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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Frawley Fired

The official statement:

'After a great deal of deliberation and in recognition of our obligations to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Board of Visitors of the University of Mary Washington has decided that it is in the best interests of the University and the University community that this Board terminate Dr. William J. Frawley from his employment with the University, for cause, effective immediately.'

Background here.

--- Via ---
Scathing Online Schoolmarm:
Somebody Help Me Care!

David Whitley writes for a Florida newspaper. He wishes to convince us that multimillion dollar college coach salaries, escalating by the minute toward the tens of millions, are an excellent idea -- nay, an historical inevitability. But SOS is not sure Whitley really cares whether he convinces us of this or not. He is confused. He is not performing well.

Let's check his progress, a few paragraphs into his piece:

The point is that if anyone still is looking at this in the context of college sports, they hopelessly are blind to reality. [Come again? The context is college sports, surely? Given that this is about college sports? And that lame hopelessly is out of place: If you're going to use it, which you shouldn't, but if you are, put it in front of blind. And blind to reality is a cliche.]

The reality is that college sports is an increasingly gargantuan business. [Whitley's overfond of adverbs. The sentence has no need of increasingly. I mean, think about it, David: If something's already gargantuan, is it particularly impressive for it to be increasingly so? I'm impressed already with gargantuan, see? ... And yeah, that's the reality; but there's nothing wrong with disliking a reality and wanting it changed.] The economics require coaches to be paid as much as backup NBA point guards. But if we condone that, we basically admit that we value entertainment more than education. [Note that the writer has done nothing to convince us that the economics require a certain level of salary. Again, he has merely told us what the current situation is. Ask the president of Vanderbilt if he feels compelled by this economics lesson.]

Call me shallow, but I'll admit that.

Who wouldn't rather sit through a football game than a geology lecture? The fact we'll pay to watch Gators quarterback Tim Tebow does not signal the decline of civilization. It signals we are human, and humans always have yearned to be entertained. [Hm. How shall SOS go about SOSing this flaccid little paragraph? Should she explain that limp rhetorical questions do not turn her on? That a not very well-endowed writer offering UD enlightenment about her human essence makes her giggle rather than say yes I will Yes...]

Yes, academics and athletics often make an awkward fit. It can lead to bad publicity. There's the perpetual pay-for-play debate.

But aren't those reasonable prices to pay? [No.]

Florida's athletic teams (read: football) generated $82 million last year. What's a university supposed to do, walk away from that kind of business opportunity? [Yes.]

At $2 million a year, Florida State's Bobby Bowden makes 50 times more than when he arrived in Tallahassee. Heck, he still makes 15 times more than fellow state employee Charlie Crist.

But what has Bowden been worth to Florida State over the past three decades? In terms of donations, memories, prestige and pride, the school never will be able to repay him. [Yup. Florida State's in great shape.]

What has C. Vivian Stringer been worth to Rutgers in just the past two weeks? Her team's dignified reaction to the Don Imus controversy made it a national sweetheart. Now Stringer stands to make $900,000 a year with incentives.

Most of the big-salary money comes from outside sources. That will be worth remembering in a few weeks when Donovan and football coach Urban Meyer get their raises.

Lumped together, two coaches will be pulling down at least $5 million. It could be $8 million if Imus says Tebow has nappy hair. That would pay for approximately 12 anthropology professors, three microbiology labs and four more Starbucks in the student union.

So you think Florida should let Donovan and Meyer just walk away? [Have you got hold of this guy's argument in any way? I'm trying. My job depends on my ability to make sense of garbled writing and garbled argument. But I can't do it.]

Ask Gainesville's merchants, or at least those who depend on fans showing up on football weekends. If Jeremy Foley hadn't fired former football coach Ron Zook, the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce would have.

If Meyer gets a bump to the $3 million range, he'll still be a bargain. He'll also still be making less than Saban, whose contract triggered the latest round of wailing.

Then 92,138 people show up to cheer his first scrimmage.

The hard question of why coaches make so much has a very easy answer.

They're worth it.


Peace War

'Students and faculty at De Anza College may have a new campus facility called the "peace room" to manage their stress.

"It is a room for meditation, contemplation, chanting and prayer," said Scott McDonough, supporter of the peace room and the president of the World Peace Buddhists Club.

McDonough said the peace room, ideally 20 by 20 square feet, would be used for religious and non-religious practice and for people to manage their stress. The room would be able to facilitate a group of people while, at the same time, accomodating individuals' personal space for their own meditation.

McDonough prefers to call the room a peace room, instead of prayer room as some students call it, because of the conflict with the separation of church and state.

"I don't want to single out praying as the only purpose for the peace room," he said. "I am a Buddhist, but I also do non-religious meditation and deep breathing."

The idea came to McDonough when he could not find a place to release his stress on campus. McDonough said that he needs to cope with stress everyday because he suffers from post-traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I spend a long day on campus and try to get an education; managing my stress and maintaining my focus is very important," he said.

McDonough would go to the conference room in the Hinson Campus Center, but construction forced him out.

The current Campus Center policy requires students to make reservations before using the conference rooms for any amount of time.

"Several times I was told to leave, and all I was doing in the room was chanting," he said.

The De Anza Associated Student Body Senate and the Inter-Club Council supported the idea of a peace room, and both parties signed the endorsements last spring.

However, the Council version of endorsement conflicts with the Senate's version.

ICC's definition of a peace room is "a room for meditation, contemplation, chanting and prayer," McDonough said.

But the senate does not include the word "prayer."

... Students with different religious backgrounds have said they are concerned about possible religious conflicts if the peace room is created.

Ruth Rabin, a TV and Film student, said religion does not belong on campus.

"Education and religion should not mix," she said. "If you want to pray, go to an appropriate venue."'

---la voz online---

Sunday, April 29, 2007

University of Minnesota Football:
High on a Feeling!

'I really believe that in the long run this will serve our state well and will serve our university even better. To me, this was not just about revenues and support of our athletics programs. This was about bringing back the citizens of this state, connecting them more deeply with the University of Minnesota, making this a more festive part of our celebration of what's really important about the university. You don't get that feeling when you go to a professional stadium that's off campus.'

University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Concordia College and University and Whatever

'Lucy Wightman, who drew stares in the 1970s and '80s as the celebrated stripper Princess Cheyenne in Boston's Combat Zone, held the gaze of 16 jurors yesterday as a state prosecutor accused her of fraudulently posing as a licensed psychologist and treating children whose parents had no idea she lacked the proper credentials.

"This is a case about trust, broken trust, and breaking that trust to commit theft from parents and their children," Assistant Attorney General David Andrews said as Wightman went on trial in Suffolk Superior Court on charges of treating children with eating disorders and other serious problems without a license from 1998 to 2005.

Wightman, 47, of Hull, who had practices in two affluent Boston suburbs, faces 14 counts of felony larceny, five counts of filing false healthcare claims, five counts of insurance fraud, and one count of practicing psychology without a license. Andrews said she took nearly $40,000 from unsuspecting parents while posing as a licensed psychologist after buying a bogus doctorate online from a diploma mill.

But Wightman's lawyer, Katie Cook Rayburn , said her client has a master's degree in psychology and studied five years at the accredited Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology before withdrawing for reasons Wightman will explain when testifying in her own defense.

Feeling she had completed her academic training as well as thousands of hours of internship , Wightman bought a doctorate online from Dominica-based Concordia College & University, believing it was legitimate, Rayburn said. Nonetheless, Wightman denies telling people who sought treatment that she was licensed, Rayburn said.'
Hayes Update:
Indicted University of Alaska Regent Resigns

Impeachment pressure worked: Jim Hayes has resigned.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Falling Asleep Between Classes...

...which I almost never do. Started to worry about why it's happening, and then remembered: I gave blood at the National Institutes of Health yesterday. And then went for a long walk, which you're not supposed to do.

Wild morning at NIH. Who knew it was bring your kid to work day? Tons of kids everywhere. There was an Earth Day fair too.

I was entered into an NIH experiment. I'm in the control group -- women who are regular donors and whose iron content always tests okay, but who don't take iron pills. Apparently, for some women, even if they take pills, regular donation depletes their iron reserves, and they're sometimes turned away from giving as a result...

The nurse asked me fun questions. Not the regular blood donation questions about your sex life, but questions like Do you sometimes have a desire to eat pebbles?
Symbolic Regent Impeachment

Alaska's legislators know they can't really get it done, but they're hoping that a little pressure in the direction of impeachment will nudge James C. Hayes, the most corrupt university regent UD's ever encountered, toward resignation.

'The first impeachment hearings since 1985 got under way today at the state Capitol.

But even the sponsor of the resolution against University Regent James C. Hayes said what he's really hoping for is a voluntary resignation.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, presented the resolution today to the Senate Health, Education and Social Services Committee, which did not have enough members present to do business.

The resolution said Hayes, who is under a multiple-count federal indictment involving alleged misuse of federal grant funds, should be impeached for unauthorized use of the university seal and for repeated absences from Board of Regents meetings.

Committee Chairwoman Bettye Davis noted that three committees would have to consider impeachment before a vote of the full Senate could be taken.

A two-thirds vote would set up a trial in the House of Representatives, which would be presided over by a Supreme Court justice.

Wagoner said he doesn't want that unprecedented event.

"Senate resolution 3 is not an indictment that the Legislature believes Mr. Hayes is guilty, only that he should step down and remove the appearance of unethical behavior from his public office and also take the time he needs to defend himself in this case," Wagoner said.'

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Snapshots From Home

Jerzy Soltan...

...UD's father-in-law,
will be awarded a posthumous medal
for his contributions to Polish culture
next month, at the consulate in New York.
An English Professor Among the Historians

UD is delighted to be in the company of Anthony Grafton, and many other historians, as he writes about "Clio and the Bloggers" in the latest issue of the American Historical Association's journal, Perspectives.

'[T]he [history] blogs offer a new level of conversation and information about our beloved discipline. Taken together, moreover—and it's proper to do that, since they list and respond to one another, and the same posters and lurkers move from one to another—they have created something like a virtual café in cyberspace, one where the conversation is extremely lively and you can learn a great deal simply by listening in.

... Dozens of historians, from undergraduates to senior historians, now keep blogs. Some blog anonymously, some reveal their names; some concentrate on scholarly and professional subjects, but many discuss personal matters as well.

... As vice president of the AHA's Professional Division, I have a professional deformation of my own: I'm tasked to seek out areas where the institutions of history, and the universities that house them, don't work as well as they should, and look for modest, practical ways of improving matters. A number of blogs offer particularly incisive commentary on these matters. Tenured Radical, for example, has analyzed in depth, and with the freedom that this genre allows, the failings of the current tenure system (so has the English professor Margaret Soltan, whose University Diaries offers a long-running, focused, and extremely effective critique of the university as we know it).'
UD Thanks Her Reader, Charles,

...for sending this Harvard Crimson article her way. She had no idea about this one. She's usually up on these things.

'The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's dean of admissions, Marilee Jones, resigned today and admitted to the ultimate sin of her profession: lying on an application. [Not sure I'd call this the ultimate sin... ]

Jones, a 28-year veteran of the admissions office, listed degrees on her resume from three schools in upstate New York but did not earn any of them, an MIT spokeswoman said. [Ouch. That's a biggie. Often in these cases the person has all the degrees except for the final one... futzed with the Ph.D. too long and never quite earned it, but claims it on the cv... To have graduated from none of the schools you list -- that's a new one on UD.]

... In a prepared statement, Jones said she had "misled the Institute about my academic credentials" in applying for her first job at the school in 1979, and "did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since." [This is the sort of straightforward honesty UD missed in the last I Fucked Up statement she analyzed.] She was appointed to lead the admissions office in 1998. [This aspect of the story is all too typical: She rose too high. UD has said repeatedly on this blog that if you're going to fudge, go ahead and fudge, but lie low.]

... The resignation was announced at 11:00 a.m. in a brief e-mail to the MIT community. "This is a sad and unfortunate event," Daniel E. Hastings, the dean for undergraduate education, said in a statement. "But the integrity of the Institute is our highest priority, and we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior." [Again, well said. Short, simple, and stressing what needs to be stressed.]

[The Crimson reporter, Zachary M. Seward, ends with this bit of irony:]

Imparting advice to high-school students in her 2006 book [about college admissions], Jones warned against "making up information to present yourself as something you are not." She wrote, "You must always be completely honest about who you are." '
A Letter to the Local Paper...

...from a history professor at the University of Mary Washington clarifies why presidential misbehavior at universities can be a very serious matter:

'A recent story implied that the UMW faculty supports the return of President Frawley to his duties ["UMW faculty leaders hope Frawley returns," April 17]. I do not presume to know what consensus, if any, exists among the faculty, but I want to state emphatically that this is not my sentiment, nor is it, from my observation, the feeling of numerous others.

While everyone of good will wishes President Frawley full recovery from his physical problems and refuses to prejudge his legal problems, it must be said that his recent actions have damaged his ability to lead the university.

