors in that department will remain shrouded.

Because Leland and Frohnmayer both knew the public would comb over the written report, it is baffling that they would release it with at least 20 blatant errors in grammar and syntax [UD snaps to attention here!] that make the report difficult to understand. We can't imagine Frohnmayer accepting this if it were an assignment turned in by one of his students, let alone an expensive report that reflects the overall image of the University.

Aside from the errors in grammar, the report is seriously lacking substance. Leland says in the report that he interviewed about 85 people, distributed a questionnaire and reviewed planning documents. He dedicates most of the space to say positive-yet-vague things about the department without mentioning specifics. For example, Leland writes:

"Pacific 10 Conference: This is a real strength of the department of Intercollegiate Athletics. The Pac 10 Conference has benefited from Oregon's presents (sic) but the receptacle (sic) is also true; the Pac 10 is a great fit for the University of Oregon." [Earn big bucks! Write like a moron!]

Leland, who states in the report that "The program is well positioned to move forward and continue to ensure that student athletics have (sic) a great experience... ", only interviewed two students. How he could make a statement about student athletes while only talking to two of them is unclear.

The few improvements articulated by the report provide no insight as to why, or how, these improvements should or could be achieved. The report states that "it is imperative that the university move forward quickly with its planning for a new/renovated facility." Leland doesn't say why, but later in the report he says that the department has lost credibility with some of its significant donors, which leads us to speculate that the University has upset Phil Knight and needs to make him happy by building him an arena.

For the greater half of the school year, the Athletic Department has been embroiled in controversy. For good reason, students and faculty members are concerned that the Athletic Department and the Administration are making backroom deals and acting surreptitiously in the shadows as their work remains cloaked in secrecy. [A bit wordy and redundant here.] As the Leland fiasco illustrates, the University is all too willing to rain money down upon content-free studies as students and faculty watch silently, wondering what the point is. [Nice final image of students and faculty watching silently. It captures their knowledge that they're stooges.]

Monday, March 12, 2007

These Numbers Don't Take Into Account
The Intellectual Rigor of Their Courses of Study

[Note: John Bruno won a recent Faculty Award for Distinguished University Service.]

'Just 10 percent of Ohio State's basketball players received degrees at the school, according to a study that examined the freshman classes entering from 1996-99.

Taking into account players who transfer, enter from junior colleges and are graduated late, 38 percent of Buckeyes basketball players earned degrees during that period, Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, said Monday.

...John Bruno, Ohio State's faculty representative for athletics, said there had been substantial turnover of staff, support personnel and coaches since Randy Ayers (1990-97) and Jim O'Brien (1998-04) coached the team. Bruno added that player academic support has improved.

"My intent is not to apologize for numbers that I as a faculty member think are not high enough," Bruno said. "We're not happy with these numbers, but we've got programs in place that are going to ensure that those numbers rise over time."'

It's people like Bruno, who know better than to apologize for failing so many people so thoroughly, that make Ohio State the place it is.

---thanks, mike---
Snapshots from Home

DCist notes that presidential heads do seem to be rolling in Washington lately. The latest imperiled office-holder is at Howard University.

It fails to mention, however, the remarkable longevity of the about-to-retire president of UD's own George Washington University.
What a Ho.

‘Universities should not employ faculty who stab students. Universities should not employ assistant football coaches who threaten students with handguns.’

Here speaks an Idaho newspaper columnist, first waxing nostalgic about a University of Idaho professor of art who, tanking up at a local bar a few years ago, got annoyed with a student and stabbed him. It took the university ages to get rid of the professor, during which he enjoyed leave with pay.

The writer alludes next to “Assistant [Idaho] Football Coach Alundis Brice, who pulled a 9 mm handgun on a student during an argument in the parking lot of a local bar” a couple of years ago.

It's that demon rum!

Understanding this, the university decided not to punish this man at all. He kept his job.

It’s not clear yet what’ll happen to one of the University of Idaho's current football players, who on Thursday night entered a home, “pulled a semiautomatic pistol and forced [a] man to give him about a thousand dollars from a safe. [He then] allegedly hit the man with the weapon and fled. [He] faces felony charges of armed robbery and aggravated battery.”

If he was drunk when he did it, he'll probably be okay.

Red Stater, a UD reader to whom she is indebted for all this news from the heartland, writes: “We have one of the worst football teams in D-IA, yet we're about to pour $70 million in renovations into the basketball/football arena.”
Asleep at the Wheel

Does the University of Tennessee Chattanooga exist?

UD is more and more perplexed by the sorts of stories coming out of that place... if indeed there is a place... I mean, if there were a place, with people, wouldn't there be some response to its various scandals?

The department of history there still boasts of the accomplishments of a professor who's both a diploma mill grad and a plagiarist. Professor Ruhlman graduated, the university tells us, from the American University of London... He's the author of a civil war book recently pulped because it was largely stolen from someone else's civil war book... And yet there he stays, in all his glory, a fully credited member of the university's history faculty....

