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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)

Friday, August 31, 2007

University of Oklahoma Football Team
Being Siphoned Off, Player by Player

Tim Burke has a lengthy consideration on his blog today of why Americans hate professors. It's titled Angry at Academe, and it offers reasons why people like UD are loathed by the rest of the country. Let's take a look.

Americans resent the monopoly universities have over their career success. The university stands "like a colossus atop almost all forms of social aspiration, [and] a lot of people who might be better off chasing their own muse get corralled inside higher education." The professor represents the embodiment of the university's unavoidable power over everyone's future.

Americans also resent the tenurati's perks and privileges:

We’re not nearly as well-paid as most other professionals, but tenure-track faculty have embedded compensations which almost no one, professional or otherwise, has in this economy. Job security is almost the least of it: the ability to work without direct supervision from a boss might be even more valuable. And faculty within their institutions are accustomed to at least think they are in control of the institution, and perhaps they should be. It’s not wrong for faculty to think that their work is at the center of higher education, that without them, the whole thing would be pointless. But these basic structural facts alone also tend to isolate academics even from other workers in their own institutions, and have a spill-over into the wider communities that they live within. Add to that some of the peculiar flourishes of scholarly and intellectual cultural life, and you have a reason for a structural antagonism between academic professionals and the wider society. I don’t think there’s much to be done about it except to know it is there, to soften its edges, and to be humble about its manifestations.

Tim could have been more explicit here. We get to lord it over other people at our institutions; once tenured, we have the sort of job security unimaginable to most Americans; we have spectacular autonomy and a lot of time to ourselves. I'm not sure what he means by the "peculiar flourishes," but let's assume he has in mind geegaws like regular sabbaticals and leaves, an often glorious campus setting, a rich and enviable cultural life (this is part of the reason for the fast-growing trend toward people wanting to retire next door to universities), and, for many professors, getting paid to do something you love.

The operative word is envy, which is why Tim concludes the paragraph by using the word "humble." Professors can be quite arrogant -- or can sometimes be read as arrogant even if they're not -- and this, coupled with all of their privileges, may make them look vile, smug, entitled.

And then there's a general incomprehension of intellectuality for its own sake:

There are a lot of forces in American life since 1950 that have pushed our culture away from valuing knowledge that is impractical or has no immediate application. Universities have colluded in defining the value of what they do in terms of careers and economic rewards, but that’s also been done to them by the relentless careerism of students and their parents. The ghastly cynicism of big-time college athletics has had a generally corrosive effect, often feeding a belief that college is primarily for parties, getting laid, and social networking.


UD's humble take on all this is that the incomprehension goes both ways.

Although she blogs incessantly about them, she doesn't really understand many of the people who gum up the works at so many American universities.... When she reads about their doings in the news, she has to scratch her head. I mean, fine... they don't like her... they don't get her... but she doesn't like and doesn't get them....

Following events at an acutely anti-academic place like the University of Oklahoma, for instance, is for UD like reading a story by Isaac Babel, in which the world's been turned upside down and makes no kind of sense... or, no -- it makes sense, but a malign and absurd sense... Things are so bad at places like OU that they routinely tip over into comedy:

Freshman wide receiver
Ryan Broyles has been suspended from the Oklahoma football team after his arrest early Friday on suspicion of trying to steal gasoline from a Norman convenience store pump.

“Effective immediately, Ryan is suspended from the team for an indefinite period of time," OU coach Bob Stoops said in a statement released Friday afternoon. "I take very seriously the conduct of our players and I will not compromise my expectations for anyone associated with our program."

Stoops has reason to take the matter seriously. His program is coming off a year-long ordeal involving three players being paid by a booster for hours they did not do at a Norman car dealership. Two of the players, Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn, were dismissed right before camp opened for the 2006 season. [You know it's the local press here, since the writer both sobs along with the coach on the subject of his "ordeals," and chooses not to pick up on the irony of Stoops announcing that a notoriously corrupt program takes player conduct seriously.]

The NCAA and OU conducted a joint investigation. The NCAA infractions committee found OU guilty of failure to monitor last July. The committee extended OU's probation -- the university had been penalized for violations committed in its... basketball program the previous year -- through May 23, 2010.

Of the Broyles matter, whether it was isolated in nature or other players were involved, OU assistant athletic director Kenny Mossman said: "We'll look into it thoroughly."

According to Norman police Capt. Leonard Judy, a patrol officer observed the 19- year-old Broyles standing between an SUV and a pump at a closed Mr. Shortstop convenience store in east Norman at 12:10 a.m. Friday.

The officer, Judy said, discovered a key stuck in a lock on the front panel of the pump, and determined it belonged to Broyles. Broyles was also in possession of override codes which he used to activate the pump after gaining access with the key. [Codes and key! Enterprising lad. Wonder how he got that stuff.]

Judy said Broyles was arrested on attempted larceny charges and booked into the Cleveland County Detention Center. A Cleveland County Sheriff's Department spokesperson confirmed Broyles posted $200 bond and was released at 3:44 a.m. Friday.

Ron Henderson, owner of the Mr. Shortstop where Broyles was arrested, distanced himself from the university when contacted Friday.

"I've heard all these conspiracy theories that I'm a donor or supporter of the program. Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "Other than I'm a general fan like everybody in Norman might be. I've never met Ryan Broyles, and don't know anything about him other than what I've read about his as a player.

"I've never had a key to those pumps and I've been here 36 years. I'm totally amazed to find out something like this could happen. My real concern is who might have those keys or codes and how long this has been happening. We've had problems balancing our inventory and some irregularities the last two or three months. We thought the problems were leakage in the lines or tanks. We never dreamed it might be something like this." [Theft plus leakage. Make a note of it: Mr. Shortstop.]

Henderson, who was Norman's mayor from 2001-04 and who owns three Mr. Shortstop stores in the city, said he contacted OU athletic director Joe Castiglione Friday morning.

"I wanted to make him aware of the situation," he said. "Other than that, it's pretty much in the hands of the police. My thing is to cooperate with the authorities through the investigation process, to find out how widespread this is and if others have keys."

What I'm getting at is that for UD this is totally Twin Peaks... Ask her to unpack this series of events -- the mysterious keys and override codes, the conspiracy theories, the irregularities, the gas station owner who was also the mayor -- and she simply can't. She can note the chilling fact that one by one the players for the Oklahoma team are being spirited away... she can wonder whether, as each vanishes, there will be any team left at all... She can wonder why this activity takes place at a university, and why this university's squalid team is, as Mr. Henderson tells us, universally adored ... But she can't make sense of it, because it seems to her incredible that any university would stoop so low as to be this...
SOS Agrees, Of Course...

...but thinks this opinion piece about professor/student affairs might be punched up, prosewise.

I think [Drop I think] academia honors bans against professor-student relationships more in theory than in practice, because if professors and students couldn’t hook up, the professorate [sic] would go extinct.

Now, I think we can almost all agree that dating a student while he or she is in your class is inappropriate – but what about students not in your class, but with whom you might have to otherwise professionally interact? [Clotted up with various style problems. Overuse of to be verbs; too many weasel words, as in another use of I think; an awkward split infinitive in to otherwise professionally interact.] When I think [Another I think.]of all the seemingly [Drop seemingly.] happily married couples that I know who started out as faculty advisor and graduate student advisee, the line starts to blur.