I believe the damage is permanent and in no place more so than the realm of public opinion. His statement that "the events are highly unusual and totally out of character" does little to dispel concerns about his alleged behavior--"highly unusual" does not mean unprecedented.

A university president's reputation is inseparable from his ability to lead. The best possible interpretation one can put on these events is that they show a significant lapse in judgment and, as such, affect everyone's perceptions about the president's leadership. Equally important, they raise, in my mind, the potential of a future lapse of judgment.

It is within this framework of understanding that I raise these questions: What will be the image of UMW for prospective students? What about community attitudes? Will private benefactors be affected by these events?

Internally, what effect would the possible decline of respect have upon morale within staff and administration? Worse, what message do we send our students who are constantly discouraged from the use of alcohol and who are bound by the Honor System?

While I am confident that all members of the UMW community have only the sincerest wishes for our president's good health, the Board of Visitors must be concerned not only with matters of personal health, but institutional health as well.

I have spent a lifetime teaching at this university, and this is the most unhappy set of circumstances I have seen.'

Arthur L. Tracy, Fredericksburg. The writer is associate professor of history at UMW.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Regressed to Vancouver

A Canadian psychotherapist (he named one of his kids Soma) has been barred from entering the United States because forty years ago he took a bunch of drugs. A border agent looking the guy over Googled his name and became "engrossed" in a 2001 article he wrote about the drugs, in a journal called Janus Head:

"... I traveled to many regions many times with the help of many different substances. I took peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, cannabis, MDMA, DMT, ketamine, nitrous oxide 5-MEO-DMT, but I kept coming back to LSD. Acid seemed my most spacious, most helpful ally. While on it, I explored my past, regressed to the womb, to my conception. I remembered, grieved, and mourned many painful events. I saw how my parents would have liked to love me, and how they didn't because they didn't know how. I learned, on acid, to endure troubling and frightening states of mind. This enabled me, as meditation has done, to identify with being the witness of the workings of my mind, observing whatever was going on, while knowing that I was simply captivated by the forms produced by my own psyche."

It's an absurd outcome -- his kids live in the States; he's an eminent psychologist -- but you can sort of see how his deathless prose did him in.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I Laughed Uproariously...

...through this wonderful book review by Colm Toibin. Did you?

Except that now I don't think I need to read the book.
Educational Fraud is a Many-Splendor'd Thing.

Texas Southern University engages in the best-known form: It takes large numbers of federal dollars and large numbers of unprepared students, and then it wastes most of the dollars and most of the students' time.

A more virulent form of this sort of fraud exists in the for-profit university world. It's the same scam, with aggressive recruiting** thrown in.

The government wants its money back.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rebuffed entreaties from the University of Phoenix to throw out a massive suit charging the nation's largest accredited private university with defrauding the government of millions of dollars in federal education loan funds.

The suit was filed in 2003 under the False Claims Act by two former employees who alleged that the school, which offers degrees to midcareer workers, violated federal rules that bar giving incentives to employees to recruit students to enroll in the college.

The False Claims Act permits individuals with exclusive knowledge of a fraud perpetrated against the federal government to file suit on behalf of the government and share in any financial recovery. An individual or company violating the law must pay the U.S. civil penalties and triple damages.

The University of Phoenix's website describes the school as "the largest institution of higher learning in the U.S., serving approximately 300,000 students through its more than 250 campuses and learning centers across the country."

The vast majority of students at the university use federal loans and grants to pay their tuition. According to federal records, last year the chain obtained close to $2 billion in federal education funds.

Two years ago, after a probe by the U.S. Department of Education, the University of Phoenix paid the government $9.8 million in compensation. A report issued by the department said the company promoted an intense sales culture that rewarded recruiters who encouraged large numbers of students to enroll, even if they were not qualified.

Four years ago, Mary Hendow and Julie Albertson, former enrollment counselors at the school, sued in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, alleging that the University of Phoenix paid recruiters solely based on how many students they enrolled. The suit, filed by attorneys Nancy G. Krop and Daniel R. Bartley, asserted that the university urged counselors "to enroll students without reviewing their transcripts to determine their academic qualifications to attend the university."

The plaintiffs alleged that the university rated counselors on the basis of how many recruits they signed up and that it gave the highest producers bigger salaries, benefits and incentives.

The university countered that it did not pay recruiters solely on the basis of numbers.

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell dismissed the suit, ruling that the plaintiffs' allegations were beyond the scope of conduct regulated by the False Claims Act.

The plaintiffs appealed, with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief. Justice Department lawyers said if Burrell's ruling was upheld it could impair enforcement of the act, which they said was the government's primary tool to deter fraud and recover monetary losses.

In September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Burrell.

In a 3-0 decision written by Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall, the appeals court said the False Claims Act was intended to reach all types of fraud, without qualification, that might result in financial loss to the government.

Washington attorney Theodore B. Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general, filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to review the case. He asserted that the 9th Circuit decision conflicted with decisions from three other federal circuits and said if it was sustained it could put government contractors in education, healthcare and defense at risk of incurring considerable liability.

"The financial implications of the 9th Circuit's expansive notion" of False Claims Act liability "are staggering," he argued, adding that the suit could cost the firm billions.

But the Supreme Court, without comment, declined to hear the case.

Olson said he was disappointed because review was needed to ensure that the law was "not transformed into a tool for extracting extortionate and unjustified settlements from defendants unable to bear the risk of going to trial."

But plaintiffs' attorney Krop countered that "the Supreme Court decision is a terrific win, protecting the rights of students nationwide and America's taxpayers."

"We look forward to presenting our evidence to a jury."

Bartley, her co-counsel, said: "It is time for the University of Phoenix to bite the bullet, return these dollars to the taxpayer and change its business plan to conform to the law."

**University of Phoenix
Fight Song:

Enrollin' …rollin' …rollin' …

Keep movin', movin', movin',
Though they're disapprovin',
Keep them students movin', Phoenix!
Don't try to educate 'em,
Just rope and throw and bait 'em,
Soon we'll be living high and wide.

Boy, my head's calculatin'
My paycheck will be waitin',
Be waiting at the end of my pitch.

Move 'em on, head 'em up,
Head 'em up, move 'em out,
Move 'em on, head 'em out, Phoenix!
Set 'em out, ride 'em in
Ride 'em in, let 'em out,
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in, PHOENIX

Monday, April 23, 2007

David Halberstam Killed

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam was killed today in a fiery three-car accident in Menlo Park, authorities said.

Halberstam, 73, of New York, was a passenger in a car that was broadsided as it was making a left turn off the Bayfront Expressway, the approach road to the Dumbarton Bridge, onto Willow Road about 10:35 a.m., authorities said.

The car in which Halberstam was riding, a Toyota Camry driven by a UC Berkeley journalism graduate student, was hit by a late model Infiniti. When paramedics and fire crews arrived, they found Halberstam unresponsive and trapped in the front passenger seat, said Harold Schapelhouman, chief of the Menlo Park Fire District.

The engine compartment was on fire and the passenger side of the car had been crushed, Schapelhouman said.

One rescue crew was able to pull Halberstam from the car while another doused the flames, the chief said. The author had no pulse and was not breathing when he was freed, and efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, Schapelhouman said. Halberstam was pronounced dead at the scene.

A silver Nissan coupe suffered what appeared to be "collateral damage," and the female driver of that car was not seriously injured, the chief said.

The two other drivers were taken to the hospital with injuries, police said. The graduate student driving the Camry reportedly suffered a punctured lung. The extent of the Infiniti driver's injuries was unknown.

Halberstam had been in the Bay Area to deliver a speech at UC Berkeley titled, "Turning Journalism Into History," and had been on his way to do an interview for his next book, Orville Schell, the dean at Berkeley's graduate school of journalism, wrote in an e-mail.

Halberstam won the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 at age 30 for his reporting from Vietnam. He later turned to long-form writing and wrote 21 books, including "The Best and the Brightest," about how the United States became involved in Vietnam. His other works covered a wide range of subjects, including civil rights, sports and the auto industry.
Ironies of the
Professor Thing

Joel Wingard, an English professor at Moravian College in Pennsylvania, gets about the worst Rate My Professors ratings UD has seen. With seven respondents (a respectable number of students, among whom just one with a vaguely positive impression of the man could have pulled Wingard's numbers up a bit), he receives virtually all ones.

Ones. Ones are the basement under the cellar beneath the cesspool of online professor rating.

Yet on his department webpage, Wingrad describes himself as very pro-student:

In my classes, I try to establish and maintain a student-centered classroom, a place where students' learning takes precedence over teacher's teaching. By 'students' learning' I mean their guided self-discovery; by 'teacher's teaching' I mean lecturing, testing, conferring judgment and other forms of authoritarian practice. My philosophy holds that self-motivated, self-directed learning is best, is 'liberal learning' in its best sense of liberating; that in the largest sense the most valuable "lesson" students may learn from literary study is not content but method, not information but process.

Look at all them quotation marks! SOS will let it go, however... will let go the whole business of this writing instructor being a very bad writer indeed... She will instead note the profound distance between this self-congratulatory non-authoritarian (teaching, conferring judgment, and communicating content all representing authoritarian activities) and what his students say about him.

Samples from the first page of comments (there are two pages, but UD hadn't the heart to look at the second):

... an all-around jerk ...

... worst professor I have ever had the misfortune of working with...

He goes off on these insane rants that have nothing to do with what we're talking about. And he sends out emails with words like "prolly" and "yall." It's pretty bad.

How can we reconcile these two descriptions?

I'll tell you what I think. I think Professor Wingrad is a certain sort of humanities professor. The irony of this sort of professor is that he will profess an anti-authoritarian, student-centered philosophy; and yet he's really (UD's guessing here, of course) a kind of tinpot classroom dictator -- a man enamored of his own cleverness and higher knowledge, who loves to hear his brilliance ring out on a vast range of subjects, and who has a captive audience for that.

It's sadly true that the conditions of professors' lives make possible this narcissistic indulgence, should a person have a taste for it.

Professor Wingrad, currently in a spot of trouble because of what UD takes to be his self-love, seems to have this taste.

The local newspaper reports:

'A Moravian College professor issued two campuswide apologies for an e-mail he wrote the day after the Virginia Tech killings that said he was going to "go out and buy a gun" and "some ammo" to "prevent more Blacksburgs, more Columbines."

"Why, if I see anyone looking threatening, Asian, wearing black -- I'm going to shoot that sucker first and ask questions later," English professor Joel Wingard wrote in an e-mail exchange Tuesday that was circulated on the college computer network. "I'm going to drop into my shooter's stance, one knee on the ground, gun hand supported by the other hand braced by the other knee, and do what has to be done."

In subsequent e-mails, Wingard wrote that he was being ironic.

"The nature of e-mail is such that verbal subtleties such as tone of voice or irony do not come across well," he wrote. "However, neither that nor my intention can excuse me from having had the effect of causing fear. I take responsibility for the effect. I should not have done anything to create fear. There is enough fear abroad as it is without my adding to it."

Contacted Thursday, Wingard said he felt terrible but would not comment further on the e-mails. He apologized in a personal e-mail Thursday and a message Wednesday that was also signed by Dean of Faculty Curtis Keim.

College spokesman Michael Wilson said Keim and President Christopher Thomforde were not available for comment Thursday. He said the college's policy is to not discuss personnel matters and would not say if Wingard had been reprimanded in any way.

... The e-mail exchange, which was addressed to everyone within the college and seminary, began Tuesday morning when the Rev. David E. Bennett, the college chaplain, asked the school's community to contribute to a "banner of hope" containing signatures, prayers and words of encouragement that was later sent to Virginia Tech.

Wingard responded by writing that the banner was a nice gesture but said he also would like to see a banner sent off to Sens. Arlen Specter and Bob Casey as well as Rep. Charlie Dent. Wingard wrote the banner would be a "cry against interpersonal violence and especially against gun violence" and would "demand an end to this deadly, sick and needless 'right' (to bear arms)."

In a follow-up e-mail, Wingard said the banner was up and ready to be signed at the student center. Wingard also thanked those who had written to him about the banner, whether they supported the message or not.

About an hour later, Wingard sent the offensive e-mail, titled "apologies," and sarcastically asked forgiveness for sending e-mails instead of posting to a blog or writing a letter to the editor for questioning the presence of guns in society.

In the last e-mail apology sent Wednesday signed by Keim and Wingard, the two say that Wingard's intent was to address the possibility of someone having a gun, what Wingard fears and "what we should all fear."

"In this case sarcasm, a time-honored mode of expression, didn't convey for some the message that Dr. Wingard intended."

... Many Moravian College students on Thursday said that while they agreed with Wingard's anti-gun politics, they disliked the timing of his argument.

"It was stupid of him to make it a political argument this early," said sophomore Kia Paskas, who signed Wingard's anti-gun banner.