And now there's the weird matter of the university's football program. It seems to be quite a shitty program, with poor attendance, and a bunch of locals who'd like to see it put to rest. Yet the coach has just given his son a football scholarship - mainly, it seems, to be able to spend a little more quality time with him:

It surprises me that the signing of a head coach’s son to a football scholarship was not questioned by the local newspaper, Athletic Director Rick Hart, the university’s administration, or anyone else.

I’m sure Sloan Allison is a good kid, but where are the red flags? Did anyone thoroughly think through the consequences of this decision and how it might look to the community as well as alumni? This decision only provides additional ammunition to those within the community and the university system who would like to see the end of UTC’s football program.

Coach Allison would have served the university and the football program better by inviting his son to walk on, and if he proved to be a worthy player, then award him a scholarship.

While Sloan Allison might have been a decent high school football player, in my opinion, he is not worthy of a Division I scholarship. There are a number of other players in the region, state – and even in Chattanooga - who could have brought a great deal of talent to the UTC football team for the next several years. And it has become apparent over the past couple of years that the UTC football program needs to build a foundation of solid talent with solid characters.

While I have remained quiet during some disgraceful incidents within this program over the last couple of years, I think it’s important to speak out now. I will continue to support this fine institution, the football program, and all other athletic programs; but at the same time, Coach Allison’s actions appear to be nothing less than nepotism.

This letter-writer makes my point: Where the hell is everybody? Nobody seems to have said or done anything. Though maybe this letter explains why:

...Sloan Allison probably won't make a living playing football and he might not even be a great college player. But this is about something much larger than football and UTC. It's about a father's love of his son and the opportunity to spend as much time with each other as possible.

Sentimental folk down there... Family firsters... Who cares if he's no good... What's more important than father-son bonding? And if Tennesse's taxpayers can subsidize it, all the better...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

An Opinion Piece
Somewhat at Odds
With the NYRB Piece
By Andrew Delbanco...

...about the same subject. In today's Washington Post, David Ignatius points out what's often been discussed on this blog: the staggering global dominance of American universities.

Higher education is arguably the last area in which the United States dominates the world.... in this globalized world, American universities remain the gold standard. And thanks to aggressive university presidents, they are widening their lead.

America's great universities are in fact becoming global. They are the brand names for excellence -- drawing in the brightest students and faculty and giving them unparalleled opportunities. ... [And] American-style universities, colleges and schools are sprouting up around the world. ... "Everybody is recognizing that we do not have enough expertise about the world. At the same time, we really are the shining light in higher education" [says Columbia's president], with a system that encourages creativity and free thinking.

With dramatically internationalized student bodies, and growing campuses abroad, Ignatius concludes, "American education is a smart bomb that actually works. When we think about the foreign outreach efforts by these university presidents and dozens of others, we should recognize that they are a national security asset -- making the world safer, as well as wiser."

UD remembers lecturing, years ago, to a small class at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Of the twenty or so students, at least ten were foreign.

But it's important to keep in mind what Delbanco's telling us a post or two down there, too. Most of those GSD students were buff beyond belief. Merely with clothes, accent, and hair, they conveyed to UD the presence of a private jet to Gstaad, idling at that moment on a nearby tarmac for them.

The foreign students at our great universities are part of the same wealthy cohort Delbanco's talking about. We're educating the global elite.

Which is fine. But we're also educating, at our best schools, our own established elite, to the growing exclusion of other sorts of people here. The combination of these two groups on our campuses is unlikely to move us in a direction toward greater creativity, or even toward greater global awareness. It's too socially narrow.
Roger Ailes Punished
For Using UD's Title

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Beginning to Smell

Andrew Delbanco, in a review essay in the New York Review of Books, touches on trends and themes intrinsic to this blog, and well-known to thoughtful observers of American universities. Among them:

...Between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s, in a sample of eleven prestigious colleges, the percentage of students from families in the bottom quartile of national family income remained roughly steady— around 10 percent. During the same period the percentage of students from the top quartile rose sharply, from a little more than one third to fully half. If the upscale shops and restaurants near campus are any indication, the trend has continued if not accelerated. And if the sample is broadened to include the top 150 colleges, the percentage of students from the bottom quartile drops to 3 percent. In short, there are very few poor students at America's top colleges, and a large and growing number of rich ones.

... "[N]eed-blind" is a slogan that does not mean much except in relation to the needs of the applicant pool. If most applicants come from places like Greenwich or Grosse Point, a college can be "need-blind" without having to dispense much aid.

...[A]n odor of hypocrisy has gathered in the gap between academic rhetoric and academic reality. The American university tends to be described these days by foe and friend alike as the Alamo of the left—a last fortress for liberal holdouts in a society that has pretty much routed liberals from politics and public life. But how persuasive are testimonials of devotion to equity and democracy when they come from institutions that are usually beyond the reach of anyone without lots of money?