Look at it this way: most academics’ social universes could be bound in a nutshell and within that nutshell, many of the individuals are already married. So, if you’re still single upon entering academia, you really feel the pinch. And, then you put professors with students who have common interests. For example, as shocking as it might sound, both political science professors and political science majors tend to be very interested in politics. The rules seek to discourage any attractions that develop. It’s like academia is a dating agency in the ironic punishments division of Hell. [In principle, this is amusing and charming. But his heavy-handed writing style, his tendency to gum things up with too many words and phrases, keeps the lightness from appearing.]


America: A Pragmatic, Forgiving Nation

From interviews with SIU faculty, in the student newspaper:

'Many members of the faculty worry the [plagiarism] issue will adversely affect enrollment. Shahram Rahimi, associate professor of computer science, said if everyone's work were scrutinized, many would be found guilty of plagiarism.

"(AFAC) [the faculty group seeking out instances of plagiarism] have been working on this days and nights and it's destroying the University," he said. "We were finally recovering our enrollment numbers."

...Some professors cite technological changes as a reason for some verbatim text being unquoted or not being cited. When Poshard submitted his dissertation, word processors were a commodity and typewriters made it difficult to revise large documents, said Robert Swenson, associate professor of architecture.'

"To go back and make a correction on page 27 means you type the entire page over again, beginning to end," he said. "I can't imagine any dissertation being perfect."
Won't Happen.

Nothing much will change. Too many interests, too much money, too many unions, at stake. But SIU president Glenn Poshard's plagiarized dissertation in educational administration will maybe allow people to revisit the ongoing way-flagrant ed school scandal in this country.

'Glenn Poshard is a three-degree graduate of Southern Illinois University. He earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education in 1970, a master's degree in educational administration in 1974 and a Ph.D. in administration of higher education in 1984.'

This is just the sort of pedigree that people like Arthur Levine have been screaming about for ages:

"The majority of programs range from inadequate to appalling," Levine says, "even at some of the country's leading universities." He mentions a couple of "strong" programs, but none that meet nine criteria relevant to program quality in higher education - clear purpose, curricular coherence, balance between theory and practice, faculty quality, admission standards, degree requirements, research quality, financial resources and continuing self-assessment.

...If a university did want to offer a rigorous exemplary program, who would apply for it? Students intending to enroll in a graduate program in educational administration have an average score on the Graduate Record Examination 46 points below the national average on the verbal part, and 81 points below the average on the math part. And that may be optimistic, since only the relatively strong schools even ask applicants to take the GRE. In practice, many accept everybody who applies.

Sometimes they don't even need to apply. One dean told Levine, "Students would show up and we would let them stay."

Another administrator, from a respected university, said about the students who enroll in its off-campus programs, "We have admitted some people with GRE scores just above what you get for filling out the form."

Poshard's not a unique problem. He emerged out of a vast and well-established problem.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Southern Illinois University
An Official Laughingstock

UD hesitates to declare any university a laughingstock -- there are always plenty of smart, hardworking, good people at any school, and this declaration makes things worse for them. But with its cynical Saluki Way project, its cheesy motivational speakers for faculty, and its across-the-board plagiarizing executives, Southern Illinois University has earned the title.

UD invites you to type southern illinois in the search engine up there to see all of her postings on that benighted institution over the years.

The latest? Yet another plagiarist, this time the president himself.

Before I quote from it, let me say how impressed I am by the SIU newspaper. The student journalists are doing the hard work -- along with a faculty committee set up to keep track of rampant plagiarism among its leaders (the plagiarizing president describes this group as "academic terrorists" who "lie in the weeds and throw bombs at everybody") -- of protecting the integrity of their university. Bravo.

Poshard Accusation Third in Two Years for SIU

Accusations that SIU President Glenn Poshard used unattributed verbatim text from previously published sources make him the third high-ranking SIU administrator to be linked with plagiarism or academic dishonesty in the past two years.

Former SIUC Chancellor Walter Wendler was twice accused of plagiarism in 2006, while Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift came under fire for similar allegations in February of the same year.

Wendler, now a professor of architecture, declined to comment on the matter, and Vandegrift's office directed all inquiries to Mike Ruiz, the SIU communications director for the president's office. Ruiz did not return multiple phone calls Wednesday. [Awful quiet in here...]

Wendler was accused of plagiarizing the university's Southern at 150 plan, which seeks to make SIUC a top-75 research institution by 2019, from work he did at Texas A&M.

Alumni and Faculty Against Corruption at SIU accused Wendler of lifting content directly from a plan called Vision 2020, a document Wendler helped write. Vision 2020 aimed to make Texas A&M a top-10 public university by 2020.

AFAC, as the group is commonly called, was formed after SIUE professor Chris Dussold was fired for plagiarizing his teaching statement in 2004. Since Dussold's firing, the group has sought out plagiarism amongst SIU administrators. [Turns out to be like shooting fish in a barrel.] Dussold has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit.

AFAC claimed both SIUC's plan and Texas A&M's plan listed similar goals and used verbatim text. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, both plans carried similar lists of concerns and used identical graphics.

Wendler insisted he had done no wrong because the portions he took from Texas A&M's Vision at 2020 were his own words.

"If I am the architect of the two of these planning processes, it would be odd if the two planning processes and the plans themselves looked very different," Wendler said in September 2006.

A month later, a three-person committee formed by Poshard concluded Wendler had committed academic dishonesty, not plagiarism. The committee was made up of Mike Lawrence of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute; Wenona Whitfield, associate dean of the SIU School of Law and William Muhloch, chairman of the zoology department.

"We have concluded that the central issue is not whether acceptable or unacceptable plagiarism occurred but whether it was appropriate to use lifted words without attribution in a document produced on a university campus, where students, faculty and administrators must be sensitive to even the appearance of presenting another's thoughts and ideas as one's own," the committee wrote.

In October, former SIUC linguistics professor Joan Friedenberg, who had spoken out on behalf of Dussold in the past, handed the committee a stack of documents containing alleged plagiarized documents within the SIU system.

At the time, Friedenberg said the stack of material came from teaching philosophies, departmental mission statements and a Morris Library Web site segment on effective teaching.

Friedenberg said in 2006 that AFAC brought the documents to her attention.

"Why are we singling out Walter Wendler? Why was the professor on the Edwardsville campus singled out? What about the rest?" she asked.

In November, Poshard demoted Wendler from his chancellor position and formed a panel to review plagiarism policies throughout the university system. Poshard said Wendler's academic dishonesty had nothing to do with the demotion. While the panel is finalizing its report, a clear definition for plagiarism has yet to be given.

Wendler was also accused of plagiarism in January 2006 for his 2005 State of the University address.

He apologized to author Roger von Oech after unknowingly using a passage from Oech's book. Then-SIUC spokeswoman Sue Davis, who said she helped Wendler write the speech, said shortly after the chancellor's apology she unintentionally omitted the attribution.

Less than a month later, SIUE Chancellor Vandegrift apologized for plagiarizing a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech, which he gave at a luncheon. Vandegrift's speech included unattributed excerpts out of documents from the White House, United Food and Commercial Workers Union and The King Center in Atlanta. [Are you able to keep track of all of this? A flow chart would help.]

Vandergrift's speech prompted Poshard to release a statement, in which he called plagiarism "intentionally taking credit for someone else's work." [He would know.] The SIUC Student Conduct Code states plagiarism is "representing the work of another as one's own work."

Vandegrift said he and his staff did not believe attributions were necessary because the speech was given in a non-academic setting. [How's that again? Concept of a Plagiarism-Free Zone emerging here...] The chancellor, though, said in a statement that he did approve the speech and claimed full responsibility for its content.

"I will say now that my integrity and the integrity of this university are very important to me," Vandegrift said in the statement. "If mistakes were made, we will take steps so that it doesn't happen in the future."