Geoffrey Roche, a junior political science major, said Wingard was known to raise controversial issues to stir discussion but made a mistake by sending out the e-mail.

"While sarcasm is good in some ways, people are on their toes" right now, Roche said.

Some Moravian students said they knew people who attended Virginia Tech and were unprepared for the issue to turn political.

"I think perhaps he needs to understand the grieving period," Roche said.'
Phoning it In

UD has always found unpleasant the way some veteran opinion piece writers crank out cynical work week after week, Grubb Street style. I guess they figure they've got their fan club, and that their fan club just wants to keep seeing the writer's name on something... anything...

Why don't the fans feel cheated by the fake outrage and stupid cliches that they often get for their trouble?

I mean, here's Thomas Sowell phoning in the Duke story:

Just before North Carolina's attorney general appeared on television to announce his decision on the Duke University "rape" case [Quotation marks again. You've heard me on the subject.] , one of the many expert TV legal commentators said Roy Cooper probably would use the words "insufficient evidence" but not the word "innocent" in dismissing the case.

As it turned out, the attorney general did use the word "innocent," saying he and his staff considered the accused students innocent. It was the only decent thing to do.

Anything less would have let the ugly accusation follow them for life and, years from now, when all the details of this sordid story have been forgotten, hang over their heads with a suspicion they got off on some legal technicality.

What a difference a year makes. [Only Dinah Washington is allowed to use the What a difference a ... makes phrase. Writers who use it signal, like Sowell, their unwillingness to write their own material.]

A year ago, there was a lynch mob atmosphere [Cliche.] against the accused students - from the Duke University campus to the national media, and including the local NAACP and the ever-present Jesse Jackson.

These were affluent white male students and a poor black woman accusing them of rape.

For those steeped in the new sacred trinity of "race, class and gender" [Nothing new about that threesome; sacred trinity is a cliche; and steeped doesn't work with the cliche. And what's with the quotation marks? Capitalize the words, maybe, if you insist.] what more did you need to know, in order to know which side to come out on? [Awkwardly formulated.]

Duke University officials suspended the students when charges were filed, canceled the remaining schedule of the lacrosse team for which they played and got rid of the coach.

Former Princeton University President William Bowen - a critic of college athletics - and the head of the local NAACP were called in to issue a report, which complained that Duke officials hadn't acted fast enough.

Meanwhile, 88 members of the Duke faculty took out an ad in the campus newspaper denouncing racism. Among other things, the ad said, "What is apparent every day now is the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism."

As for the demonstrations and threats loudly voiced by some local blacks, in the wake of the accusations against the Duke lacrosse students, the ad said: "We're turning up the volume in a moment when the most vulnerable among us are being asked to quiet down while we wait.

"To the students speaking individually and to the protesters making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourself heard."

This year, after all the charges have collapsed like a house of cards [pathetic simile] the campus lynch mob - including Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead - are backpedalling [lynch mob mounts bikes] swiftly and washing their hands like Pontius Pilate [while washing its hands like Pontius Pilate].

They deny ever saying the students were guilty. Of course not. They merely acted as if that was a foregone conclusion [cliche], while leaving themselves an escape hatch [cliche].

It's bad enough to be part of a lynch mob. It's worse to deny you're part of a lynch mob while standing there holding the rope in your hands [On bikes, washing hands like Pontius Pilate, holding rope.].

What is even more important than clearing the names of the three young men charged with a heinous crime is making sure the man responsible for this travesty of justice [cliche] - District Attorney Michael Nifong - pays the fullest price for what he did.

Members of the state bar association investigating Nifong need to understand this case is much bigger than Nifong.

If prosecutors can drag people through the mud [cliche] and keep felony charges hanging over their heads [cliche; and redundant] , long after all the evidence says the opposite of what they were charged with, any of us, anywhere, can be put through a living hell [cliche] whenever it suits the whim [cliche] or the political agenda of a district attorney. [Content of this sentence patently untrue.]

Much was made of the fact these Duke students came from affluent families.

Lucky for them - and for all of us.

Not everyone has an extra $1 million lying around to fight off false accusations. Their fight is our fight.

This case will send a message [cliche], one way or another, to prosecutors across this country. Either you can get away with dragging people through hell [cliche] without a speck of evidence [cliche] - and in defiance of other evidence - or you can't.

This case already has sent a message about the kinds of gutless lemmings [This is the sort of phrase for which Communist hacks were famous in the 'fifties.... running dogs... bourgeois lackeys... gutless lemmings... ] on our academic campuses, including some of our most prestigious institutions.
Another Group of
University Students
Wises Up

'The University of North Dakota Student Senate has tabled its discussion on the switch to NCAA Division I athletics.

The Senate passed a resolution on Sunday that says it won’t support an increase in student fees to help pay for the school’s transition to Division I, until it’s known how big the hike will be.

A consultant’s report recommends student fees increase $35 per semester next year and then a total of $72 per semester in succeeding years.

A vote on the move will be delayed until April 29, when UND President Charles Kupchella and Athletic Director Tom Buning are scheduled to address the Senate.'

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Regent Removal Bill

Alaska legislators have introduced a bill giving the governor the authority to remove state university trustees. It's all an effort to rid themselves of the Jim Hayes problem.
Humanities Professor: Morphology

UD has blogged about the appearance of her friend Peter Galbraith in the Sunday New York Times Magazine feature which interviews someone and includes a photograph of the person standing up.

Here's today's personality, the cultural theorist Terry Eagleton. [Click on the photo for a larger picture.]

Eagleton says some mildly naughty things ("I don't actually read other peoples' books. If I want to read a book, I write one myself."), some senseless things (In response to the interviewer noting that he doesn't write about actual books, Eagleton says, "...the literary critic has turned increasingly into a cultural critic because there are so many crises in our culture."), and some snobby things ("As I get older, I find my visits to the States get shorter because I can’t take the general culture very much.").

But what's mainly of interest to UD about Eagleton is his photo, in which the morphology of one strain of humanities professor finds its fulfillment.

UD has already written a post about the varieties of beardedness among male humanities professors; Eagleton's beardedness touches on no fewer than four of her categories (I, II, VII, and VIII). His facial expression conveys the attitude of baffled good will definitive of the type; and his scuzzy clothes [recall Peter's elegant suit, typical of the sort of thing people wear for this feature] hanging loosely about him proclaim his commitment to physical comfort, and his disdain for bourgeois dressing up.

When she was in college, UD routinely fell in love with men who looked like Terry Eagleton. How could that have happened? she asked Mr. UD, as they gazed together at the photograph.

"You were ... unusual," he said.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

Sometimes the writing's okay, but the argument is bad. Here's an example. I don't claim the style of writing here is without flaw, but the writing's not the problem. The problem is lack of logic and an appeal to sentiment.

Over the past few days we [The opinion piece writers are a former president of Texas Southern University -- a criminally mismanaged school about to have a conservator assigned to it -- and a local politician. They're going to argue against the governor's plan to appoint the conservator.] have been asked by many of our friends why we fight so hard to preserve an institution that most people in this state believe to be dysfunctional. [Here's their first problem: It is indeed dysfunctional. Very few students graduate. Its president and financial officers were thieves. It's no longer a question of belief. Rational people know the place needs radical overhaul. I doubt even the authors of this opinion piece believe differently. It's their feelings that are leading them astray.]

They ask whether it's because of Mickey Leland, Barbara Jordan or Harold Dutton. Our answer is always no. We fight for Clifford Varner, Thomas Jones and Betty Berry.

You see, Mickey, Barbara and Harold could probably have gone to a number of other universities. But the same is not true for Cliff, Thomas and Betty. [Cliff, Thomas, and Betty are unlikely to be able to perform in college. Their going to TSU, drifting for years, and then flunking out, makes no sense financially, morally, or intellectually.]

Texas Southern University stands as a beacon for excellence and opportunity. [Resounding cliche. And, for most of TSU's students, not really true.] We have some of the brightest students in the state, who could have attended another university but who chose to attend Texas Southern. [TSU has very few of the state's brightest students.] But unlike other Texas universities, we also open our doors to those students who could not gain admission to any other university. We believe that is a laudable mission and we fight to retain it. [It's not laudable when the leadership of the school is ripping off those students.]

That fight is different from the one against gross fiscal mismanagement at the university. [No, actually it's the same.]

For years, there have been charges of shoddy recordkeeping and poor bookkeeping at Texas Southern. But in 1999 the state auditors, after careful review, found that the university had resolved those accounting system problems. Since that time they have found no significant accounting system problems at TSU.

It was in part the strength of the university's accounting system that provided such clear paper trails that lead to the indictment of the school's former president and chief financial officer. The judicial system will determine whether these managers are guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. But even if they are guilty, they are gone. [This is confused reasoning. Exposure of the criminality at the school had much more to do with a trio of intrepid students than it did with any systemic strengths. And those strengths couldn't have amounted to much if it was so easy for the president and her money people to loot the school.]

Moreover, the board of regents that was obligated to provide oversight also may have been derelict. They, too, are gone. What remains is an accounting system that works and vacancies in the presidency and board offices. These should be filled immediately with competent professionals. [This overlooks the reputational damage the school has suffered. The authors want to target a couple of people as the cause of the school's downfall, but there are indeed scandalous systematic problems at TSU, and it will have lost all credibility with the world if they aren't fixed.]

Conservatorship is not the answer. First, it is not the governance structure at TSU that is broken; it is the system of selecting the board of regents. For the past 60 years, it has been the governor, with the advice and consent of the Texas Senate, that [who would be better] has appointed the regents who hire the president. Thus, the problem of university governance lies on the doorsteps of the Texas governor and Senate. If they are dissatisfied with the caliber of their appointments, then perhaps it is time that they establish better criteria for filling these positions. [Sure, but this is about the distant future. It's the present the governor's dealing with.]

Second, if the same criteria that the appointing bodies used in the past are used to select a conservator, then Texas Southern would again be ineffectively led by someone who likely would lack the necessary knowledge and experience to lead an institution of higher education, let alone one in such dire need of strong leadership.

Third and most important, conservatorship would result in the destruction of the university. According to the school's accrediting agency, conservatorship would destroy the university's accreditation and eliminate all federal financial aid programs. These programs provide necessary funding that more than 70 percent of the TSU student body relies on to fund their education. [This would be temporary, if it happens at all. A school can survive losing and regaining accreditation. As for federal funding, the American taxpayer shouldn't be asked to subsidize ill-run schools that don't graduate their students.]

The effect is obvious. The Barbaras and Mickeys and Harolds would simply go to another university. But for the Cliffords, the Thomases and the Bettys, their opportunities for a college education may be irretrievably lost. [As it stands, Clifford, Thomas, and Betty are likely to get at TSU a simulacral education. It will end up costing them and other Americans a good deal of money.]

... We applaud Gov. Perry's commitment to decisive leadership at Texas Southern University but fervently disagree that the path he has chosen is a wise one for Texas Southern, its students and the state of Texas, generally. [Not bad writing, but it has its share of cliches, and it has ended this particular sentence awkwardly, on a weak word.]

Texas Southern continues its proud tradition of welcoming students the Texas public schools have failed. And while these nontraditional students tend not to graduate within the traditional four or even six years, there is a strong indication they eventually do graduate, have increased earning capacity and contribute largely to the Texas economy. [Tend... strong indication... Here the writers must weasel their way around the profound fact of wretched graduation rates at TSU.] ...


Saturday, April 21, 2007

The University Loan Scandal
Continues Apace...

...or, at Pace, whose

former director of financial aid ... persuaded the school to award major contracts to student loan giant Sallie Mae while she successfully lobbied the company to hire her, the New York attorney general's office said yesterday.

The official, Desiree Cilmi, was negotiating for a job with the Reston lender in 2004 as she urged the university to sell graduate student loans to Sallie Mae and hire the company to operate a call center, aides to Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said. The lender got both contracts and Cilmi left soon after to work at Sallie Mae. ... Pace entered into a contract with Sallie Mae from 2004 to 2007 for the lender to operate a call center where company employees answered: "Pace University Financial Aid Office."
Sportswriter Frank DeFord
on American University Life

"You don't usually see music faculty hanging around the admissions office, and saying, 'You know, there's this great tenor from Illinois. And he hasn't passed a course at his high school in three years. And he's actually in jail now.'"
L'il Rascals, II

'Trustees Question New Deals

[University of South Carolina] board says athletics department made pacts without required approval

University of South Carolina trustees sought Friday to rein in an athletics department that several trustees said was making large financial deals without required board approval.

The board, meeting on campus Friday, received several items for approval by the full board, including two contracts that had already been in force for months, and plans for a ticket price increase that had already been announced.

“This is a violation of the policy of the university. This is symptomatic of the behavior of the athletics department, and it needs to stop,” said trustee Mack Whittle, who is chairman of The South Financial Group of Greenville.

Despite the financial items on the board’s agenda, neither athletics director Eric Hyman nor any representative of the department was at the meeting to explain the details.