...[O]ur colleges and universities are following rather than resisting the national trend toward a widening disparity between rich and poor. This is true not only in how colleges admit their students, but in their internal structure (presidential compensation has crossed the million-dollar threshold in several cases), and in the wealth of leading institutions relative to their competitors (the annual return on Harvard's $30 billion endowment now exceeds the entire endowment of some of its Ivy League rivals).
Fresno President
Tipping Over Trash Cans
In Search of Receipts

'Four professors at California State University, Fresno want an independent committee to investigate why as much as $773,000 in corporate donations were spent on athletics instead of academics.

Fresno State acknowledged earlier this year that it directed hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked for academic programs to sports from 1997 to 2003.

"Everyone seems very upset among the faculty, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it," said Chris Golston, one of four linguistics professors who wrote a letter last week asking the Academic Senate to form a committee to investigate the donations.

The university has brought in an outside lawyer and auditors to review the problem, and has promised to make the findings public.

The professors say university officials shouldn't pick the investigators who are reviewing the actions of university officials.

"Mistakes do happen and it is our responsibility to fix problems when they are found," said university President John Welty in a letter posted on the school's Web site last month. "Fresno State has acted responsibly on this issue and will continue to do so in the future."'

To divert one corporate donation may be regarded as a misfortune, Mr. Welty; to divert hundreds of thousands of dollars over six years looks like carelessness.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Spring Break Off to A Bad Start

'Sarasota, FL - Police say a Michigan State University professor bit a police officer and was arrested for assault at a Florida airport.

John Douglas McCallie and his wife, Spartans women's basketball coach Joanne McCallie, arrived at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport Wednesday afternoon.

A police report says McCallie argued with an airport police officer after one of the couple's bags did not arrive at the baggage claim.

The report says McCallie bit the officer on the hand during a struggle after the officer tried to take him into custody.

McCallie was charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence.

He was jailed and released several hours later on a $2,700 bond.'


UPDATE: Gory Details.

'Airline officials told the couple they needed baggage claim stubs to find the lost luggage.

McCallie then reportedly went to a trash can where he had thrown out the stubs.

"McCallie started dumping out the trash looking for the tag," said Bob Mattingly, the airport's vice president of operations and maintenance. "One of the police officers approached him and said, 'What are you doing' and 'please clean it up.'

"Then the man just flipped out."

Police said McCallie refused to clean up the mess, began yelling obscenities and swinging the trash can at the officer.

When officer George Munkelwitz attempted to handcuff him, McCallie slapped his hand away. The two began to struggle and ended up on the ground, where the professor bit the officer's finger when he tried to grab his wrist, airport police said.

McCallie reportedly would not let go and was subdued when the officer pressed a pressure point behind his ear.'
University of Minnesota Student
Attempts to Reason With ...

... Branch Manager, TCF Bank (Scholastic Division):

In an interview last month, Bruininks said the stadium in no way conflicts with the University's academic mission, pointing to Target Corporation's recent $5 million donation. The company pledged $2 million for the stadium, $2 million for the Weisman Art Museum and $1 million to help expand the business school.

"Nearly every (stadium) donor has also made an academic donation," Bruininks said.

But former Council of Graduate Students President Britt Johnson said she doesn't fully follow the president's logic.

"Why not just donate $5 million to the academic mission?" she asked. "That's a lot of scholarships and fellowships for graduate students and undergrads."
'I Got Lost in His Arms
and I Had to Stay,"

...Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun.

Here's that kind of writing, the kind of writing where you get lost in its arms and have to stay. Color Scathing Online Schoolmarm impressed.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Timid? Did I Say Professors Were Timid?

Not the hilarious warriors of Dissent: A Blog. Their battles against a ridiculous chancellor and board of trustees get a bit convoluted, but they're all great writers, and the blog's a visual treat too.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

Dim is the word for the low wattage writing UD features below.

Dim prose generates so little light that it's hard to make out any meaning. Reading it's like being underwater in a slimy murky world...

Or rather, since this is an editorial about the University of Southern Mississippi, appearing in a Mississippi newspaper, reading this writing is like moving very very slowly under a brooding canopy of Spanish moss...

In the big scheme of things, a 3,700-seat addition to a Division I university's football stadium is not that big of a deal. [Repetition of "big" already gumming things up. Writer should have dropped the first "big."] Considering it raises the total capacity to 37,000, it's something larger universities do with great regularity. [Logic of this sentence escapes me.] And some of those are already seating 80,000 or more.

The immediate reaction could be to ask why the money being spent on the stadium expansion [at USM] isn't going toward academic programs or higher salaries for professors.