There's more. This is from another article in the same newspaper:

Poshard said August 1984 - when his dissertation was completed - was one of the busiest times of his life.

Just two weeks after his dissertation was completed, Poshard was appointed to the Illinois State Senate following the death of Sen. Gene Johns.

"This is not an excuse, and I would never offer it up as an excuse but at that point in my life, I had a family," he said. "I worked two jobs. I was running for the Illinois State Senate. I was trying to get my dissertation finished." [Quickest way is to plagiarize.]

Poshard said he would need more time before explaining why some pages have nearly identical text to works that are not cited.

...Poshard said his method of citing, which he said allowed for omitting quotes when information is cited in a footnote, could help explain several examples where he used long, verbatim passages without quotation marks. [Wait. Slow down.... omitting quotes when information is cited in a footnote... Hm...]

"No one on my committee said that when you reference and cite something correctly that you have to go up and put quotes around it," he said. [Poshard is the president of a university.]

Multiple academic experts said Poshard did not exercise enough caution while citing and attributing his 111-page dissertation.

Alan Perlman laid out a simple and widely accepted ground rule - if it's not original content, it needs to be cited.

Perlman holds a doctorate in linguistics from the University of Chicago and has assisted attorneys on plagiarism, copyright and authorship for more than 20 years. He said sloppy citing in lengthy papers is common. But absent citations and attributions go beyond what would be considered academically admissible, he said.

"(The author) went beyond error and took credit for what wasn't his," said Perlman, who viewed more than 20 pages of documents without knowing the author's name.

On page 54 of his dissertation, Poshard appears to have modeled his chapter summary, without citation or quotations, after a passage from author James Gallagher.

The last time Poshard cites Gallagher is on page 49, leaving Poshard at a loss to explain the nearly verbatim text on page 54.

"Unless I just failed to cite it," Poshard said. "What else can I say?"

That's plagiarism, says Dan Wueste.
Narrative Drive

"In the confused, muddled velocities of my mind was an editorial sense that this was wrong, that this was an ill-judged element in the story of my life," writes Harold Brodkey in This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death, which chronicles his dying of AIDS. "I felt too conceited to have this death."

Written like a true writer. Writers, more than other people, impose plots on their lives and on the lives of others; they think in terms of stories always, and if they're very forceful stylists they can do this thinking in a way that, while sometimes hectoring, can also be very effective. Their narrative vision of a better world can enable powerful novels that have an actual impact on social reality; their representations of liberated minds can have a liberating effect on the minds reading them.

You can see the benign power of the imposition of narrative in another writer's chronicle of his last days. Contemplating his cancer, Anatole Broyard wrote, in Intoxicated By My Illness:

My initial experience of illness was as a series of disconnected shocks, and my first instinct was to try to bring it under control by turning it into a narrative. ... The patient has to start by treating his illness not as a disaster, an occasion for depression or panic, but as a narrative, a story. Stories are antibodies against illness and pain. ...Gregor Samsa dies like an insect. To die is to be no longer human, to be dehumanized - and I think that language, speech, stories, or narratives are the most effective ways to keep our humanity alive. ... [A] sick person can make a story, a narrative, out of his illness as a way of trying to detoxify it. ... Making narratives like this rescues me from the unknown, from what Ernest Becker called 'the panic inherent in creation,' or 'the suction of infinity.'

The Brodkey excerpt suggests the dark side of this intense narrative drive -- the same drive can be a species of arrogance, and can create enormous resistance within the writer him or herself to the largely uncontrollable event-clamor of everyone's life.

In the case of the recent much-discussed Arthur Miller revelations -- he had a child with Down Syndrome whom he institutionalized, neglected, and never mentioned -- the matter of putting away life elements that don't comport with a certain personal narrative is worsened by Miller's sense of moral superiority, as one observer notes in a New York Times article about the playwright:

Writers like Miller and Gunter Grass, “who set themselves up as moralists and public scolds, are more vulnerable to criticism based on their own behavior,” wrote Morris Dickstein, who teaches English at the City University of New York Graduate Center, in an e-mail message this week. “But the truth is that very few great artists were admirable people. At heart they’re killers who’ll do anything to get the work done.”

As the author of a lengthy Vanity Fair account of Miller and his son puts it, "A writer, used to being in control of narratives, Miller excised a central character who didn't fit the plot of his life as he wanted it to be."

Most professors would like to
make an impact on the world.
And not just the world of
scholarship, but the broader world.

Flynn Warren, pharmacy

professor at the University
of Georgia, has just accomplished
this, bigtime. The entire
licensing apparatus of the
pharmacy industry has been
shut down because of him.
Until it figures out how to
put his lucrative test-answer-
selling course at the University
of Georgia out of business,
the profession can no longer
certify pharmacists. Buyer beware.

Some news clippings:

'A University pharmacy professor is a defendant in a federal court case, in which he is accused of collecting and disseminating pharmacy test questions to students, according to court documents obtained by The Red & Black.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy filed the case Aug. 3 against the Board of Regents and Flynn Warren Jr., citing copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract, according to the documents.

...Alan Ray Spies, an assistant pharmacy professor at Samford, said in an affidavit that he learned Warren was giving NAPLEX questions to students. Spies said he first found out this information in May 2007.

"Specifically, I learned that Mr. Warren's course materials include, among others, a series of questions, some 2,700 in number, that appear to be very similar, if not verbatim, to questions asked on the NAPLEX," Spies said in the affidavit.

Spies said he talked with some of his students about Warren's course in the affidavit.

"It soon became apparent to me that individuals who had just taken the exam were sending Mr. Warren questions which he in turn was forwarding to students who had not yet taken the NAPLEX."

...a lawyer for NABP, bought Warren's course materials on July 31. In her affidavit, she stated, "a true and correct copy of my payment receipt from the 'UGA Pharmacy Cont ED, Pharmacy Building' for the course materials" was given to her for $100.'


'Many College of Pharmacy students and alumni boast Flynn Warren is the best professor at the University. And over the past five years, 514 pharmacy students - 99 percent - passed national and state pharmacy exams - usually after his review class.

Soon some returned the favor, according to students interviewed Wednesday.

"(After the tests, we would) e-mail him anything we could remember," said Chandler Greene, an alumnus from Dunwoody. "I wanted to do it because he helped me out so much."'


'"...[A]t least 150 questions are verbatim, nearly verbatim or substantially similar," a court document reads.

...Saturday, NABP officials suspended the NAPLEX examination nationwide.

... [Flynn was] a man they knew had a history of wreaking havoc.

... In 1995, NABP accused Warren of compiling and selling NAPLEX test questions to students. Warren signed a contract promising to "cease and desist." However, NABP has failed to monitor Warren's actions for the past 12 years.

... NABP officials need look no further than their own spreadsheet of NAPLEX test scores for every pharmacy school in the nation. The document, available here, showed our University consistently excelled with 100 percent pass rates and near-perfect scores.'


From an online forum:

'...Dr. Flynn's class is awesome. He encourages his students to write down questions they remember & send them to him, and he himself takes the NAPLEX in different States to compile his notes...

...The problem is that questions on the NAPLEX are not to be disclosed. You sign an affidavit on the computer before the exam. It's okay to go over the type of questions that are on the exam during a review. Reiss & Hall do this with the Kaplan review, which I took back in May. What Dr. Flynn passed on to his class, in addition to the general study information, was questions that students sent to him that they saw on the NAPLEX and his response to those questions. This is illegal. Students will always talk with classmates about what questions they saw on an exam. I believe that the NABP realizes that this will happen and is okay with it. But, when you have someone charging for a review class and that information is disclosed then the line has been crossed.'
"Look at what happens in Europe.
They literally kill people at soccer matches."