Hyman was at an annual Gamecock Club golf tournament in Myrtle Beach on Friday along with other members of the athletics department.

“As athletics director, I assume all responsibility for contracts and all issues related to them,” Hyman said. “If there are issues on these contracts, I will deal with them.”

The university’s board rules require that any expense less than $250,000 can be approved by president Andrew Sorensen, but deals in excess of $250,000 must be approved by the board.

... Some board members mounted a defense of the department and Hyman.

“We have had input, there’s no question,” said board chairman Herbert Adams of Laurens.

... Trustee Eddie Floyd was upset over the ticket price increase, for which alumni are already writing checks.

“We need to vote to reprimand the athletics department,” said Floyd, a Florence resident. “I’ve been hearing about this back home. This is too important for any trustee to be left out. We need to send an unequivocal message we are not going to tolerate it.”'

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Confessions of a Spoilsport...

...subtitled My Life and
Hard Times Fighting Sports Corruption
at an Old Eastern University

[just getting down that whole title
has me all in a mucksweat] is a new
book about one of UD's favorite topics:
the fuckupery of university sports.

It looks well worth reading.
Its author is William C. Dowling.
Forthcoming from Penn State Press.
L'il Rascal

Like a lot of women, UD has always been attracted to men who are rascals. I have no idea why, in evolutionary terms, nature wants females to be attracted to rascally males. Perhaps a scientist among my readers can explain it to me.

Rascally males are particularly rife among the owners and administrators of diploma mills. UD continues to derive a peculiar pleasure from reading what they say about what they do when they are cornered. Their shamelessness thrills her.

Here's one. He has a legitimate job as a school principal, and an illegitimate one as "vice president of the International Graduate Center, a postsecondary degree institution based in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands."

In January, the school's accreditation was revoked by the Virgin Islands' new governor, less than two months after it was granted by the territory's acting commissioner of education. [It's unusual for a Caribbean island to deny accreditation to anything.]

Published reports in the Virgin Islands have accused Knisley and officials of the International Graduate Center of running a diploma mill – institutions of higher education that provide degrees for few credit hours and at higher-than-usual tuition.

In 2003, the same year Knisley was hired in Rutland City, he was asked to join the International Graduate Center by the school's president David Gibson of Stowe. The two had worked together at Berne University, a postsecondary school based in St. Kitts in the British Virgin Islands that has since closed. [My man is a veteran diploma mill administrator.]

Berne University was denied recertification by the U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid in 2003 because it lacked a physical campus in St. Kitts, the school's courses did not require enough hours to warrant a graduate degree, and there was no state or territory accreditation, according to a letter to the school's president.

[Okay, so far so good... Aside from the odd fact that this man is also an intermediate school principal -- setting high ethical standards for the kids and all -- this is a pretty routine story. But listen to him talk! This is what I'm getting at!]

"The Berne University that I worked for was never a diploma mill," said Knisley who earned a doctorate from the University of Vermont. "I can't explain what happened with Berne University. I can say I left because I was not philosophically aligned with what was going on." [Knisley's philosophy was out of alignment. This is a fantasic locution.]

Knisley defends his role as vice president of the International Graduate Center. [On to the next diploma mill.]

"I'm proud of what I do here in Rutland. I'm proud of what I've been able to do with the International Graduate Center," said Knisley who has been an employee and officer of the school since 2003. "I've been an advocate for non-traditional students." [Non-traditional! cries Tevye. Leave us alone! We are simple people!]

... "We had the accreditation for 30 to 45 days before the government decided it didn't count," said Knisley. "We don't really know, at this point, who really does do accreditation on the island." [Yes, this is most confusing, since we chose the island in the first place because of its willingness to accredit anything that moves...]

... "We really thought we'd done everything right," said Knisley. "In Vermont you'd never have that happen." [But unfortunately we couldn't go to Vermont, since they have accreditation standards.]

... "To me this whole thing is about a transition of government," he said. "And possibly some other pieces of politics that are going on that are beyond our control." [Dark forces, including a possible new interest in stemming corruption, are conspiring against us.]
Barbara Oakley...

...professor, author, UD-reader, has an excellent opinion piece in the New York Times, about Virginia Tech. An excerpt:

... Many professors have run across more than their share of [disturbed students who scare them]. At least one Virginia Tech professor noticed that Cho Seung-Hui, who killed 32 people on campus on Monday, was potentially dangerous and did her best to warn the administration and the police. (So did at least two female students.) But there is only so much a teacher can do — “students have rights, too.” [This is what an administrator at Oakley's university told her when she complained about one such student.]

It’s a simple fact that, for every deranged murderer like Mr. Cho there are thousands more oddballs just below the breaking point. I know one quasi-psychopathic incompetent, for example, who remained on the campus payroll for over a dozen years simply because his supervisor was afraid of being killed if he was fired.

It’s long been in fashion to believe that people are innately good, and that upbringing and environment are responsible for nasty personalities. But research is beginning to show that mean, sometimes outright evil behavior has a strong genetic component. Some of us, in other words, are truly born bad.

Researchers at King’s College London have recently determined that if one identical twin shows psychopathic traits, the other twin, who coincidentally shares precisely the same set of genes, has a very high probability of having the same psychopathic traits. But among fraternal twins, who share only half their genes, the chance that both twins will show psychopathic traits is far smaller. In other words, there is something suspiciously psychopath-inducing in some people’s genes.

What could it be? Medical images of the brain give tantalizing clues — the amygdala, the “fight or flight” decision-making center of the brain, may be smaller than usual, or some areas of the brain may glow only dimly because of low serotonin levels. We may not know precisely what set Mr. Cho off, but we are beginning to home in on the unusual differences in certain neurochemistries that can make people act in bizarre and dysfunctional ways.

Still, the Virginia Tech shootings have already led to calls for all sorts of changes: gun control, more mental health coverage, stricter behavior rules on campuses. Yes, in a perfect world, there would be no guns, no mental illness and no Cho Seung-Huis. But the world is very imperfect. Consider that Britain’s national experiment with gun-free living is proving to be a disaster, with violent and gun crime rates soaring.

In other words, most of the broad social “lessons” we are being told we must learn from the Virginia Tech shootings have little to do with what allowed the horrors to occur. This is about evil, and about how our universities are able to deal with it as a literary subject but not as a fact of life...
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

SOS is developing something of a sideline in the parsing of official I Fucked Up statements. Here, for instance, is a post about Patrick Kennedy, Mel Gibson, and Russell Crowe.

This morning we have the just-installed, multiply DUI'd president of the University of Mary Washington addressing the world. Let's take a look.

On April 10 and 11, I was involved in two widely reported driving incidents. [Starts with simple narration. Good. We need to be reminded of the events. Yet where is the word arrested? Alcohol? Police? The word involved is no good at all. Involved could mean anything. And note the passive formulation: was involved. Direct statement is important right up front: On April 10 and 11, under the influence of alcohol, I drove erratically and was arrested as a result.] On Monday, I was released from the hospital, after five and a half days of examination for and treatment of possible injuries and for correction of a heretofore undetected, and potentially very serious, heart disorder. [Whoa Nellie. Not only have we leapt cleanly over the stupendous fact that this was about a two-day bender; we have -- in the second sentence -- made a play for sympathy by alluding to a heart thing. SOS is already prepared to say that it does not look good for this man.] It is only at the present time that I am able to return to other tasks and to communicate fully. [That's not because of your heart. It's because of the booze.]

My family and I want to express our gratitude to everyone in the Mary Washington community for their responsiveness at this trying time for UMW. We continue to be overwhelmed by the understanding and steadfastness of the people who comprise the larger UMW family.

I must stress that the events of April 10 and 11 are highly unusual and totally out of character for me. I deeply apologize for any difficulties caused for the institution, the Board of Visitors, or for the people and friends of UMW. [The apology is good, but he might again have made the statement more active: I deeply apologize for the difficulties I caused... We shouldn't have the sense, as we do throughout here, that the man is separating himself from his deeds -- that he is blaming them on medical conditions, or on a freaky break with the person he is. He is the person who did what he did.]

At this time, I am at home with my family, and I would ask that our privacy be respected, particularly for the sake of the children. I must concentrate on my doctors' treatment recommendations, and in that respect, I express great appreciation to the Mary Washington Hospital medical staff for their insights, skills, and personal approach to medicine. [Yick. This series of platitudes thanking the staff is totally out of place. The rhetoric is that of the university president of old, somewhat condescendingly promoting a community institution. This is a broken man whose future is seriously in doubt, not a grandee thanking the local folks for their personal approach to his heart condition. While he shouldn't sound outright pathetic in this statement, it's important that he be honest about the fact that he has, for some time at least, shattered his own life.] I again thank the University and the larger community of Fredericksburg for their kind and extensive support.


More: Melissa, a reader, links to this charming discussion of the language of the non-apology.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Double Bind

'Federal privacy and antidiscrimination laws restrict how universities can deal with students who have mental health problems.

For the most part, universities cannot tell parents about their children’s problems without the student’s consent. They cannot release any information in a student’s medical record without consent. And they cannot put students on involuntary medical leave, just because they develop a serious mental illness.

... Universities can find themselves in a double bind. On the one hand, they may be liable if they fail to prevent a suicide or murder.... On the other hand, universities may be held liable if they do take action to remove a potentially suicidal student.

... [S]ituations complicated enough to involve a university’s lawyers arise, on average, about twice a semester at large universities.

While shootings like the one at Virginia Tech are extremely rare, suicides, threats and serious mental-health problems are not. Last year, the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, covering nearly 95,000 students at 117 campuses, found that 9 percent of students had seriously considered suicide in the previous year, and 1 in 100 had attempted it.

...We’re seeing more students in our service consistently every year,” said Alejandro Martinez, director for counseling and psychological services at Stanford University, which sees about 10 percent of the student body each year. “Certainly more students are experiencing mental illness, including depression.

“But there’s also been a cultural shift,” Mr. Martinez said, “in that more students are willing to get help.”

College officials say that a growing number of students arrive on campus with a history of mental-health problems and a prescription for psychotropic drugs. But screening for such problems would be illegal, admissions officers say.

“We’re restricted by the disabilities act from asking,” said Rick Shaw, Stanford’s admissions director. “We do ask a question, as most institutions do, about whether a student has been suspended or expelled from school, and if they have been, we ask them to write an explanation of it.”

Federal laws also restrict what universities can reveal. Generally, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Ferpa, passed in 1974, makes it illegal to disclose a student’s records to family members without the student’s authorization.

“Colleges can disclose a student’s private records if they believe there’s a health and safety emergency, but that health and safety exception hasn’t been much tested in the courts, so it’s left to be figured out case by case,” [one administrator] said.

--- new york times ---
A Man in Full

"He was passionate about life,” [Librescu's son] said. “He had no fear of death.”

He said that his father was born in Romania in 1930. After surviving the Holocaust, Mr. Librescu said, his father became a refusenik in Romania and lost his job as an aerospace engineer. But in 1976, Liviu Librescu secretly published a book in Norway that advanced a theory of aerospace technology that grabbed the attention of others in the field. In 1978, after lobbying by groups in Israel, he was permitted to leave Romania and settle there. He began teaching at Virginia Tech in 1985, university officials said.

Mr. Librescu said that the bucolic environs of Blacksburg provided a respite from the rigors of his father’s earlier life. His house was built on the edge of a forest and he took long walks daily, enjoying nature. He listened to classical music and settled into the calm, productive rhythms of his new existence.

-- new york times --

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shooter's One-Act

Smoking Gun got hold of it.

Pathetic. Vile.


Update: For the dedicated forensic critic, here's another one, courtesy of The Professor, one of UD's readers. I haven't yet read it.
The Creative Writing Professor...

...did the right thing, referring the shooter to counseling when his language in class assignments became psychotic.

The gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead was identified Tuesday as a English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service. ... [The department chair] said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was. [The chair] refused to release any of his writings or his grades, citing privacy laws.

As with the controversy last year about whether universities could, under disturbing enough conditions, insist that a student leave campus for awhile and get help, general as well as legal opinion seems to be on the side of non-interference. Remember the lawsuit at UD's George Washington University:

About 2 a.m. one sleepless night, sophomore Jordan Nott checked himself into George Washington University Hospital.

He was depressed, he said, and thinking about suicide.

Within a day and a half of arriving there, he got a letter from a GWU administrator saying his "endangering behavior" violated the code of student conduct. He faced possible suspension and expulsion from school, the letter said, unless he withdrew and deferred the charges while he got treatment.

In the meantime, he was barred from campus.

"It was like a stab in the back," he said. He felt they were telling him, "We're going to wipe our hands clean of you."

His response has college administrators around the country taking notice: Nott sued the university and individuals involved. The school violated federal law protecting Americans with disabilities, the complaint argues. The law covers mental as well as physical impairments.

In essence, it says the school betrayed him by sharing confidential treatment information and suspending him just when he most needed help.