The planned expansion of M.M. Roberts Stadium, scheduled to begin next month and completed Aug. 1, 2008, [See how there's nothing dramatically objectionable in this writing, yet in lots of little ways -- the redundancy of "planned" and "scheduled," the dropping of "to be" before "completed" -- it irritates?] is generating plenty of buzz, the most common being why add on to a stadium where sellouts aren't that common to start. ["Common" -- another lazy redundancy. And all mushy on the crucial fact of there being more than enough seats in the stadium for existing low fan interest. Of course, he wants to mush this point up, since it utterly undoes whatever case he thinks he has.]

It's a fair question but it's also one that doesn't address the larger issues, such as potential growth of the University of Southern Mississippi. ["Potential growth" is not an "issue" but a wish fulfillment.] The additional seats will include 34 suites, 320 club-level seats and 1,900 bleacher seats. A new scoreboard is also part of the plan. [Um... what'll I say now? Oh. I'll list the cool shit this thing'll have...]

The total cost will be $31,893,420. It will be paid for by $21 million in bonds and $9 million borrowed from BancorpSouth. The bonds will be retired and borrowed dollars paid from revenue from the leases of the already sold suites. None of the expansion will cost taxpayers. [It'll cost taxpayers. And it'll cost students. Both groups know this. It's eerie to read an argument like this, written as it were by a prose autistic, for himself alone, with no awareness of a world outside himself...]

It is no secret that college football - especially on the Division I level - has become as much about business as blocking and tackling. Major corporate sponsors often showcase their brand name at college football games, and are usually provided seats for their support. [So? Is this a good thing? Do you think reminding us that this has happened strengthens your argument?]

M.M. Roberts - more affectionately known as "The Rock" - is small by most standards, yet probably right in the ballpark of campuses with an almost 15,000-student enrollment. [Note the lack of any organization in this piece. It helps, by way of organizing an argument, to have an argument.]

What opponents of any expansion fail to realize is that it is often revenue generated from televised football games, regularly played on Tuesday and Thursday nights, that funds other programs across the university. [This almost never happens. Usually football drains revenue from universities.]

The challenge for Southern Miss is to go after those USM students who enjoy the fruits of the college experience but who don't attend the games. Attendance at both the men's and women's basketball teams, for example, has been far less than what two quality programs should enjoy. [La... la... la... what should I say next? Oh yeah. The kids don't go to the games. Clearly the only sane response to this is to add expensive new seats to the stadium and flush the little buggers out of their hiding places... ]

The argument that expansion is a waste loses validity when the students share in the benefits. [Believe it or not, this is the last sentence of an editorial in a newspaper. For this writer, life is but a dream. Someday, USM will expand... someday, its students will attend its games... Come dream along with me! The best is yet to be!]

---Hattiesburg American---


Dusty Rhodes

It was only a matter of time before someone pointed out that, for all the prestige of the Rhodes scholarship, once you get over there, you're at a European university. This Harvard Crimson opinion piece by two recent recipients has generated lots of defensive responses, but what they say is true. Excerpts:

'...Oxford’s outdated [trimester] system ... means students are out of school more than in. In contrast to Harvard professors’ regular office hours, Oxford advisors spend more time avoiding emails than supervising students. Here, where D.Phil. students struggle to have supervisors read their dissertations before submission, poor supervision is the rule, not the exception.

If you’re entertaining pipe dreams of researching something you’re passionate about at Oxford, don’t expect the resources to help you do so. The ancient walls of the Bodleian Library house a less than inspiring collection. Last year, some departmental libraries had to cancel their LexisNexis subscriptions due to budget shortfalls. And if you have visions of debates with famous Nobel Prize winners, expect instead to be taught in a lecture hall by an apathetic post-doc.

Faculty rosters at Oxford face high attrition, as top-notch professors such as Niall Ferguson leave for more lucrative posts in the United States. You will likely spend most of your time in touch with Harvard librarians to access materials not available at Oxford, and you will probably be asking your undergraduate advisor for research funding and advice. ...'


Look sharp, man.

You teach there. You have a column in the New York Times. Say something.

'Florida International University, not content to see its football team lose all its games last year in front of the 9,700 fans who can fit into its bandbox stadium, now plans to build a $50-million arena so the team can lose in front of 45,000 fans.

According to Miami Today, the team began playing in Division I-A, the NCAA’s top competitive level, in 2006, and has quickly outgrown its campus stadium, which an official said was little better than “a high-school stadium.” The new arena, slated to open in 2008, will adjoin a new student center and will feature luxury boxes. Initially the stadium will accommodate 18,000 fans, but it will eventually expand to 45,000.

And by then, one hopes, the Golden Panthers would have eked out a victory beyond their fine new sports complex.'

---chronicle of higher education---

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross..

...alumni of William and Mary, I put the cross back where it was before. Says prez.
We Wouldn't Have Had
White Noise Without Him

Jean Baudrillard, theorist of hyperreality and simulacra, has died. Although UD learned quite a bit from some of his early essays, she finds the quotations from him that newspapers are featuring in his obituaries quite stupid.