A former chair of the Ohio State Board of Trustees rushes to the defense of his school after someone suggests that OSU fan behavior is a mite uncivilized. Hell, we haven't killed anybody yet...

And, after all, "rowdy fan behavior has never been unique to Ohio State."

The chair's remarks are a small part of the pummeling former OSU president Karen Holbrook's been receiving from OSU people for her recent Kinsley Gaffe, in which she accurately described the pre- and post-game streets of Columbus.

Not only is Holbrook totally unsporting. She's also, notes one local booster, a snob:

"I think people got the impression that she wanted it (a football game) to be like a social event, like a polo match, where people walked with shirts tied around their necks."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

2007 Fulmer Cup Winner Announced!

UD is very grateful to Dave, a reader, for alerting her to this breaking news.

The year's most criminal university football team is...


Award-winning play described here. Individual achievement award, featuring an AK-47, here.

Some Fulmer reader comments:

Man, I thought UConn did better. I mean one player got arrested twice in four days….that has to count for something. Doesnt it?

And shouldnt ND have more than one point for some dude get one of them hot South Bend hookers?

Aw, you’re closing the scoring just as Iowa was starting to pick up momentum!

Technically ND should be back at 0 since both incidents resulted in pretrial diversion and the charges magically disappear unless there’s a repeat offense

That brings up my issue with Fulmer scoring, generally. Schools shouldn’t avoid recognition because they have an unusually captive local judiciary that tends to make charges go away before two-a-days start. That arguably biases the Cup standings toward (a) schools in larger cities and/or states that don’t elect local judges and (b) schools whose teams are so bad that the judge won’t be influenced by the possible devaluation of his season tickets.
University of Toledo:
The Life of the Criminal Mind

A reader sends UD a very long ESPN article about the disgusting football and basketball programs at Toledo. Details here are not for the faint of heart.



UPDATE: Michael R. Davidson at PROFANE has more.
Criminal Behavior and
Academic Mediocity at

'The recent decision to let junior guard Jamar Smith redshirt for the 2007-08 basketball season is an insult to true Illini fans and emblematic of a culture in which standards are treated merely as a limbo stick.

Back in February the underage Smith, while heavily intoxicated with tequila, was driving a car carrying fellow Illini player Brian Carlwell. That car crashed into a tree, leaving Carlwell in a perilous medical state. Smith then left the scene of the accident and returned to the apartment complex where they had been without calling police or an ambulance. Only later did witnesses alert authorities.

Smith pleaded guilty in an agreement with prosecutors in the spring to aggravated DUI and served a two-week jail sentence in the summer. Now a felon, he is on probation for two years and required to complete community service and pay a fine.

This incident follows previous criminal behavior by former Illini Rich McBride who not only was implicated with Luther Head and Aaron Spears in a burglary and never charged, but was also arrested in September 2006 for DUI. That followed the April 2006 arrest of now senior center Shaun Pruitt for assaulting an employee of The Clybourne.

The administration and the athletic department's failure to hold high profile students like these accountable for their egregious and illegal behavior is intolerable. To continue to allow figures like Smith the honor of wearing the Illini uniform is a slap in the face to every student and fan who comes to Assembly Hall to support the team.

And of course, it's a fair bet that if one of those student fans was involved in the kind of reckless behavior that some of our most prominent athletes have engaged in, they wouldn't enjoy such lenience from coaches, much less administrators.

While a double standard seems to exist in student discipline, it appears that there is a double standard among athletes as well.

There is little to reconcile between how two football players were kicked off the team last semester by Coach Ron Zook for being charged with residential burglary and how Smith, after being convicted of a felony, will not only remain with the basketball team but also enjoy a de facto paid campus vacation with funds that could be given to more deserving athletes or students.

While our athletic programs continue to endure criminal behavior and academic mediocrity as evidenced by today's news that a new freshman recruit has been declared ineligible, the entire University suffers.

Until administrators and coaches decide to get proactive, we are left to wonder if someone literally has to die before this environment of tolerance ends.'

---editorial, student newspaper---
Snapshots from Home:

'thesda Rules.


'Maryland is now the wealthiest state in the union, as measured by median household income, according to the latest stats from the Census Bureau.

The typical Maryland household earned $65,144 in 2006, propelling it past New Jersey, which came in second with earnings of $65,470, but had led the nation in 2005. Connecticut finished in third place both years, recording a median income of $63,422 in 2006.

Top 10 wealthiest states

Here's where the median household income is highest

State Income

Maryland $65,144
New Jersey $64,470
Connecticut $63,422
Hawaii $61,160
Massachusetts $59,963
New Hampshire $59,683
Alaska $59,393
California $56,645
Virginia $56,277
Minnesota $54,023

Source:U.S. Census Bureau

The 10 poorest states

The states with the lowest median household income

State Income

Montana $40,627
Tennessee $40,315
Kentucky $39,372
Louisiana $39,337
Alabama $38,783
Oklahoma $38,770
Arkansas $36,599
West Virginia $35,059
Mississippi $34,473

Source:U.S. Census Bureau

Maryland's income was nearly double that of Mississippi, which, with a median of $34,473, was the nation's poorest state. West Virginia, where the median household earned $35,059, was second poorest and Arkansas, at $36,599, was third.

The median income for the United States as a whole came to $48,451.'
Dark Night, Seoul

'South Korea is being shaken by a series of scandals involving an art historian, a movie director, a renowned architect, the head of a performing arts center, a popular comic book writer, a celebrity chef, leading actors and actresses, a former TV news anchor, even a revered Buddhist monk. What binds them is that all falsified their academic records.

In an intensely competitive country that has long put a premium on impressive degrees, one prominent person after another is being exposed as having exaggerated, or even fabricated, academic accomplishments. The revelations of résumé fraud have created problems for South Korean corporations, which rely heavily on diplomas to assess job applicants.

...One of the biggest shocks involved a well-known Buddhist monk named Jigwang, whose temple in an affluent district of Seoul had grown from seven members in 1984 to more than 250,000. Part of the respect he enjoyed arose from the widespread belief that he had attended Seoul National University, the country's top academic institution.

"People swarmed in because they heard that a monk who had gone to a distinguished university was teaching the scriptures in English," Jigwang said at a news conference Aug. 18. "I think that the Seoul National University title more or less helped in propagation."'
Thoughtful Analysis of
Florida's Educational Fiasco

It's in The Olympian. Excerpts:

'Florida has five of the nation's 15 largest universities but only one of the nation's top 50 in quality. When students and their parents walk on campuses, they see new buildings and new law schools, medical schools and football teams.

But inside, core classes like history pack in 250 students, part-time instructors do much of the work that professors used to do, and students grind out extra semesters without graduating because the classes they need are full or advisement staffs are too thin to guide them through their majors.

Already lumped in with the nation's bottom third, Florida's university system must contend with cutting up to 10 percent of its budgets -- a statewide hit on academics of as much as $232 million. With more lean budget years on the way, academic leaders worry that a further plunge in quality would undermine Florida's ability to compete with other state economies.

...[T]he university system ranks in the bottom third. That's unacceptable for an influential ''mega-trend'' state, with an economy larger than those of many sovereign nations, [the system's chancellor] said.

The most influential measure, U.S. News & World Report rankings, has flaws, including biases that favor older schools.... But the magazine's conclusions about Florida schools are reinforced by other rankings that consider research accomplishments, graduation rates, available space and the number of full-time faculty members. Except for the University of Florida and FSU, Florida's other mega-schools linger in the bottom third and fourth tiers of U.S. News' rankings.