In court documents filed this week, the university's attorneys defended the actions taken, denied that Nott was disabled and suggested that his conduct might bar his recovery. And they asked that the charges be dismissed for the individuals named -- mostly administrators and counselors. The university policies might seem impersonal, spokeswoman Tracy Schario said, but they are designed to keep both individuals and the community safe.

Suicidal students have always forced tough calls. But with shifting legal ground, growing threats of lawsuits and increasing numbers of troubled teenagers entering colleges, many administrators are even more worried about how to handle them.

The Virginia shooter "may have been taking medication for depression [and] was becoming increasingly violent and erratic." He'd been stalking women, and he'd set fire to a dorm room.

Responsible people at the university knew they had something dangerous on their hands. The university should have been able to remove him from campus.

'A Case Western Reserve University professor who said she received threatening hate letters after claiming discrimination actually wrote the letters to herself, prosecutors said Monday.

Ramani Sri Pilla, 41, was charged in U.S. District Court with one count of making false statements.

Pilla "perpetuated a hoax on CWRU and the FBI" when she claimed that she was a victim of hate crimes because of her Indian heritage and her gender, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Rowland said in court documents.

Pilla, who has taught statistics at Case since 2002, has been suspended indefinitely with pay, a university spokesman said. If the suspension is upheld, she could be required to repay the money.

Pilla told the FBI in January that she received three threatening letters beginning in August 2006. She named three co-workers as possible suspects and said the letters were likely retaliation for complaints she had made claiming discrimination.

She then sued in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, seeking a temporary restraining order and accusing the school of not doing enough to protect her.

In February, Pilla told FBI agents she received a fourth hate letter at her office.

Pilla, of Cleveland Heights, later admitted that she wrote the letters and delivered the letters herself, according to court documents. ... '

Case has taken down her faculty website. Good call. Now time to fire her.

Seventy-six years old. On the
receiving end of fascism and
communism. Still teaching.

Blocked the advance of the
gunman into his classroom and
saved his students' lives.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Deaths
Rise to 31.

'"It hasn't even registered to us," [one student] said. "This is so much worse than Columbine. We don't even know what to think of it."'
Czeslaw Milosz

Six Lectures in Verse
Lecture IV

Reality, what can we do with it? Where is it in words?
Just as it flickers, it vanishes. Innumerable lives
Unremembered. Cities on maps only,
Without that face in the window, on the first floor, by the market,
Without those two in the bushes near the gas plant.
Returning seasons, mountain snows, oceans,
And the blue ball of the Earth rotates,
But silent are they who ran through artillery fire,
Who clung to a lump of clay for protection,
And those deported from their homes at dawn
And those who have crawled out from under a pile of bodies,
While here, I, an instructor in forgetting,
Teach that pain passes (for it's the pain of others),
Still in my mind trying to save Miss Jadwiga,
A little hunchback, librarian by profession,
Who perished in the shelter of an apartment house
That was considered safe but toppled down
And no one was able to dig through the slabs of wall,
Though knocking and voices were heard for many days.
So a name is lost for ages, forever,
No one will ever know about her last hours,
Time carries her in layers of the Pliocene.
The true enemy of man is generalization.
The true enemy of man, so-called History,
Attracts and terrifies with its plural number.
Don't believe it. Cunning and treacherous,
History is not, as Marx told us, anti-nature,
And if a goddess, a goddess of blind fate.
The little skeleton of Miss Jadwiga, the spot
Where her heart was pulsating. This only
I set against necessity, law, theory.
25 Dead and Counting.

Though we have to be skeptical about numbers for awhile.

Editor & Publisher notes that the Virginia Tech student newspaper continued to publish descriptions of events as blog updates to its website throughout the morning.
Numbers Inching Up.

Now it's at least twenty-two dead.

Almost all newspapers are calling this a "rampage."

You don't kill that many people by running around madly. A well-prepared, cold-blooded, carefully targeted massacre would be more like it.
Young People... an open, happy setting. Now we have to imagine it as a military field, with bodies strewn.

Some faculty were killed too, according to reports. The gunman went into a classroom.

Also a dorm. He mowed people down in both places.
The Worst.

The Washington Post is now reporting twenty killed at Virginia Tech.

'CNN showed a video taken by a student in which dozens of shots could be heard.'

Deadliest school shooting in the history of the country.
For A Second Time, Virginia Tech

From the AP, five minutes ago.

Shootings in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech left at least one person dead and seven or eight more wounded Monday before police arrested the suspected gunman, officials told The Associated Press.

Police confirmed they had a suspect in custody, the university said on its Web site.

On the Web site, Tech reported the shootings at opposite ends of the 2,600-acre campus at West Ambler Johnston, a co-ed residence hall that houses 895 people, and said there were "multiple victims" at Norris Hall, an engineering building.

The university said there were multiple victims. Government officials with knowledge of the case said there were seven to eight other "casualties."

Students were asked to stay in their homes away from windows. The campus was closed and classes canceled through Tuesday.

"There's just a lot of commotion. It's hard to tell exactly what's going on," said student Jason Anthony Smith, 19, who lives in the building where shooting took place.

Madison Van Duyne, a student who was interviewed by telephone on CNN, said, "We are all in lockdown. Most of the students are sitting on the floors away from the windows just trying to be as safe as possible."

Officials ordered the campus closed, the second time in less than a year the 26,000-student campus was shut because of a shooting.

In August 2006, the opening day of classes was canceled and the campus closed when an escaped jail inmate allegedly killed a hospital guard off campus and fled to the Tech area. A sheriff's deputy involved in the manhunt was killed on a trail just off campus.

---thanks to mike, whose wonderful new blog, PROFANE, is all about the best and worst in intercollegiate athletics, for alerting me--


Getting Worse By the Minute: Just turned on NPR: The hospital's reporting seventeen students with gunshot wounds.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Last May...

...UD blogged the Jefferson Lecture, which featured Tom Wolfe. This May, it's Harvey Mansfield, and she'll be there again, ready to blog.

Here's some information about the paper he'll give. I got it from the Harvard University Gazette:

His topic is “How to Understand Politics: What the Humanities Can Say to Science.”

In the lecture, Mansfield will look at thumos, a concept in ancient Greek that conveys the idea of “spiritedness,” and the depth of emotion and desire that underlies the basic human need for recognition. Thumos is more important to understanding politics than power or self interest, said Mansfield. “It’s what is excited when you are angry, and also when you are ashamed of yourself.” Thumos can turn anger at a slight into a principle that ultimately informs a political movement — like feminism, he said, admitting that part of his lecture will “shade into my book on manliness.”

Mansfield will also advance a novel idea: Why not enrich the study of politics by requiring its students to read more literature? It would put “proper names” back into political discourse, he said, and counteract a tendency among political scientists to define society and institutions as abstractions. “You don’t live in them,” Mansfield said of abstractions. “You live in America.” He offered, for instance, that Mark Twain’s 1889 fantasy “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” illuminates the idea of a capitalist manager or entrepreneur. Shakespeare, too, said Mansfield, “has a wonderful political understanding.”
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

UD saw Kinky Friedman perform decades ago at a club in Chicago. She's been singing his song Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed ever since.

You uppity women I don't understand
Why you gotta go and try to act like a man,
But before you make your weekly visit to the shrink
You'd better occupy the kitchen, liberate the sink.

Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed
That's what I to my baby said,
Women's liberation is a-going to your head,
Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed...

Turns out she's been singing one of the lines wrong: She thought it was "Women's liberation is a-makin' me mad." She checked the lyrics because she wanted to get up to date a bit on Friedman. He's written a little essay in the New York Sun that attracted the attention of SOS.


[We've already got a problem. Souls aren't strewn along the ground like rocks to be kicked away. It's an odd metaphor, and it doesn't work.]


April 15, 2007 --

I MET Imus on the gangplank of Noah's Ark. [Confiding, cool, this is writing that assumes a lot -- No need to give a first name -- you know who I mean, and the two of us have that special cool intimacy which has us calling each other by our last names... Friedman's attempt to find a clever way of saying he's known Imus forever doesn't work -- the Noah's Ark thing is hokey.] He was then and remains today a truth-seeking missile with the best bull-meter in the business. ["Truth-seeking missile" is clunky, somehow cliched, not funny. "Bull-meter" wants to do something innovative with the cliche bullshit meter, but, again, it doesn't come off. A large part of Friedman's problem in this essay is precisely this spew of metaphors. No metaphor's going to work if it's lost in a hundred other metaphors. What's created is just a mess, and readers read verbal messes as out of control emotionality. Friedman can't defend Imus and get us on his side if his essay is merely an airing of Friedman's personal feelings. So far he hasn't even tried to reach out to us; he has merely displayed his sense of his own brave cool.]

Far from being a bully, he was a spiritual chop-buster never afraid to go after the big guys with nothing but the slingshot of ragged integrity. [UD's heart breaks at this horrible writing. So Imus was a David against ... exactly which Goliaths? Judging by press coverage, Imus was a Goliath. Slingshots aren't ragged, and Imus isn't ragged. None of the images seem to have anything to do with reality.] I watched him over the years as he struggled with his demons and conquered them. [But he didn't conquer them. Not all of them. That's why he's roasting in hell at the moment.] This was not surprising to me.

Imus came from the Great Southwest, where the men are men and the emus are nervous. And he did it all with something that seems, indeed, to be a rather scarce commodity these days. A sense of humor. [I have no trouble with the Dadaist absurdity of the emu thing. That's fine. But to try that hard to be an original writer, and then to come right back with a cliche -- scarce commodity -- is to communicate a sort of schizy confusion, which serves you not at all when you're trying to write a persuasive piece.]

There's no excusing Imus' recent ridiculous remark, but there's something not kosher in America when one guy gets a Grammy and one gets fired for the same line.

The Matt Lauers and Al Rokers of this world live by the cue-card and die by the cue-card [live and die is a cliche; so is of this world]; Imus is a rare bird, indeed - he works without a net. [A bird that works without a net? Don't all birds work without a net? Our sense that this piece was dashed off in a self-righteous rage is deepening.] When you work without a net as long as Imus has, sometimes you make mistakes.

Wavy Gravy says he salutes mistakes. They're what makes us human, he claims. And humanity beyond doubt, is what appears to be missing from this equation. If we've lost the ability to laugh at ourselves, to laugh at each other, to laugh together, then the PC world has succeeded in diminishing us all.

Political correctness, a term first used by Joseph Stalin, has trivialized, sanitized and homogenized America, transforming us into a nation of chain establishments and chain people. [Just wild gesticulation here, with bizarre generalizations and massive logical gaps.]

Take heart, Imus. You're merely joining a long and legendary laundry list of individuals who were summarily sacrificed in the name of society's sanctimonious soul: Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, Joan of Arc, Mozart and Mark Twain, who was decried as a racist until the day he died for using the N-word rather prolifically in "Huckleberry Finn." [Losing touch with reality...]

Speaking of which, there will always be plenty of Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons around. There will be plenty of cowardly executives, plenty of fair-weather friends, and plenty of Jehovah's Bystanders, people who believe in God but just don't want to get involved. In this crowd, it could be argued that we need a Don Imus just to wake us up once in a while. [Sputtering.]

There probably isn't a single one of Imus' vocal critics who come anywhere close to matching his record of philanthropy or good acts on this earth. [Irrelevant.]

Judge a man by the size of his enemies, my father used to say. A man who, year after year, has raised countless millions of dollars and has fought hand-to-hand to combat against childhood cancer, autism, and SIDS - well, you've got a rodeo clown who not only rescues the cowboy, but saves the children as well. [Did he say sanctimonious somewhere up there?]

I believe New York will miss its crazy cowboy and America will miss the voice of a free-thinking independent-minded, rugged individualist. [Cliche.] I believe MSNBC will lose many viewers and CBS radio many listeners. [After all that hot language, he gives us this sentence.]

Too bad for them. That's what happens when you get rid of the only guy you've got who knows how to ride, shoot straight and tell the truth. [Ronald Reagan School of Writing.]


UD's Man Booker Rankings

Fifteen contemporary fiction writers have been nominated for the second Booker International prize. The winner will be announced in June. Here's how UD ranks them:

1. Don DeLillo

2. Salman Rushdie

3. Michel Tournier

4. Philip Roth

5. Doris Lessing

6. Ian McEwan

7. Carlos Fuentes

8. Amos Oz

9. Margaret Atwood

10. Chinua Achebe

11. Peter Carey

12. Michael Ondaatje

13. Harry Mulisch

14. Alice Munro

15. John Banville

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bama's Bundled Booze

"... 17 businesses ... sell alcohol within a 1,200-foot span on [the University of Alabama's] ... Strip, including seven bars."
Loan Shills

Walter Massey, president of Morehouse College, got $649,692 in pay and stock in 2006 for serving on Bank of America Corp.'s board. ... Massey has been a director of the Charlotte, North Carolina- based bank since 1998. His pay from Morehouse in fiscal 2005, the most recent information available, was less than his Bank of America compensation last year. Massey received $382,895 from the school, consisting of $278,847 in "compensation," $60,848 in contributions to employee benefit plans and $43,200 in expense account and other allowances, according to Morehouse's Internal Revenue Service filing.