Here's one, from a Canadian paper:

"Santa Barbara is a paradise; Disneyland is a paradise; the U.S. is a paradise. Paradise is just paradise. Mournful, monotonous, and superficial though it may be, it is paradise. There is no other."

No other! Give up looking!

Similarly, notes the New York Times, "Since illusion reigns, [Baudrillard] counseled people to give up the search for reality."

No reality! Give up looking!

“All of our values are simulated,” he told The New York Times in 2005. “What is freedom? We have a choice between buying one car or buying another car? It’s a simulation of freedom.”

It's all simulated! Forget it!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Even With Tenure,
Profs Pissing Their Pants

Two professors of human development describe the results of their recent study, in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

'...Academic freedom should mean that professors with tenure act without fear of reprisal in the real-life situations we asked about, pursuing research that interests them, reporting unethical conduct by colleagues, and so forth. Sadly, tenure does not appear to confer such freedom.

Professors in our study were more timid than we expected, rarely confronting departmental colleagues who disagreed with the content of their research and teaching. Interestingly, everyone thought that everyone else would behave more boldly than they themselves would.

Having tenure was not associated with a greater willingness to speak one's mind or publish controversial findings. Comparing tenured associate professors with untenured assistant professors and tenured full professors revealed that the associates behaved more like their junior colleagues than like their senior ones.

The biggest increase in the tendency to speak one's mind, to teach courses unpopular with one's colleagues, to publish controversial research, and to blow the whistle on ethical transgressions came when a professor was finally promoted from associate professor with tenure to full professor. That point in a scholar's career usually comes 12 to 20 years after the receipt of the Ph.D., which means that for many years, academic freedom is stifled, or at least muted.

One happy finding in our survey was that the idea of the renegade tenured professor — often invoked during tenure reviews when someone wishes to block a candidate by instilling fear of the person's future selfish or irresponsible behavior — turned out to be a myth. Most professors lack the moxie or desire to become renegades.

All the professors in our sample assumed that the colleague down the hall would be more likely than they themselves were to report another professor for misappropriating grant funds or having an inappropriate relationship with a student. (Interestingly, our survey revealed few disciplinary or gender differences.) In fact, some professors appear more concerned with remaining in their colleagues' good graces than they are with maintaining ethical standards.

One could argue that even if tenure does not meet its objective of encouraging academic freedom, it still helps attract a talented work force, results in higher graduation rates at colleges and universities with higher proportions of tenure-track faculty members, and protects the few who most need it — those professors who are courageous enough to teach or publish highly controversial material. But is tenure the most efficient way to achieve those goals?

Some nations that do not offer tenure still protect academic freedom, through legislation or union contracts. For example, Britain passed an education act stipulating that academics appointed or promoted after November 1987 would no longer have tenure, and professors with tenure at that time would lose it when they were next promoted. Yet the act specifies that professors can express controversial or unpopular views without fear of losing their jobs. And New Zealand law guarantees academic freedom, though tenure in that country offers less job security than in the United States.

Our survey leads us to conclude that tenure is not living up to its original promise: It does not liberate professors to exercise the freedoms of speech, writing, and action. The muzzling effect of the current system of promotion in higher education — in which even tenured associate professors refrain from exercising academic freedom for fear of derailing their chances for promotion to full professor — must be weighed against tenure's virtues, such as higher graduation rates and the recruitment of a talented work force....

Regular readers know that UD doesn't think the current system's muzzling effect is responsible for this timidity, lack of moxie, lack of courage, absence of renegade ways, refusal to speak one's mind, inability to be bold, etc. UD believes most professors are born scared. They're drawn to a job promising lifetime security because they don't want to face the rough and tumble of the real world. They want to spend their days on quiet removed little quads. For the American university professor, timidity is Job #1.

Monday, March 05, 2007

UD Salutes...

...the students at Southern Illinois University, who are beginning to grasp the nature of the football stadium scam:

Student leaders want private money for Saluki Way


CARBONDALE - Southern Illinois University Carbondale student leaders say they'd like to see blueprints and a bill for the sports complexes in the Saluki Way project before administrators ask them to pay any more fees.

Two representatives from undergraduate student government told the SIU board of trustees Wednesday they believe building a new football stadium and renovating the arena is a good idea, but private donations are supposed to fund a big portion of the $76 million project in addition to increased student fees.

So far, the $560,000 the university foundation has raised toward the athletic facilities falls far short of the 50 percent officials have said they'd like to see in private funding before releasing bonds to finance construction.

The representatives also said administrators have yet to show students designs, blueprints or final cost estimates but are prepared to levy a $54 increase in the athletics fee next year, $44 of which will go toward the Saluki Way projects.