''That's the one [ranking system] you can find in almost every airport, for God's sake. It's striking you in the face,'' [the chancellor] said.

...At FIU, psychology is among the most popular departments -- with 2,400 students choosing it as a major and 16,000 enrolling in classes. But with only 19 permanent full-time professors, the school relies on part-time instructors to teach 70 percent of the classes, said Suzanna Rose, who chairs the department.

A recent outside review concluded that the department should have 45 full-time faculty members.

''You want to have a critical mass in your area, and if it looks like the university isn't headed that way, your career is going to be affected and you might as well go somewhere else,'' Rose said.

...Florida ranks 34th in spending per student at its universities when agricultural extension campuses, libraries, student services and other projects outside the classroom are included. But the state ranks 41st in money spent on actually teaching students.

...Former Gov. Bob Graham, who remains an active player in higher-education politics, said Florida has not made universities a priority.

''Universities, more than any other institutions, set a tone for the state and tend to influence its development, particularly its economic development,'' Graham said. ``I don't think there's been a full appreciation of that by the political and business leadership of Florida, and we've suffered as a consequence.'''

Graham's comment about tone, certain to be dismissed as snobbery by that leadership, is key. Some states are strikingly anti-intellectual, and culturally crude -- Nevada, Montana -- and, despite a few pockets of resistance in and around Miami, Florida's like this too. These states don't care much about education on any level; many of them host diploma mills because they don't know or don't care what diploma mills are. The whole idea that education might matter enough for us to go to the trouble of accrediting some schools and withholding accreditation from others seems to them bizarre.

These tend to be the big sports states. Their populations show high rates of functional illiteracy.

Jazzy entrepreneurs aren't going to want to go to tone deaf Florida.

Florida's feeling the pressure on the education front, and a state like Alabama isn't, because of what the chancellor points out -- Florida is an "influential 'mega-trend' state, with an economy larger than those of many sovereign nations." People are watching Florida. They're noting the scandalous disparity between the state's national significance and its piddling higher education system.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Revenge of the Godzillatron
Saban's Paycheck

'...[N]ext month, the U.S. House Ways and Means committee will discuss college athletic programs and whether their millions should remain tax exempt. At the center of all the controversy is [Alabama Coach Nick] Saban’s paycheck.

As Alabama football prepares to launch into a new era, the Crimson Tide's $4 million man is at the center of a financial-- and some might say ethical -- controversy.

“When you hear about a coach making $4 million a year at a public university -- that gets attention,” said UA Mass Communications professor Dr. Johnny Sparks.

But many experts are warning that Saban is catching the heat for an issue that's been growing for years: the increasing amount of money pumped into collegiate sports through TV contracts and high dollar advertisers. [No, he's catching the heat for his greed. There's no connection between these trends and his insistence on making $4 million a year.]

"It's been a continuing trend for more than a decade. Only now has it broken through public consciousness because of Nick Saban and his salary,” said UA PR and Advertising professor Dr. Lance Kinney.

..."I've been anxious to end the hoopla for a long time. I think the focus should be on the team and not on me,” said Saban.' [Look away, Dixie Land! Nothing to see here! Just because my salary uses up nine percent of the football budget, that's no reason for you to keep staring at it...]
Things Are Looking Up For the
Florida International U. Football Team!

FIU President Modesto A. Maidique, interviewed by the campus newspaper:

'Q: Can you make any bold predictions about this year's football season?

A: I predict that we will win a game, which, if we do, will make us definitely better than last year. Last year we went 0-12 so if we go 1-11, we're definitely better than last year. I also predict that we are going to be in a lot of games where people expect us to be out of.

Q: Do you think with new leadership the football team will be able to turn around last year's 0-12 season?

A: I think we have an extraordinary head coach. Both he and athletic director [Pete Garcia] have put together a formidable coaching staff. The head training was the head trainer for the Orlando Magic. Prior to that, he trained Olympians and other professional teams. He is an extraordinary man, I personally train with him.'
Contreras on Serrano

"Alan Contreras," it says at the bottom of this opinion piece in the Oregon Register-Guard, "is an administrator of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization. He blogs at and holds two real degrees from the University of Oregon."

UD's had many occasions, on this blog, to cite the wit and wisdom of Mr. Contreras. She's doing it again.

'Recent stories ... [about] Dave Serrano, a former candidate for baseball coach at the University of Oregon, raise several issues. Are diploma-mill degrees legal for use? Do coaches need degrees at all? Do athletic directors?

Oregon law separates degrees into three categories. Standard degrees such as those issued by the UO, Lane Community College, Eugene Bible College and other accredited schools can be used with no restrictions, although employers may require certain kinds of specialized accreditation or preparation. Degrees that go through the state's approval process also are legally valid for most uses.

Unaccredited degrees from U.S. colleges and foreign degrees from colleges not comparable to accredited U.S. colleges can be used in Oregon with a disclaimer of accreditation, provided that the college actually exists as a legally operating degree-granter in its home jurisdiction.

The last category is what are usually called degree- or diploma-mill degrees, those simply purchased, sometimes requiring "life experience," often not. Using such a degree in Oregon and many other states is illegal; in Oregon, it is a Class B misdemeanor as well as a civil violation. It is the floor below which no degree used in Oregon for any purpose, public or private, is allowed to fall. The Legislature established this nationally recognized standard in 1997.

Any employer who allows an employee to use a diploma-mill degree had best have a good attorney and deep pockets for the potential liability claims when that employee screws up.

Unfortunately, it is that third category into which Serrano's degree falls. Therefore, had the UO hired him, he would have had to erase the degree from his rèsumè when he took the job.

But should coaches be required to hold degrees at all? Of course not, because athletic "departments" are not really parts of universities, at least not at top-level schools. The UO athletic department is an ancillary business that is allowed by our cultural norms to use the university's name and trademarks to operate a large-scale entertainment business. The more private money it gets (thereby freeing other actual and potential funds for academic uses) the better. [Warms the cockles of UD's heart!]

That is why someone such as Pat Kilkenny is a good choice to lead such an enterprise. He's an experienced businessman with the ability to attract and manage money. The fact that Kilkenny has no degree is a who-cares. The problem he faces is that he is unaccustomed to operating within the slow, talkative process of academe, in which his actions will be publicly trashed by low-income people he has no choice but to work with. He is accustomed to doing things in private with people in his own economic stratum. [Love it!]

But I'd take one degreeless Kilkenny - even with an absurd, poorly considered cheerleading team - over 10 Serranos with degrees from a mailbox in Delaware. The problem with Serrano and those like him who acquire and use bogus degrees is not that they are bad coaches; it is that they are proven to have poor judgment.

An employer, including the UO, always can require that a degree meet whatever requirements the employer deems appropriate. Many employers require that degrees be from accredited schools; some require certain kinds of accreditation. Employers interested in finding out more about how to distinguish real from fake degrees should use the Employer's Guide to College Degrees at oda/doc/Employers_Guide_to_Degrees.pdf.

A degree is not a toy or a decoration. It is a public credential that people rely on in many aspects of their lives. Degrees don't tell us all we need to know about a person, but we need to respect their value, not trash it.'
There's been a hostile takeover...

...of University Diaries.

UD has no idea what it means, but she's flattered.
Six-Year Graduation Rate
Under Thirty Percent

'The Southern football team has had at least 10 players become academically ineligible since the spring, but football hasn’t been the school’s only program touched by grade, retention and clearance issues.