Step away from these numbers and consider what they mean. This man is not really a university president. He sells student loans.

He's one of several university administrators across the country who, according to, "serve on boards at nine of the largest publicly traded student-loan companies." Quite a few of these people, like Massey, are so fond of the banks that enrich them for warming a seat that they recommend their banks to their students. At Morehouse, Bank of America "was chosen as an approved lender in a new ... loan program... [It] has since been dropped." Like a hot potato. Now that the SEC is watching.

The paid positions were disclosed in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The documents show that college officials hold board seats at financial institutions in an industry that lends $85 billion a year to students and parents.
Nobody Here is Shocked.

The management and staff of University Diaries expects to see a lot more of this sort of outcome. Most people, after all, are rational.

'East Tennessee State University’s student body shocked onlookers and prognosticators on Wednesday by voting down an increase in student athletic fees that would have brought back a football program.

Results, released just 90 minutes after the voting closed, showed that 1,907 students were opposed to the fee increase while 1,322 voted in favor.

"This was an opportunity for our students to be heard," ETSU President Paul Stanton said in a university news release. "This vote did not parallel the positive numbers seen in our previous survey of students last December. While that is surprising, our students have let us know where they stand on the return of a football program at ETSU."

Over the two-day voting period students decided on a referendum calling for a $50 increase beginning in the fall of 2007 and the spring semester of 2008. The athletic fee would have increased again after 2008 by another $50 during the 2009-10 school year. Eventually, the athletic fee would have jumped from the current $75 per semester to $350 per year by the 2009-10 school year.'

Friday, April 13, 2007

This Blog Has Traced...

...the outrageous scandals at Texas Southern University, essentially an operation run by thieves.

The governor has now stepped in, proposing "a state takeover," and calling for "the resignations of the regents... Perry said the school would function more efficiently with a conservator, essentially a one-person board."
Somewhat Florid...

...but basically well-written (I'm okay with the floridity, because it's the south) and quite thoughtful take on a presidential meltdown at the University of Mary Washington, from the local Fredericksburg newspaper:

The pinnacle of pomp and ceremony in Our Town may be the inauguration of its college's president.

At last fall's inauguration of William Frawley as the seventh president of the college now known as the University of Mary Washington, faculty, staff, and board of visitors members turned out in velvet robes like nobility honoring a new king. The governor was there; he and other political dignitaries headed a throng of thousands.

With magic crowning the moment, and hopes as high as the October sky, William Frawley told the happy crowd, "I hope I can live up to the sense of promise in the air. Having been offered to lead [this] institution leaves me with both excitement and a little bit of stage fright."

Six months later, Mr. Frawley has fallen off the stage in incredible fashion. In surely the blackest days of his life, he was arrested twice this week for driving while intoxicated -- on Tuesday in Fairfax County, where he totaled a college car, and on Wednesday at Brompton, the presidential estate. There, because of his erratic operation of an automobile on the streets of Fredericksburg, a city police officer briefly drew his weapon, hardly a town-gown interface to welcome. Yesterday, the board placed its president -- now recovering at Mary Washington Hospital from an ordeal with many missing details -- on paid leave.

Perhaps a full investigation of Mr. Frawley's nightmarish misadventures will substantially exonerate him. To be sure, question marks shower the case. But his ultimate removal as president is scarcely an outlandish scenario. Movie stars act out in public and see their box-office take grow. Preachers and politicians make spectacles of themselves, do penance, and often hang on to their jobs. But college presidents operate in the narrow halls of ideal-draped tradition where probity is all, and exemplary is conduct's crucial modifier. They are supposed to be like poet E.A. Robinson's ethereal Flammonde:

Flammonde, from God knows where,

With firm address and foreign air,

With news of nations in his talk

And something royal in his walk,

With glint of iron in his eyes,

But never doubt, nor yet surprise,

Appeared, and stayed, and held his head

As one by kings accredited.

Mr. Frawley, beset by secret demons, may have flagrantly failed that test. While all decent townspeople wish for his physical and psychic recovery, his behavior, if the charges against him prove out, could have put someone in the morgue. Truth and justice must rule. Meanwhile, the appropriate reaction to these bizarre events is sadness -- for him, for his family, and for his university, whose high standing he had plans to further elevate.

Take from this, too, the lesson that even the most respected among us are mortal creatures, who, however firm their tread, are all one banana peel away from a ruinous fall. Even the Flammondes.

What small satanic sort of kink

Was in his brain? What broken link

Withheld him from the destinies

That came so near to being his?
Snapshots from Home
A Regular UD Feature

UD wasn't within one hundred miles of her Northwestern University graduation ceremony. She only went to her University of Chicago graduation ceremony because her mother, desperate to see UD graduate from somewhere, forced her onto an airplane.

So UD has trouble wrapping her mind around the immense upheaval on her campus, George Washington University, about this year's commencement speaker. (Here's Wonkette's amusing take on it.) As a parting gesture, retiring President Stephen Trachtenberg will give the address, but students, expecting a big name from outside the school, feel insulted. They're organizing a protest.

The students have a point. All sorts of homages to Trachtenberg, including any homage he wants to give himself, can be fitted in to the ceremony. The commencement speaker should be an unfamiliar face, hauled in to praise the students and tell them how to live their lives. Trachtenberg's been a familiar face and a familiar speaker since the students in the graduating class arrived at GW. They know what he's got to say.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

UD Will Be On the News Hour With Jim Lehrer...

...tonight, live, 6:30. I think. I'm still emailing back and forth with a producer. Thank God I got my gray covered last week.


Scratch that. Cast has already been put together for tonight. Producer, however, wishes to use UD on a different, upcoming segment.
Just Got Out of the ITN Studio... Washington, where I was interviewed about Vonnegut. I will link to the online page where the interview will be shown when I find it. Will also narrate, for those UD readers not intimately familiar with the Sudden Summons to TV Interview protocol, what this experience was like. Ne quittez pas.


Okay: I think this is the right place. I don't know when the interview will be available -- maybe this evening? And, as my reader Eric suggests, I'll ask my technically proficient sister to put it on youtube for me -- if I'm able to find it.

As to how these odd, rushed, and deeply gratifying experiences occur:

First, it's about teaching in Washington, where when news breaks you've got various media outlets here desperately seaching for a plausible person nearby to interview about it. Vonnegut - novelist - professor of English... GW's nearby... You put in a call to GW's news office, which puts in a call to the English department chair, Jeffrey Cohen, who, having just noticed a post about Vonnegut on my website, suggests UD, dear man.

UD then gets a call from ITN informing her that in ten minutes a black limo will pull up to her building and drive her to their studios. UD, who had planned to make a presentation at a faculty meeting, rushes upstairs to explain things to Jeffrey, and also to thank him. She then speeds to the ladies' room. She then speeds back to her office and waits for Sunny, a nice Pakistani man with whom she will shortly exchange life stories, to call her.

Her favorite part's coming up. Sunny's all done up in a fancy suit and he sprints out of the car and opens UD's door for her with intense ceremony. This whisked-into-a-limo thing is even better than the interview. Try it and you'll see what I mean.

She takes a swig of water and a few nuts which Sunny has provided and gazes out at Washington on a sunny, very warm day, and thinks highly of herself. There's no particular reason for UD to think highly of herself. It's the setting.

Security at ITN's building is pretty intense (CNN and NBC and other places like that are in the same building), but UD has her passport (she doesn't drive, so doesn't have a license), and this does the trick. She's given a magic piece of paper to slide through a machine in order to open a turnstile in front of the elevators.

The ITN studio is small and simple. She's greeted amiably in the front room by a bunch of Brits watching four rows of tv screens on a back wall, and then she's taken into a dark, tiny room, where she's fitted out with a microphone, instructed to look at her interviewer, and we're off.

I decided to take a sentimental old hippie approach to Vonnegut's death. I said that for people like me, in high school in 1969 when Slaughterhouse Five came out, it's a somewhat emotional occasion, since that novel is caught up with so many other things about that time... Well, you'll see...
Kurt Vonnegut Has Died.

Although he was never one of UD's favorites, it's true that the peculiar jaunty/rageful mood of Slaughterhouse Five had a strong impact on her. Mention the title to her, and the book's nonchalant outrage will instantly flood UD's circuitry for awhile. That's one measure, obviously, of a very strong novel.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Duke Dropped

The entire Duke lacrosse case has been dropped. Later today, all charges will be officially dismissed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nile University

An opinion piece in Lebanon's Daily Star (thanks, RJO, for sending it to me) notes some hopeful developments for that region's universities:

... Located in the high-tech development zone Smart Village, 20 kilometers northwest of Cairo, [just-opened Nile University] is the first Egyptian private university focusing on post-graduate studies and research. Since 1996, more than 10 private universities have been established. Four Egyptian private universities tested the terrain first; in 2002 French and German universities followed. Now, they are not only competing with the prestigious American University in Cairo (AUC) founded in 1919, but also with British and Canadian universities. A Russian and a Chinese university are in the making.

The boom of private universities in Egypt is only one of several aspects of internationalization affecting higher education in the Arab world. Many countries in the region - often considered resistant to trends of international homogenization - are drawing upon foreign expertise to build new universities as well as to modernize their public higher education systems.

... In 1995, King Hassan II of Morocco asked the World Bank to provide him with a report on social reform issues. He later used this report to circumvent the Parliament's defense of free education and impose a decision for the eventual introduction of enrolment fees. Egyptian Minister of Higher Education Moufid Shehab organized a national conference to build support for a reform program to be financed by the World Bank. The program shifts the focus in higher education reform from expanding access toward improving quality.

But don't get too excited.

... While Moroccan and Egyptian policymakers use cooperation with the World Bank and other donors to break with certain old patterns such as free university education, other patterns, such as centralized university administration and lack of autonomy for universities, remain untouched.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

A biology professor complains in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the fragmented, quickly forgotten, nature of college learning, comparing students' intellectual behavior - scoring a grade in one course, quickly forgetting its content, scoring a grade in another course - to that of athletes trained simply to win one game and then another.

It's a reasonable enough thing to worry about, but his essay doesn't worry about it properly, and so has the feel of a futile gesture -- about as futile as taking one course after another and not learning anything. Scathing Online Schoolmarm examines a few paragraphs:

From an educational standpoint, rather than an economic one, college is a waste of time for most students, and teaching is a waste of effort for most professors. It is a waste of national resources on a colossal and increasing scale. [The problem with vast, vast statements like these is their vastness. Over-generalizing, as all Intro Comp students learn, is a mistake, because of a well-known paradox in writing: The more you inflate your rhetoric, the likelier that sucker is to burst right into shreds. Less is more, especially when, like this guy, you write guy-style -- see this earlier post -- and as a result cannot lend your Spenglerian doom the heavy breathing it demands. Note, for instance, the pairing of the words "colossal" and "increasing." The word that comes after colossal should be bigger than colossal. Increasing's a puny little thing. ]

The students flooding into most state universities are increasingly [repeating this word so soon makes the writing boring] being subsidized by tax revenues. In my state of Florida, the great majority of students get a free ride through the Bright Futures Scholarship Program. They have to pay for room and board, but they would have to do that whether or not they were in college. All they have to do to keep the free ride going is to win enough matches (pass enough exams) to place (receive a sufficient grade) at the end of the season (semester). [Not a bad paragraph, though instead of the rather cliched "flooding," he might have come up with a sports-related metaphor -- rushing? racing? For "great majority," just write "most." And there's something clunky - something that jams the flow of his prose - about the way the writer duly appends a little parenthesis after each of of his sports metaphors, translating them for us into the terms of his argument. We don't need this translation, having understood the sports analogy, and so feel we have a bit of a pedant on our hands.]

What is to be done? To begin with, don't expect me, a hard-working professor in the trenches [cliche], to be able to work miracles [cliche]. I insist on more long-term learning [cliche] and more integration across subjects than my students face in most of their other courses. But I am only one person [cliche] fighting a social phenomenon that is national in scope and many years in the making.

However, there are steps that universities could take to begin changing students' learning metaphors. One is to recognize that the lecture format evolved to serve students who are highly motivated to learn; it is excellent for them, but the average student gets little out of lectures. What could economically replace them in the auditoriums at large state universities is not clear. But whatever it is, it needs to engage students as active participants, or they will not learn.

A second step is to replace multiple-choice exams, now used by almost every professor, with essays. Sure, it takes much more work to grade essays, let alone to give constructive feedback on them, but that is one of the few ways to find out what students really know. It is also an important way to improve their writing, which often is truly pitiful. [I like this bit about essays. UD is a major essay-giver.]