The hike will bring the athletics fee alone to $221 per semester, based on 12 credit hours.

"As students we want to pay into a good, sound investment," said USG senator and College of Applied Sciences and Arts student Jeff Jaynes. "We don't have that yet."

Jaynes said if students are paying more in fees now for a project that is not ready, inflation in costs for building materials used in Saluki Way likely will raise those fees even higher in the future.

USG President Akeem Mustapha said students are skeptical the university will raise the private money necessary to complete the sports facilities and they are worried administrators will make them finance more of it through fees.

"This will not be possible unless we develop a constructive compromise," Mustapha said.

SIUC Interim Chancellor John Dunn said Mustapha brought up a valid point, and he said he is going to try from now on to speak to student government earlier in the fee assessment process.

SIU President Glenn Poshard said with Saluki Way being a recent addition to SIUC's overall fundraising efforts, private donations for it aren't as abundant as the roughly $64 million already contributed to the campus' $100 million capital campaign taken public in 2005.

Poshard said SIUC Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement Rickey McCurry has made progress in speaking with potential donors.

"But he's not at the point yet of asking them for a specific amount of money," Poshard added.

An interim chancellor (recall the scandal that dumped his predecessor) who can't possibly be up to speed makes vague promises to do better; a president bullshits about how happy fund raising days are just around the corner; a vice-chancellor says trust me, everything's just great... I mean... so far... not that I've asked anyone for anything...
UD's Always Amazed... what students will put up with from their professors. Here's a professor who simply stopped teaching after a few class sessions.

No professor. Students emailed him. No answer. Time passed.

Let us pick up the story, from the University of Southern California, noting parenthetically various ironies and enigmas:

A professor's absence for a day might spell relief and a few extra hours of relaxation for students, but for some communication management graduate students, their instructor's absence has worn out its novelty.

Aram Sinreich, professor of CMGT 599 - Communication, Culture and Commerce in the Videogame Industry [no comment] - has not showed up to his class for more than a month, leaving some students frustrated and lost.

Andrea Hollingshead, chair of the communication management program, said Sinreich originally missed class because he caught the flu.

Sinreich stopped showing up for the Wednesday night class after the second week of the semester [note how quickly the guy disappeared], said Matt Rosenzweig, a master's candidate in communication management.

Rosenzweig said the situation grew worse after Sinreich failed to respond to e-mails.

Sinreich's condition worsened, preventing him from communicating by phone or e-mail, Hollingshead said. [In what direction does the flu worsen so that you can't use a keyboard or a phone? Or, uh, direct someone else to on your behalf?]

Two of Sinreich's colleagues and professional friends [Note that "professional friends." Fellow video game enthusiasts he hangs out with at the internet cafe?] have tried to fill in for his absence, but Rosenzweig said they came to class unprepared.

"They were not informed what they would be covering in the class until a few hours beforehand," he said. "They did not have enough time to digest the material."

Rosenzweig said the lectures given by both substitutes did not meet his expectations for the course and what it was supposed to teach.

"The transition up until this point has not been handled very well," Rosenzweig said.

"This is a $4,000 class. That's a lot of money to spend for not getting anything. [The student admirably grasps the dimensions of the situation.] It's going to compromise the integrity of the communication management program," he said.

The two substitutes who filled in for Sinreich were actually scheduled to speak later during the course as guests, and their rescheduling may have affected the flow of the course, Hollingshead said.

"Obviously moving the topics around to accommodate Aram's illness is not ideal for the continuity of the class," she wrote in an e-mail.

"But the two speakers were actually expected to serve as guest speakers later in the semester anyway," she wrote.

Sinreich's surprise condition put the communication program's management in a unique position they've never faced before [A little redundancy there.], which is why some students might have felt they were left in the dark, Hollingshead said.

"We thought (Sinreich) was going to be back," Hollingshead said in an interview. [This is particularly lame. A professor's never had to drop his class before?]

"He thought he could be in class. He really wanted to be there," she said. [What's this information about him based on? Did his condition only permit him to email fellow faculty members?] "I've never been in a situation where an instructor wasn't able to continue halfway through the semester." [You haven't been around much.]

After a few weeks went by with no professor, Rosenzweig wrote an e-mail to Hollingshead and the rest of the program's administration expressing his concern for the integrity of the course. [Note that the rest of the class wasn't doing anything about an invisible professor. Only one of them seems to have -- after a few weeks! -- emailed someone about it.]

The following night, Larry Gross, the dean of the Annenberg School of Communication, dropped in the class and shed some light on the matter. [How many students do you suppose were there for the dean's little visit? Nice of him to show up and explain things.]

Rosenzweig said Gross explained the situation and apologized.

Gross also announced the course's current substitute, Elaine Chan, would be the instructor for the remainder of the semester.