In the previous school year, men’s basketball lost veteran forward Ralph Hishaw. Women’s basketball lost up-and-coming shooting guard Deidra Jackson. And baseball lost several veterans and couldn’t get Joshua Kirk, who earned his master’s degree in December, eligible until after the conference season concluded.

In May, the NCAA issued its Academic Progress Report and sent official warning letters to schools, including Southern.

SU was the nation’s only school whose three main men’s programs — football, basketball and baseball — were noted for all having academic concerns.

“With that APR, eventually we’re going to get penalized if we don’t turn this thing around,” SU Athletic Director Greg LaFleur said.

Plus, campus-wide, the problem of academic progress is getting more focus.

Southern reported its retention rate of freshman as 73.2 percent, but its six-year graduation rate was 27.7 percent. The school has been hurt financially by declining enrollment.

“I’m challenging the entire university. … We’re going to do something with our retention rates,” SU Interim Chancellor Margaret Ambrose told the school’s student-athletes Thursday at an orientation meeting in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

Ambrose spoke to the student-athletes about the APR warning letter from the NCAA.

“We have a challenge with at least three of our major sports,” Ambrose said. “I got an important letter that told me you guys are not where you’re supposed to be in terms of graduation rates. … We want not to fail you. Hold us to that. Study; go to class; if you need help, ask for it.”

LaFleur said the school will establish an academic center for student-athletes (in addition to other tools available on campus) in the Clark Center. He said the center, which will be open until 9 p.m., should be up and running in a month.

“We’re consciously doing some things to elevate the academic support we’re giving to the entire athletic department,” Ambrose said.

The problem could require research.

“We need to analyze and try to approach it from a data collection and analytic point of view,” Ambrose said. “We just have to bring to bear everything we can to figure this thing out.”

The latest rash of ineligible football players, along with at least five more players who are no longer with the program, underscores the problem.

“I feel comfortable Ambrose and (SU System President Ralph) Slaughter understand we have an issue,” SU football coach Pete Richardson said.

“They’ve made a commitment to get us some help. Now, it’s not going to happen overnight, because the problem we have didn’t start overnight. It’s going to be a period of time of putting things in place.”'

---the advocate---

...piece in the New York Times.

William McGonagall gets a mention or two. Also Michael Nyman, a major passion of UD's, and not only because Nyman's variations on Henry Purcell are all over this cd.

'The Edinburgh Festival may be one of the world’s great arts fixtures, but its Fringe festival has always operated like a national freak show, opening nonjudgmental arms to anything that could be said to pass as entertainment. Proust on Rollerblades, Ibsen in drag, your favorite Wagner moments whistled by a chorus in gorilla suits: old-timers will have seen and usually passed by it all. And being passed by is the shared experience of Fringe events. They tend to play obscurely, in church halls and basement rooms to audiences of 16, barely noticed, instantly forgotten.

That said, the Fringe does have its star acts that either get seized on by TV talent scouts or at least acquire cult status and return year after year. One of the most spectacular of the cult items, not quite ready for prime time but expectant, will be playing Edinburgh’s sizable Canongate Church next Sunday. All seats are sold, and lines for returns will undoubtedly stretch around the block.

This hottest of hot tickets is an Edinburgh band called the Really Terrible Orchestra. And were you to ask what it does, the answer would be that with true Scottish candor it lives up to its name, or rather down to it: an orchestra that plays terribly.

“We are indeed quite bad,” the principal bassoonist admitted. The standard varies from player to player, he added, noting that he himself had passed Grade IV, the British examination level normally taken by schoolchildren around age 12.

“But I have trouble with C sharps — a design fault of the instrument, I think — which means I don’t play them,” he said. “And some of our members are really very challenged. We have one dire cellist who has the names of the strings written on his bridge. Otherwise he can’t remember what they are.”

The fascinating thing about the Really Terrible Orchestra, though, is that its appalling players are in fact eminent in other walks of life. They are politicians, bankers, judges, surgeons, senior academics. And the principal bassoonist who doesn’t play C sharps happens to be the polymath law professor and best-selling writer Alexander McCall Smith, the author of (among many other things) the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, which are now being filmed for international release.

A genial, donnish figure who lives in the most genteel of Edinburgh suburbs and now ranks among the most popular literary figures in Britain, Mr. McCall Smith was one of the founders of the orchestra eight years ago. He likes to say that it was set up with no other reason than to give hopeless amateurs a chance.

“There were a number of us with children in school orchestras who fantasized about being in an orchestra ourselves,” he said. “And as there was no likelihood of ever being accepted into an existing ensemble, we decided to create our own. There’s a concept of asylum in the R.T.O. It’s therapy.”

It’s also something that could easily have turned into a standard amateur ensemble like a thousand others. But where standard amateurs may be incidentally bad, the Really Terrible Orchestra is fundamentally bad. Its random ability to play the right notes at the right time, or at all, is part of what the orchestra chairman, the lousy clarinetist Peter Stevenson, calls “our entertainment package.”

“We knew there was no market for a good amateur orchestra, because a poor professional one would always be better,” Mr. Stevenson said. “But there is a market for the R.T.O. And that our concerts sell out in advance, to audiences who just love to hear us scrape through easy arrangements of Bach or the last 40 bars of the ‘1812’ Overture — the rest is far too difficult — is proof. There’s always thunderous applause, especially if we’ve got lost in something and ground to a halt. Always a standing ovation. And it’s not just because we have our friends and family in the audience. People genuinely thrill to it.”

All of which raises the question: Why? Why do people love bad art? Why is there a cult museum near Boston proudly dedicated “to bringing the worst of art to the widest of audiences”? And why does history afford a special place for the creatively incompetent, from poets like William McGonagall (the immortal versifier of “The Tay Bridge Disaster”) to singers like Florence Foster Jenkins (whose inability to sing packed Carnegie Hall) and, more recently, the “American Idol” reject William Hung (whose inability to do anything of artistic note has turned him into a celebrity)? Why, in fact, is so much latter-day TV obsessed with celebrating cultural failure?

One answer is that it’s a variant on classic banana-skin comedy; or, as Mr. McCall Smith prefers, “simple schadenfreude, a pleasure in the misfortune of others that’s all the sweeter with the R.T.O. because so many of us are otherwise well established in our lives.”

“Our clarinetist chairman is a typical example,” he added, “tremendously successful in investment banking, reached the very top. But now he’s at the very bottom of the orchestral ladder and, alas, will probably stay round about that level.”

But there’s another reason, surely, for the cult of bad art, and it has to do with liberation: the anarchic pleasure of disorder, the repudiation of established rules of judgment. Bad art is an invitation to escape the formal boundaries of adulthood and be a child, delighting in the rude and raw.

In this respect the Really Terrible Orchestra has interesting precedents. Back in the 1960s a maverick figure of the British musical avant-garde, Cornelius Cardew, created what he called the Scratch Orchestra; like the Terrible, it was an ensemble of players who couldn’t play, or at least couldn’t play the particular instruments they had selected for Scratch Orchestra Concerts, a proviso that allowed the involvement of bona fide musicians like Michael Nyman and Brian Eno.

For some, especially the newspapers, the Scratch Orchestra was just a grand joke; and much was made of its intuitive response to the “music” specially composed for it by Mr. Cardew, which was written representationally, not with notes and staffs but with pictures and poems.

For Mr. Cardew and company, however, it was no joke. There was a philosophical basis to it all, founded in the work of John Cage, who had declared that there was “no room for the policeman in art.” The Scratch Orchestra had profoundly humanist objectives concerning music as process rather than product, and with them came a sociopolitical agenda: initially a broad and fairly friendly swipe at cultural elitism but fossilizing into a hard-line Marxist-Leninist debate that hijacked the whole venture and brought it to a messy end.