A third is to increase the integration of the curriculum. Each course should reinforce, at a higher level, the foundation that students ought to have acquired earlier and should demonstrate how the material from previous courses is relevant in the new context. [Again, the problem here is that he's absolutely right, but that the tossed-off feel of his generalities seems somehow not to acknowledge the reality of just how intricate and conflictual a business authentic curricular integration is.] The Romans had a saying that rings true [cliche]: Repetition is the mother of learning.

... Truly educating our students would require serious reforms and a great deal of coherent effort by a lot of people. But in the interests of duty and self-respect, we had better get to work. [See how this final burst of rhetoric in the context of a pretty limp essay is kind of pathetic? It's empty language; and, worse, it's empty emphatic language. Hell, even worse, it's empty commanding language: Get to work! I don't see many readers rolling up their sleeves.]


Monday, April 09, 2007

Finally, Charles Murray
Begins to Talk Some Sense

'Jews are Geniuses, Claims Social Radical

Jews are an exceptionally accomplished group with an IQ between seven and 15 points above average and a startling record of achievement in the arts and sciences, according to social theorist Charles Murray.

"Jewish genius", Murray says, is a topic so sensitive that Jews rarely address it.

Writing in Commentary, a neoconservative journal, he argues that anti-semitism makes it easy to understand the reasons for that reluctance, but Jewish accomplishment is an important story.

Murray showed his flair for generating heat as the theorist of the "underclass", and created outrage with his 1994 book The Bell Curve, which addressed black under-achievement. As a "Scots-Irish gentile from Iowa", he feels no inhibitions about tackling such a politically incorrect subject as high Jewish IQs.

From the birth of monotheism to the medieval philosopher Maimonides, the 17th-century rationalist Spinoza, and the scientists, artists and intellectuals of the modern world, Jews have shown a rare affinity with scholarship, Murray argues.

Centuries of discrimination masked the extent of the Jews' success, he says. But in the second half of the 20th century, Jews received 29 Nobel prizes. Recipients included physicist Albert Einstein, writer Boris Pasternak and economist Milton Friedman.

"Jews constitute about two-tenths of 1 per cent of the world's population," Murray says. "You do the maths."

IQ test scores show Jews have a mean of between 107 and 115, compared with the mean for the population as a whole of 100.

Analysis indicates Jewish people have extremely high verbal and reasoning skills.

Critics complain Murray is once again "racialising" intelligence by claiming some groups are genetically more intelligent than others -- the charge levelled against him when The Bell Curve was published.

"This issue is much simpler than the issue of blacks versus whites," he says.

"There are all kinds of environmental reasons, such as oppression and slavery, that explain lower IQ scores for blacks. In the case of the Jews ... this has got to be genetic because they've also experienced oppression."

Some ascribe the intellectual accomplishment of Jews to winnowing by persecution and the tradition of marrying socially desirable scholars and their children, but Murray believes there are more compelling explanations at work for the trend.

In 64 AD, Jewish high priest Joshua ben Gamla issued an edict mandating universal schooling, at the same time as the Jewish religion became more centred on prayer and scholarship.

A substantial majority of the Jewish population were farmers then, but by 1000 AD only a small minority were still tilling the land.

Murray believes increased literacy encouraged Jews to drop out of farming. Those who did not may have dropped out of Judaism, which requires study.

And Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian ruler who conquered Jerusalem and drove the Jews into exile in 586BC, may have had a hand in creating Jewish scholarship. According to the Bible, he carried away "all the officers and fighting men and all the craftsmen and artisans", leaving only the "poorest people" behind -- people who were absorbed into other religions.

Tony Judt, a British historian based at New York University, is scathing about Murray's theory.

"My own statistically naive impression these days is that intelligence ... is distributed among Jews in proportions comparable to their presence in society as a whole," he says.'

The Sunday Times

Sunday, April 08, 2007

TCF Bank...

... is beginning to reap the benefits of having its name on the University of Minnesota football stadium -- and the place isn't even built yet.

The huge investment TCF made has intimately coupled it with the Gophers, a team now dominating national headlines:

So much for that festive spring game today, huh?

In the first blow to the new regime of coach Tim Brewster, it was learned Friday that three Gophers have been arrested as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault this week.

[I]t hasn't been the best offseason for the Big Ten so far, with players from Illinois, Michigan, and Penn State finding some hot water [odd phrase, "finding some hot water"], and a Purdue wide receiver getting stabbed. Add three Gopher players to the list.

... University spokesman Dan Wolter didn't reveal any specific information, but said a woman reported an assault that she says occurred sometime between late Tuesday night and the mid-morning on Wednesday. She was examined at a hospital. The players were arrested Friday after police checked on the report. They were being questioned on Friday night.

The Gophers had planned an elaborate celebration - dubbed the "Gopher Nation Celebration" - surrounding the spring game today at the Metrodome, including a morning "Gopher Victory Walk". [Redubbed Gopher Perp Walk.] It is the first major event the Gophers have had since Brewster took over as head coach. As Chip Scoggins noted in the Star Tribune this morning, the news of the arrests broke last night during a reunion of former Gopher players that Brewster set up.

Brewster has suspended all three players until the investigation is complete ...,

In a statement, Brewster didn't say much, but did make clear his displeasure with the events:

"Obviously, this is disappointing news for any coach to receive. There is an ongoing investigation and we will cooperate fully with law enforcement on this matter."

After an early spring practice session that followed Brewster's wonderfully-handled hire, this is the first crisis for Brewster as a head coach. If he's unsure of how to handle things, he has plenty of help available to him with the other coaches in the Big Ten. The number of them who are in the same boat is increasing. [Apparently there's now a Coach's Support Group.]

---aol sports---

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Absent-Minded Professor

His university, Charleston Southern, is on the Templeton Foundation's Honor Roll of Character Building schools. CSU recently named him an "outstanding faculty member."

But Al Parish, professor of economics, local media personality, and wearer of loud suits, seems to be guilty of fraud:

An economics professor known for his flamboyant suits and million dollar pen collection claimed amnesia after federal investigators discovered about $134 million missing from several investment funds he managed, according to court documents.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Al Parish and Parish Economics LLD provided false statements to his 300 investors indicating the five funds were trading profitably, when “in fact, brokerage accounts represented to hold millions of dollars of assets for the funds do not hold significant funds.”

The SEC said after it attempted to contact Parish, “he checked into a local hospital claiming to have amnesia.”

The Charleston Southern University professor reported dizzy spells and blurred vision while teaching on March 29 and was taken to Trident Medical Center, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported in Friday’s edition. Five days later, the SEC filed its lawsuit.

School officials did not return phone calls to the Associated Press on Friday, and the hospital would not confirm that Parish was a patient. The newspaper reported that Parish remained hospitalized Thursday.

... A federal judge has frozen his assets.

The SEC said Parish’s funds had been operating since 1986 and four of the funds were “informal pools of money.”

The pools allowed investors to put money in commodities and securities futures products, bonds, stocks and hard assets such as expensive watches, jewelry and fine art. The fifth fund was Summerville Hard Assets LLC, which purported to invest in various hard assets such as jewelry and collectibles.

The SEC said investigators began looking into Parish’s funds in February and found that statements Parish sent to clients and would-be investors did not match the amounts in his brokerage accounts.

Parish was known in Charleston to cut a flashy figure in his colorful suits and offered investment tips at speaking engagements. ... In November, Parish purchased a diamond-studded fountain pen worth $170,000. He put it on display at a Charleston store along with others from his $1.2 million pen collection.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Aux Armes, Mes Enfants!

'... It is more difficult to process information if it is coming at you in the written and spoken form at the same time.

The Australian researchers who made [these] findings may have pronounced the death of the PowerPoint presentation.

... "The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster," Professor [John] Sweller said. "It should be ditched."

"It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented."'

The Sydney Morning Herald, via mediabistro.
This Ranking of
Diploma Mills... rudimentary, but promising.
If You're After Someone...

...who deeply understands the following, find another blog. UD's notoriously weak on numbers, banking, and business law. But, as the kind reader who sent her this Los Angeles Times article about corruption at Pepperdine, Columbia, and the University of Southern California notes, this stinks in a big way.

Financial aid officers at those schools (we'll probably hear about other schools as the story develops) are being paid off by lending firms in exchange for promoting the firms to students:

Catherine Thomas, a USC associate dean and financial aid director [may have] "engaged in deceptive practices or other illegal conduct in connection with her dealings with Student Loan Xpress Inc."

The development reflected a broadening of [an] investigation into how financial companies in the $85-billion-a-year college loan industry win their business from universities. It also came the same week that a group of universities accused of taking improper payments from lenders reached an agreement ... requiring them to pay back $3.27 million to students.

According to New York officials, authorities are reviewing whether Thomas improperly received 1,500 shares of stock in Educational Lending Group, the former parent company of Student Loan Xpress.

The letter from [Attorney General] Cuomo's office stated that New York officials "are deeply concerned" that Thomas may have received the shares in exchange for placing Student Loan Xpress on the university's preferred lender lists or to influence her to place the company on the lists.

... The New York attorney general's office said Thomas and a partner sold the 1,500 shares in September 2003 for about $14,250, or $9.50 a share. It was not indicated how much Thomas paid for her shares, but one official noted that another higher education administrator involved in the same Cuomo investigation — David Charlow, a senior associate dean at Columbia University in New York — is believed to have acquired his securities for as little as $1 a share.

Charlow, who authorities said received far more of Educational Lending Group's securities and who is believed to have realized more than $100,000 in profits, has been placed on leave by the university. Cuomo's office has subpoenaed records from Columbia related to Charlow's activities.

USC was not subpoenaed, but it and the University of Texas at Austin — where Larry Burt, an associate vice president, also acquired and later sold 1,500 shares of Educational Lending Group — were sent "document retention" letters.

The letter to USC asked the university to arrange to provide documents related to the New York investigation and to determine whether "any other financial aid officers received any payments, stock or other benefits from any other lending institutions." It also asked USC to provide documents showing how the university selected its preferred lenders over the last six years.

... The New York investigation already has prompted another Southern California university, Pepperdine, to alter its practices. Two weeks ago Cuomo accused Pepperdine, among other universities, of accepting what amounted to kickbacks from San Francisco-based Education Finance Partners in exchange for steering students to the company's loans.

Jerry Derloshon, a spokesman for the Malibu campus, said Wednesday that Pepperdine officials believed their practice was legal and appropriate but that the school has "acted quickly to end the revenue-sharing relationship … because any appearance of impropriety was not something we wanted to deal with."

He said the university in the future also would more clearly disclose any other business relationships it has with preferred lenders.

The Current Tax Code

From Inside Higher Education:

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, told The Detroit News that he is investigating the tax implications of universities’ policies on premium ticket sales for athletic events, as part of his ongoing interest in tax breaks given to colleges and universities.

An excerpt from the Detroit News article:

Fueling the salary race [for coaches] are favorable tax laws that permit donors to write off 80 percent of contributions to their favorite college athletic program -- such as the $165 million oilman Boone Pickens gave Oklahoma State in 2006.

Those laws, however, might not last forever. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement sent by his office to The News on Tuesday that he is looking into donations tied to premium tickets as part of a review of higher-education tax breaks and why they aren't working to keep tuition affordable.

In testimony before Grassley's committee, Michigan president emeritus James Duderstadt said some of the tax benefits enjoyed by colleges have drifted far from the tax-exempt purpose of education, and are fueling "an arms race" in college sports.

He cited the "perverse treatment of intercollegiate athletics, in which mandatory fees for athletic events such as luxury skybox leases and licenses to purchase season tickets are treated, in part, as charitable contributions by the current tax code."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Headline of the Day


Update: First lame limerick attempt. As always, readers are invited to improve on this.

Snortnoy's Complaint

"Me Dad was a hero to me.
There was nothing that he couldn't be.
But taken as snort
He fell terribly short,"
He said, disillusionedly.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Another Strong Opinion Piece...

... in the Oregon Register-Guard. Faculty members at the University of Oregon are keeping the pressure on that university's benighted administration as it turns a fine university into Oklahoma State.

This piece, by an art history professor, is written guy-style. Guy-style is fine; UD likes guy-style. Guy-style writing is unadorned, functional, gets you there.

One nice thing about guy-style is that if you rev its engine just a bit toward the end it can have a strong impact, because people assume it'll keep cruising along, and when it doesn't, it hits rather hard. Let me show you what I mean.

'The current price for a new University of Oregon basketball arena is $213.5 million, a significant increase over the recent estimate of $160 million. [Starts with numbers, and dramatic ones at that. As with the Univesity of Minnesota, everyone knows these university stadium projects will almost certainly be obscenely over budget.] Hasn't the time come for soul searching by those who are so avidly promoting this project? [See, this isn't the most stylish writing -- The rhetorical question's a little clunky, and prescribing soul searching for the soulless tends to make the whole effort feel futile just as the essay begins...] The enormous challenge of raising these many millions is taking a heavy toll on the university's good name. [Too many adjectives: enormous, many, heavy, good... You only want a couple of these. If you overdo it, the paradoxical result is a weakening of impact.]