Despite the e-mail sent by Rosenzweig, Hollingshead said she and other communication management program heads were planning on acting on the situation after they found out Sinreich would not return. [We were gonna do something about it for sure...]

Some students praised the program heads for promising a happy ending for the course.

"Annenberg has done what it could to assess the situation," said Ben Gigli, a master's candidate in communication management. "Elaine's work has been parallel with Aram's. She is extremely well-qualified."

Even Rosenzweig said he's adopted a more positive outlook.

"I remain optimistic," he said. "The course can be salvaged. Something could be done to give some educational merit."

The program's administration is currently working on improving the course to ensure the second half will be a memorable experience, Hollingshead said.

"We're finding excellent guest speakers to come in," she said. "All of us have to come together and try to make a great experience for the rest of the semester."

Hollingshead said she and her colleagues are also working on providing some form of compensation for the students and their time lost during the first few weeks of the course.

--from the usc student newspaper--
Pow'rPoint, Thou Shalt Die

A Princeton professor of computer science lets fly on PowerPoint use among job candidates giving on-campus presentations to students and faculty:

PowerPoint is a two-edged sword. In the right hands, it can be persuasive and effective, but in the wrong hands (that is, almost everyone who uses it), it provides form without content, five minutes worth of talking points to spread over an hour. If we could somehow convert PowerPoint slides into pills, insomnia, like smallpox, would be eradicated from the earth.

The big problem with PowerPoint is that it almost mandates tightly scripted presentations that are little more than a reading of the slides. Whether one reads the text verbatim or paraphrases it in real time, the effect is the same: The listeners know exactly what's coming up, they can read it faster than you can, and they tune out, perhaps not to return until several slides later. Nor is there room for spontaneity or changes of plan.

Verily, I say unto you: Read Rate My Professors with any care over, say, an hour, and you will discover all you need to know about PowerPoint use in the classroom.
UD's Longtime Blogpal...

...Robert J. O'Hara, gets some high-level attention this morning, in an International Herald Tribune article about residential colleges in which some professors as well as students live.

The concept was largely ignored ... as colleges ballooned in size when the baby boom generation began coming of age. In many cases, O'Hara said, students were housed in what he calls "cinderblock student ghettos," where they were robbed of important relationships with faculty.

"There's been a real sense that 'Boy, what we tried in the late '60s has been really a flop so we'd better try something different,'" said O'Hara. The more recent faculty live-in arrangements, he said, came partly in response to a party culture and rampant alcohol abuse on many campuses.

Research shows that increased attention from faculty leads to higher academic achievement among students and a greater sense of belonging, said Karen Inkelas, a University of Maryland professor who studies programs that seek to integrate the in- and out-of-classroom experience. In return, more contact with students energizes faculty, she said.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Requiem Pastiche

One of UD's students is a soloist in tonight's 'Requiem Pastiche' -- excerpts from various requiems -- at Lisner Auditorium.

UD's looking forward to it, though with her love of singing, she would have preferred a requiem hootenanny.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Scathing Online Schoolmarm

No Noun Left Behind

SOS has already, on this blog, looked at the "Signed, Disgusted" genre of letter writing.

Nothing wrong with the genre. Nothing wrong with wanting in a public forum to express your disgust with an event or a person or an argument. But it has to be done right.

Let us see how it looks when it's done wrong.

Here's a man all het up about the death of the University of Illinois mascot, a dancing Indian chief.

Since it's stupid to keen over the demise of a mascot, the letter writer has several challenges in getting this missive off the ground. He might begin, for instance, by acknowledging that what's upsetting him isn't, of course, the most important subject in the world... But he doesn't do that. Let us take a closer look.

I know you [The letter is addressed to the president of the university] do not need any negative letters: However, I feel [In general, and especially in polemical writing, avoid "I feel." It's girly and emotive - it weakens your voice immediately.] this story needs to be told [Chief Illinewhatever: The Greatest Story Ever Told. We are already a bit out of our sphere, rhetoric-wise.].

I hold you, the Board of Trustees, your complete staff, and the Alumni Association responsible as the decision makers for the University of Illinois. ["Complete staff" begins to suggest a problem that will recur in what follows. This writer has never seen a noun he doesn't think deserves an adjective. Why "complete" staff? It's his vehemence, of course -- he's full of feeling. Yet the effect of this phrase - your complete staff - is, given the multiple meanings of staff, and the personal mode of address, just amusing.]

You have meekly surrendered [not just surrendered, but meekly] the pride of the university to a tiny group (perhaps a half dozen) of activists (with no apparent motive other than a desire for publicity) in opposition to the expressed feelings of hundreds of thousands of loyal alumni [tiny group, loyal alumni].

Where is the old Illini fighting spirit? [Cliche.] This abject capitulation [abject] to this minuscule [miniscule] minority and to the NCAA, a dictatorial organization that needs to be cut down to size [Much as UD enjoys NCAA-bashing, this latest adjective -- dictatorial -- won't do.], is ridiculous and totally unrepresentative of [a] great institution.