But before it died, the Scratch Orchestra spawned a 1970s offspring in the Portsmouth Sinfonia, which involved some of the same personnel, including Mr. Nyman and Mr. Eno. Again there was an underlying philosophy; and it was eulogized in serious terms, not least by Mr. Nyman, who played the cello in shambolic performances of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and compared the results to Charles Ives. “The combination of everybody’s individual errors,” Mr. Nyman wrote, “built a musical structure that was incomparable.”

Mr. Eno, who played clarinet in the Sinfonia and produced its early recordings, similarly declared that what you heard in its performances was “a number of approximations of how the piece should be played,” and that they collectively amounted to beautiful music.

But for most of its audience — which was considerable, thanks to discs like “Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays the Popular Classics” and concerts in places the size of the Albert Hall — the joys of the Sinfonia were less elevated. Enthusiasts cherished the sagging intonation, the dubious conductors (one of whom managed unintentionally to conduct the “Blue Danube” waltz in 4/4) and such priceless occasions as when the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s B-flat minor Piano Concerto failed to turn up, and the orchestra played it without her, transposed down to A minor because, as a spokesman explained, “sharps and flats tend to unnerve us.”

Perhaps the height of the Sinfonia’s acclaim came when it was threatened with an injunction by the publishers of Richard Strauss on the ground that its performances of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” were rearranged without permission. The case never reached court, to the chagrin of the Sinfonia’s manager, who replied that the music had not been rearranged: “It’s just that we don’t play it very well.”

That is exactly the kind of response one could imagine coming from Alexander McCall Smith, were any publisher foolish enough to take a similar line with the Really Terrible Orchestra. There is an undeniable, and entirely mischievous, vagueness about its objectives, and it falls in line with the unclear intentions behind so much of the bad art of history. To what extent were the perpetrators in on their own joke? And to what extent was their badness deliberate?

William McGonagall is generally thought to have had genuine belief in his own worth as a poet; Florence Foster Jenkins, likewise as a singer. They weren’t trying to be awful. How much, you might fairly ask, is the Really Terrible Orchestra trying to stink?

“Not at all,” Peter Stevenson insisted, sounding slightly hurt when I asked to attend an orchestra rehearsal if it had such things.

“It’s unkind of you to think we don’t rehearse,” he said, “because we do. And some of us even take lessons, as I am at the moment, from a serious teacher. I can’t pretend that no one ever plays deliberately badly. It’s usually the trumpets, and they make me angry when they do. But for the rest of us, we are actually doing our best. And that’s the tension in which we operate. On the one hand, we’d like to get better. On the other, we know we won’t.”

Locked in this quandary the Really Terrible Orchestra has otherwise progressed from strength to strength. It made what Mr. McCall Smith called its “first world tour” to Pittenweem in Fife. “We went down terribly well in the village hall,” he added, “playing to an audience of fishermen who got a free glass of wine — well, several glasses actually — for coming. Gave us a marvelous reception.”

The second world tour is due to hit London in November. “I fear they’ve heard of us down there,” Mr. McCall Smith said, slightly concerned that they might also have heard a pernicious rumor that, thanks to persistent practice, the orchestra was less bad than it used to be.

“It’s not true,” he insisted, “and I don’t see how it could be. We’re only too happy for people to practice. I do myself, but it will never make a difference. No one good is ever going to join us. And if they did, they’d be hugely outnumbered. Children would raise the standard, but we don’t let them in for that reason. It would be too embarrassing. And though people say we have ambitions, what is ambition? When a piece speeds up, it’s ambitious enough for me.”'
Richard Bradley...

... to whose very intelligent and well-informed Harvard-related blog, Shots in the Dark, I've been meaning to link, jumps the gun and links to me and my idea about taking from the rich and giving to the poor.
UD Welcomes Readers
From the University of Waterloo...

...who, with their outsized interest in sex, are lighting up her blog's circuitry this morning.

Someone on the Daily Bulletin's editorial staff linked to UD's recent post about professor/student afffairs and started an Instalanche.
Rider's Off the Storm

The New Jersey prosecutor, reports Inside Higher Ed, has dropped aggravated hazing charges against two high-ranking adminstrators at Rider College. Background here.
UD Quoted in the

UD's thrilled to see that the education writer for the Daytona Beach News Journal, intrigued by her suggestion that Harvard distribute some of its nigh on forty billion endowment dollars in grants to deserving colleges, has approached leaders of local institutions about what they'd like.

'Margaret Soltan, an English professor at George Washington University whose blog, "University Diaries," can be found at, suggested Harvard start giving grants with all that money. She specifically mentioned Florida Southern College, the Lakeland school that has the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings, some of which have fallen into disrepair.

So we wondered: What would our local schools do with even a chunk of Harvard's loose change?

Their responses reflect a sense of what officials value at Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach Community College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Stetson University.

Bethune-Cookman University has four priorities, the first being residential housing, said Catherine Kershaw, assistant vice president and director of public relations. An upcoming capital campaign -- on the heels of a 40 percent boost in the school's endowment in the past four years -- will include housing and a new dining hall. The others: a new library and technology center; a new science building with updated labs; and a student union. (Bethune-Cookman University has $43 million in endowments as of May.)

Frank Lombardo, vice president of academic affairs at DBCC, wants to have professors spend more time working one-on-one with students in the Academic Support Center. "If we reduced the teaching load of the faculty by two courses per academic year, the impact on the budget would be about $3.5 million per year . . . That would result in higher retention and more student success." (Daytona Beach Community College has $26 million in endowments as of August.)

Embry-Riddle would start spending Harvard's money by providing $50 million per year in student opportunity scholarships, said Dan Montplaisir, vice president for institutional advancement. The school would also like to get its hands on several $2 million "very light jets," or VLJs, for teaching tools. Montplaisir would continue by building world-class aviation research parks both in Daytona Beach and at the Prescott, Ariz., campus, at $200 million apiece. He would also spend $130 million in new buildings, including classrooms, residence and dining halls and the Worldwide Campus headquarters. Not to be outdone, President John Johnson added four more dream projects: creation of 10 endowed faculty chairs (at $40 million); increasing faculty and staff salaries by 10 percent ($12 million); building a local aviation magnet high school ($25 million); and constructing $12 million worth of science and engineering labs. (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has $60 million in endowments as of June 30.)

Stetson University spokeswoman Cindi Brownfield said the school would settle for $25 million to complete construction of the Sage Hall Science Center addition and renovation. It could also use a "dream endowment" to improve scholarship support and compensation for faculty and staff. (Stetson University has $138.6 million in endowments as of May 31.)'

UD's favorite detail: Several "very light jets." There's poetry in that.
Yet Another Student
on the Online Scam

This one's at the University of Missouri:

'I came to college expecting lectures, late night cram sessions and running late for mid terms. I wanted to cheer for the sports teams and in some way become an important part of the campus.

The most important thing I wanted out of my college experience was an actual college classroom experience.

Maybe the movies I saw during my adolescence about college life warped my opinion about what college was really like. It made parties, basketball games and boring lectures seem like daily activities.

During my college career I have graduated with an associate's degree, stayed up all night the day before a test and almost joined a fraternity. Now that I have reached my senior year, I want to make sure that I experience every aspect that college life has to offer.

This semester, 75 percent of my classes are online and 100 percent of that is not by choice. There are classes which are only offered online and if I want my degree, I have to take these classes. [Note: The online option is no longer an option.]