The architects dubbed their design a "theater of basketball," but the arena's scale and amenities bring to mind a palace. [Pretty good. Ends with his strongest word: palace... Yet one can imagine a spiffier writer making something amusingly satirical out of this observation.] Is it not possible to erect a basic arena just large enough to provide the revenue necessary for making Duck athletics "self-sustaining"? [Why quotation marks around self-sustaining?]

Allan Price, vice president for advancement, states that the UO doesn't have to make excuses for wanting to erect the best possible facility, and that the institution carries this "philosophy" to all its projects. [Don't overuse the word 'erect.' Reason obvious. And again, no need for those quotation marks around philosophy.] Yet a few years ago, a properly equipped auditorium was cut early from designs for the UO art museum's renovation. [Excellent. Shows up their hypocrisy with a strong example.]

The first casualty of the arena initiative was longtime Athletic Director Bill Moos. The reasons behind his resignation probably lie in a report presented orally to the UO President Dave Frohnmayer. A written report, belatedly released at The Register-Guard's insistence, is uninformative and incompletely researched. Moos' removal thus served only to undermine faculty confidence in the administration.

Pat Kilkenny's appointment as athletic director may well be the right one, but the result of the job search may have been preordained. [Confusing formulation here.] Many indications support the perception [Translate this into English: A lot of people think.] that the hire was driven by only one agenda - to build the arena. The position description is unusual: It doesn't list even the most standard academic qualifications for the job, although the person hired is expected to "function as a senior official of the university."

The administration has defended Kilkenny's lack of a university degree by citing the University of Wisconsin, the University of Michigan and Purdue University as places where "boosters" have been hired as athletic directors. [Take booster out of quotation marks.] The comparison is spurious. [Good. Spurious is a nasty little word, and when used properly has quite a bite.] All three have college degrees and cannot be characterized as "boosters" in the vein of Kilkenny. Prior to becoming athletic directors, Barry Alvarez was Wisconsin's head football coach and Michigan's Bill Martin was a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and taught courses at Michigan.

The pressure to raise funds for the arena has caused the UO to issue other problematic statements. Frohnmayer and others have argued that since the arena and Moos' buyout are donor-financed, academics are unaffected by the cost of these ventures.

This is fanciful. [Again, good. Simple, declarative, ending with a strong word.] A portion of the proceeds of the sale of Westmoreland student housing is being diverted to purchase property that may eventually play some role in the arena project. That even a penny of this money could go for athletics is hurtful to the UO's academic mission, which for years has struggled with frightfully strained conditions: For lack of space, music students have had to practice in bathrooms. Departments have had to convert not only bathrooms but also storage closets into faculty offices. [Frightfully strained is the wrong tone -- a little too Anglo teaparty. The writer should have found one powerhouse word for those two. And the bathroom thing is incredibly strong ammunition for his case: He should have begun the essay with it. His very first line should have been about music students practicing in bathrooms. And he should have ended his essay by returning to those students.]

The earmarking of Westmoreland money for possible use on the arena makes everyone stakeholders in the project. This arena venture should not, therefore, be allowed to stay in the hands of two or three UO administrators and a couple of donors.

Truth is a casualty of the pressure to keep big-time sports on track. [The writer doesn't need this sentence. The following sentence is much stronger all by itself at the beginning of this paragraph.] Frohnmayer wrote in The Register-Guard this year, "We take great pride in such measures of our academic success as the graduation rates of our student-athletes. Those rates have risen steadily in recent years. ..."

What kind of snow job is this? [Good use of the rhetorical question here.] The NCAA's findings indicate that the graduation rate of UO athletes has fallen from 79 percent to 47 percent in five years. Obvious strategies for boosting academic performance, such as making sure all students attend classes and have time to focus on exams, are routinely ignored. This year we saw an increase in the number of football games, and we have again scheduled a Civil War game during final exams - despite a University Senate resolution against this practice. The culprit is, of course, the vast sums required to finance UO's sports machine. [It's clear from his guy-style style that this guy is far from a hothead. He's deliberative. Professorial. So as he ups the rhetoric and reveals real anger it's quite effective... as in, things must really be scandalous if people like this guy are so upset.]

Those who believe a massive, commercialized sports enterprise is "higher education" should find a way to sustain it without undermining the UO's integrity by causing administrators to shift priorities from academics to athletics. [I tell you - and I know you're tired of hearing it - quotation marks are almost always a bad idea... Just dump them.]

I urge everyone to write Frohnmayer ([email protected]). If people want sports in a big way, I encourage them to work toward an athletic program that respects and promotes the UO's educational mission.' [...not one that moves our musicians into the men's room...Something like that would've been nice... Could even have picked up on his "palace" thing up there and contrasted the sports palace to the academic toilet...]

Yes. Write to Dave. I just did.


A Commentator on
Public Radio's

... expresses the same idea that UD, in this blog's very first post, quoted James Redfield expressing. Here's Redfield:

The problem with universities is that universities are not operations which are constructed for making money. They are operations which are chartered to spend money. Of course, in order to acquire money to spend, they do have to acquire it. But their job is to pursue non-economic purposes. Or, to put it another way, their job is to pursue and, in fact, to develop and shape purposes within the society in some specific way. They are value-makers. They are not supposed to be pursuing the values of the society by responding to demand; they are supposed to shape demand, which is, in fact, what education is all about.

And here's Lawrence Krauss at Marketplace:

...[U]niversity presidents rub elbows more and more with rich corporate donors, alumni and trustees. They travel in donated corporate jets, and they get paid CEO salaries.

The problem is, universities aren't businesses. The ultimate product and measure of success isn't profit, it's the quality of scholarship.

In fact, research and education don't make money, they cost money. The more successful a research program, the more it costs. The financial investments in all this don't yield short-term fiscal rewards, but long-term ones for society as a whole.

University presidents should be spokespeople for education, intellectual leaders whose vision guides colleagues and students alike — and inspires donors to reach into their pockets, but they must balance the last task carefully.

Presidents disconnect from their shareholders — the faculty — at their own peril. But it's easy to see how this can happen when they spend their days away from their colleagues in a corporate jet at 50,000 feet, traveling at half the speed of sound.
Valley So Low

Dissent: The Blog, which chronicles the bizarre, parochial ways of a couple of colleges in California, is one of a growing number of such websites, in which named or unnamed faculty and staff describe -- in attitudes ranging from laughter to outrage -- the inner workings of some of America's worst places to get an education.

All unhappy colleges tend to look alike, as this morning's Chronicle of Higher Education confirms when it features the latest breakout blog, this one about fourth-tier Missouri Valley College:

A Web site that sharply criticizes the administration of Missouri Valley College has students and professors on the Marshall, Mo., campus buzzing. "What allows a 117-year-old college to complacently remain fourth tier?" the site asks, alluding to the institution's mediocre standing in the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings.

... The site's author ...lambastes the college's president and trustees, accusing them of corruption, lack of vision, and an unhealthy obsession with the institution's athletic program.

The site raises some serious concerns about the future of Missouri Valley, a private, Presbyterian-affiliated college with 1,425 students. ...[A]thletic scholarships dwarf academic ones... [and] courses end at 3 p.m. to make time for sports practices.

Here, taken from the site itself, are all of the stigmata of the shitty American college:

'Coaches do all freshman recruiting for the college.

The person in charge of Valley's Admissions Office is Valley's Athletic Director. Most of the Admissions Office staff, counselors, etc., are married to coaches or are coaches. Valley's Assistant Director of Campus Life is an Outside Linebackers Coach.

There are no academic classes after 3:00 p.m. due to sports practice.

There is always "sports creep" when the Athletic Department makes its continuing foray into the 2:00 p.m. academic time zone.

Students are annually pulled out of class to attend a 3-4 day fund-raising event at a NASCAR race in Kansas City for the Athletic Department.

Athletic scholarships amount to over $4,000,000.

Academic scholarships amount to over $300,000.

The college is referred to locally as Missouri Valley High School due to the number of retirees hired from the real local high school.

The Administration and Board of Trustees plan to convert Valley into a University instead of a third tier college.

Past Valley Presidents are always shown having doctorate degrees. In truth, none have these advanced degrees. Worse still, these advanced degrees "held" by past Valley Presidents were (a) granted by the Valley Board of Trustees and (b) are only Honorary Doctorates. The Trustees even grant themselves Honorary Doctorate degrees.... Several faculty members have bogus degrees from non-accredited institutions and/or have received degrees based on "life experience."

Life, on America's many sequestered bad colleges, is but a dream. Pretend classes, pretend degrees, jobs abounding for friends and family, fun and games for all ... Everyone's nudged awake a little bit when accreditors rap on the door, but accreditors don't care about any of this, actually, so ... yawn... nothing to worry about... sleep baby sleep...
The Language of the International Herald Tribune... telling. "To date," its reporter in Athens writes, Greek universities "have operated with relative impunity."

Indeed they're gone unpunished for their state-subsidized nothingness until recently, when the government passed legislation introducing competition and standards to the country's comatose professors and students. This woke them up.

A four-month spate of strong protests against Greek education reforms has been paralyzing central Athens and crippling local businesses in one of the biggest setbacks to the country's conservative government since it took office three years ago.

University students and professors have been vehement in their opposition to [limits on the number of years students can stay in school, private universities, academic standards for their professors, and other reforms in keeping with conditions at other European universities], and have been staging at least one major rally and several smaller protests a week.

The sight of burning cars and trash cans, or youths hurling firebombs at police officers, has become a regular feature on television news bulletins. And the unrest has resulted in Athenians and tourists avoiding the city center on protest days - so much so that merchants say they have lost some €400 million, or $530 million, in revenue.

These people, busy destroying Athens because they don't think people should be free to found universities, are Europe's reigning reactionaries.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Two Dead in Shooting,
University of Washington

Possible murder/suicide.



"A Psycho from the Past."
Has All the Marks
Of an April Fool's Story...

...but is apparently true.

From the Des Moines Register:

A former University of Iowa law professor faces the possible suspension of his license for altering students' evaluations of his classroom performance.

Kenneth Kress, 55, of Iowa City, a nationally recognized expert on mental health law, was a professor in the U of I College of Law from 1989 until last summer, when he resigned.

The Grievance Commission of the Iowa Supreme Court is recommending that the court suspend Kress' law license for at least one year because of a 2004 incident involving surveys in which students scored his effectiveness as a professor.

At the time, the university's policy said teachers were not to examine the students' surveys until after their final grades were awarded and the dean reviewed the students' comments. The survey results were one factor in setting the salaries of professors and in determining which professors were appointed to endowed chairs.

In April 2004, Kress allegedly distributed a questionnaire to 10 students in a class dealing with mental health law. He then replaced three of the completed surveys with three that he had filled out. He changed some of ratings on two other surveys from "average" to "outstanding."

Grievance commission records said the changes raised Kress' composite score, on a 5.0 scale, from 2.86 to 4.86.

After U of I officials investigated the matter, Kress initially tried to shift suspicion to others. He ultimately resigned from the law school and, according to state records, he entered into a "confidential settlement agreement" with the university.

[This is already quite a good story. Keep reading. It gets better.]

State payroll records show Kress was paid $250,000 last year - more than double the salary he was paid in 2005.

One of Kress' former students, Jody Harris, testified in November before the grievance commission. She said that when Kress handed out the surveys in 2004, he told the class that his job was "on the line." She said Kress told the students other faculty members were trying to force him out and were intimidated by him because he was so much smarter.

... According to the grievance commission records, Kress, who has bipolar disorder, ultimately admitted changing the students' evaluations of his performance and blamed his conduct on physical and mental illnesses.

At the time of the incident, he was taking three mood stabilizers, two stimulants and a medication to help him sleep.

One doctor who testified before the commission attributed Kress' actions to delirium and delusions. Another doctor disagreed, citing Kress' "fragile ego" and an inability to tolerate negative reviews of any kind.

[Delerium, delusions, fragile ego, inability to tolerate criticism, Anna Nicole Smith's pill protocol, document tampering ... The road to riches at the University of Iowa.]

In recommending a one-year license suspension, the commission said that while Kress was a dedicated law professor devoted to teaching, his demeanor "was that of a person who believed he was above the law until he was caught."...

Sunday, April 01, 2007


From a New York Times book review:

'Ant Farm [is] a collection of short comic essays by Simon Rich, whose high-spirited schadenfreude can work its magic in a page or two. In one story, a “typical teenage girl” recounts her fatal case of hepatitis C via text messaging: “All I can do now is w8 4 death, :( ” she bleakly confides.'
Treading Very Carefully Here...

...because of the date. Many of the university-related Google News stories I've scanned today are spoofs. Don't want to be announcing on University Diaries that Drexel has fired its entire philosophy department because, even though that's what a headline says, I don't really think it's true.