As I understand it, other universities have fought the NCAA decisions successfully. If we need to go to court, let’s go!

I am convinced this type of subservient wind blowing [A subservient wind's a blowin' -- You knew we'd get into mixed metaphor territory eventually.] throughout the country is a major contributor to our falling cultural and family values [Off the rails here.]. Our majorities are overly anxious to bow to minorities, whether justified or not. [?]

In your case, as the decision-makers, whatever your legacy might have been to date [Bit of a brain twister: Your legacy to date...], hereafter, you will be remembered as the ones who spinelessly gave away the Illini’s richest and most cherished tradition, Chief Illiniwek. [Tone all over the place. Bitter Teaparty: hereafter, legacy. Onfield heckler: spineless...]

As for myself? Raised in Champaign, I have been an Illini fan all my life back to the days of Red Grange and Bob Zuppke when we used to crawl under the fence to see the ball game -- and the Chief! Later of course came Dike Eddleman and all the other great Illini. We attend all home football and basketball games. [Fine old American boilerplate. I have no problem with this.]

Including my brothers and my children, my immediate family holds eight degrees from the University of Illinois. Now it is disheartening that just as the university and the Alumni Association are widely soliciting funds -- and just at the time I and other old alumni are considering preparations for a, perhaps, longer journey [Is this a reference to his impending death?], you pull this trick.

My wife, Pauline, suggests the University might get a chicken for a mascot.


Game, Set, and Match

'There is an interesting positive correlation between the availability of alcohol - especially beer and wine - and academic excellence. Take the University of Wisconsin, for example, which in my field, German studies, happens to be number one in the country. Surprise, surprise. There is a Rathskeller on campus.'

A German literature professor, in a letter to the University of Florida student newspaper.

Friday, March 02, 2007

UD Salutes...

...the student editorialists at The Cavalier Daily.

"[T]he claim that lifting dozens of paragraphs verbatim constitutes anything less than fraud is ludicrous," writes the editorial board of The Cavalier, the University of Virginia's student newspaper.

Too right.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has for some time successfully been making that ludicrous claim about her own blatant plagiarism, has been given an appointment at the University of Virginia, an institution famous for its honor code.

The editors note "the quickness with which some at the University discard standards of honor when it becomes convenient to do so. At the very least, it seems odd when a University that enshrines honor and expels anyone convicted of plagiarism hires an admitted plagiarist." The school comes down hard on student plagiarists, and then appoints the nation's highest-profile plagiarist.

"It's somewhat depressing to imagine the Miller Center [the campus outfit that's hiring her] ignoring Goodwin's tainted past in order to exploit her status as a celebrity historian of sorts." U Va's hypocrisy is making its students cynical.
Brown University:
Land of Paradox

What do you call a curriculum when it's not a curriculum?

At Brown University, they call it a "curriculum," although "students create their own course of study with no core requirements. Traditional letter grades are optional," etc.

They also call it a "success."

If it were, it's unlikely they'd be gearing up for a long-expected major reckoning with it. Brown's national and international ranking, astonishingly low for an Ivy, is no doubt related to its intellectual chaos, a chaos made worse by routine cancellation of tons of courses each semester and their sudden replacement by whatever.

UD has chronicled, on this blog, the faculty cynicism and student confusion created by Brown's array of obscure, restlessly morphing courses.

UD doubts this first attempt to confront chaos will get anywhere. Another paradox about Brown is that though it thinks it's experimental and open and daring and free, in fact it's crochety, in the way of most institutions, about changing established procedures. Expect campus reactionaries to fight to the death to keep things the way they've been for years.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Quotation of the Day

"Alcohol is the yang to athletics' yin. For fans, drinking alcohol heightens the football-watching experience, making them feel as if they are part of the team."

From a student editorial in the University of Oregon newspaper.
Fudge Only If You Fly Low

Regular readers know this rule of UD's - Go ahead and buy a degree from a diploma mill, or lie on your cv about having earned legitimate degrees that you haven't earned, but fly very low.

If you fly low enough, chances are no one will notice. Millions of Americans live lives of quiet desperation with undetected fake or unearned degrees in their past.

But this blog is in part the sad chronicle of bogus grads whom fate lifts up into the light of day. Once that happens, it's merde/ventilateur time, as in this latest case, from a woman nominated to be Israel's Tourism Minister (she has now withdrawn):

[H]er curriculum vitae, which said she had a bachelor's degree from Bar Ilan University, was wrong. Nor did she have a master's degree as she had claimed.

In a statement on prime time TV, Tartman lashed out at the media accusing reporters of character assassination. She said she did study at Bar Ilan University and got good marks but her BA was from another college.

She acknowledged that her claims to a master's degree were wrong but suggested that was a minor issue because she had studied for an MA.