I did not come to UMSL to stay at home and take classes. I came to this university to be part of a university.

If I wanted to complete my studies online I would have enrolled at University of Phoenix. Internet courses are great for people who are unable to get to campus, but I think they should be an option, not the only choice.

On the first day of classes, like many students, I sat in front of my computer and was ready to see what my first assignments were, and to my surprise, My Gateway was down.

Any students who tried to log last week probably ran into the same problem I did. So here's a question: what do you do for an internet class when the website does not work? [Whoops.]

We still have to buy books for internet courses and form groups, but the one thing that we do not have is the classroom experience. That is why I am in college, for the experience.

Even though I am not in favor of online courses, they seem to be a growing part of the educational process.

Professors can save a lot of time, and not to mention trees, just by putting their syllabus online instead of handing out paper copies in each class.

I am sure that Captain Planet and the Planeteers would be proud of us.

I am not alone in embracing the idea that college classes should be held in classrooms and not on a website....'

No, you're not. And as more students recognize online courses for the shoddy things they often turn out to be, the situation, UD firmly believes, will change.
"What's Your Relationship
to St. John's College?"

That's usually the first thing friends ask UD when she tells them that she gave $10,000 to the campus in Annapolis last year.

The answer is none. Didn't graduate from there. Knows not a soul there. Walks around the campus a bit when she visits Annapolis...

But regular readers of this blog know that UD admires St. John's serious curriculum.

Of course, a few thousand is peanuts compared to the gifts the people in this Wall Street Journal article have given to schools from which they didn't graduate.... The main thing UD wants you to notice, though, is the story's very encouraging angle: These people aren't giving to the grotesquely over-endowed schools from which they did graduate. Bravo.

'Laurence Lee is the sort of alumnus that the University of Chicago craves, with two degrees from the school and plenty of money that he is looking to give away. But when Chicago solicits Mr. Lee for donations, he says he thinks to himself, "What do they need me for? What difference can I make when they already have billions?"

Instead of contributing much to Chicago, where he earned bachelor's and law degrees, Mr. Lee, who is retired, gave $6.6 million to a school he never attended: Lake Forest College, a small liberal-arts school located in the Chicago suburb where he lives. Its endowment is about $75 million, just over 1% of University of Chicago's $6.1 billion. Mr. Lee says he hasn't totaled the amount he has given to Chicago over the years but describes it as "a modest annual gift for the hell of it."

... Mr. Lee is among a rising cohort of philanthropists who are eschewing their richly endowed alma maters in favor of schools with meager resources. Turned off by massive endowments at the nation's top schools, they seek to make a greater impact at less-wealthy institutions. They are probably also aware of a fringe benefit: getting your name on a building is a cheaper proposition at schools not accustomed to seven-figure donations.

... Colleges with modest endowments are stepping up their pitch to nonalumni who graduated from more moneyed schools. Steven D. Schutt, president of Lake Forest, says he tells potential donors, "Your return on investment is going to be greater here than at places like Harvard or Yale. A million dollars gets lost in an endowment of three or five or $10 billion." Mr. Schutt was formerly a vice president at the University of Pennsylvania, which has a $6.4 billion endowment.

Last week, Harvard University announced that its endowment, by far the largest in higher education, had grown to $34.9 billion last fiscal year. The Cambridge, Mass., university, which is continuing to solicit donations, says it needs the resources to ensure future growth and to support operating expenses at its 14 schools.

But Harvard is aware that some potential donors may question the university's claim it still needs financial gifts. [Clearly, these money-wise millionaires are asking tough questions. Does a university with 34.9 billion dollars need more? Hm.... Hm...] Materials distributed to Harvard's fund-raising volunteers include a response to the question, "Does Harvard really need more money with such a large endowment?" The suggested answer begins, "Yes." It goes on to note that much of the university's endowment carries spending restrictions, and that some parts of the university, including information technology, have "little or no existing endowment" and require alumni donations to meet annual expenses. [Oh, okay, well here's my $2,000 annual giving! Don't spend it all in one place!]

... Some [schools], including Cleveland State University in Ohio and the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., have begun giving potential donors copies of a July opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that made the case for more parity in donations.

"When your alma mater is already fabulously wealthy, it is advisable, indeed wise, to shun your sentimental attachment to the institution and adopt other institutions that can yield better returns," wrote Steve O. Michael, a professor of higher-education administration at Ohio's Kent State University. In an interview, he said that data show schools with smaller endowments are more efficient in their use of resources.

... Mr. Lee, who made his fortune as the top attorney for Abbott Laboratories, based in Abbott Park, Ill., says his emotional ties to the University of Chicago waned as it amassed "its fancy endowment," which has tripled in the past decade. The school is at the tail end of a $2 billion capital campaign. A spokesman for Chicago wouldn't respond to Mr. Lee's comments.' [What can they say? I guess they can try Harvard's tack -- We really need the money, man...]

Monday, August 27, 2007


'Blogs: All the Noise that Fits

The hard-line opinions on weblogs are no substitute
for the patient fact-finding of reporters.

By Michael Skube
August 19, 2007

The late Christopher Lasch [Great so far. UD, who knew Lasch a little when she taught at the University of Rochester, and who, long before she met him, admired his work, always welcomes his name.] once wrote that public affairs generally and journalism in particular suffered not from too little information but from entirely too much. What was needed, he argued, was robust debate. Lasch, a historian by training but a cultural critic by inclination, was writing in 1990, when the Internet was not yet a part of everyday life and bloggers did not exist.

Bloggers now are everywhere among us, and no one asks if we don't need more full-throated advocacy on the Internet. [No one and then don't are awkward together here.] The blogosphere is the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined.

And to think most bloggers are doing all this on the side. "No man but a blockhead," the stubbornly sensible Samuel Johnson said [Stubbornly sensible is hokey.], "ever wrote but for money." Yet here are people, whole brigades of them, happy to write for free. [What we now know of how this piece was written makes the cynicism of this view of writing all the greater, pointing it directly at Skube, who in exchange for money let editors seriously fuck with his prose.] And not just write. Many of the most active bloggers -- Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall and the contributors to the Huffington Post -- are insistent partisans in political debate. Some reject the label "journalist," associating it with what they contemptuously call MSM (mainstream media); just as many, if not more, consider themselves a new kind of "citizen journalist" dedicated to broader democratization.

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, whose popular blog Daily Kos has been a force among antiwar activists, cautioned bloggers last week "to avoid the right-wing acronym MSM." It implied, after all, that bloggers were on the fringe. To the contrary, he wrote, "we are representatives of the mainstream, and the country is embracing what we're selling."

Moulitsas foresees bloggers becoming the watchdogs that watch the watchdog: "We need to keep the media honest, but as an institution, it's important that they exist and do their job well." The tone is telling: breezy, confident, self-congratulatory. Subtly, it implies bloggers have all the liberties of a traditional journalist but few of the obligations. [So subtly that UD fails to see anything like this in the Moulitsas statement.]

There is at least some reason for activists like Moulitsas to see themselves as the new wave. Last year, the California 6th District Court of Appeal gave bloggers the legal victory they wanted when it ruled that they were protected under the state's reporter shield law. Other, more symbolic victories have come their way too. In 2004, bloggers were awarded press credentials to the Democratic National Convention. And earlier this month in Chicago, at a convention sponsored by Daily Kos, a procession of Democratic presidential hopefuls offered full salutes, knowing that bloggers are busy little bees in organizing political support and fundraising. [Busy little bees = They're so gay.]

And yet none of this makes them journalists, even in the sense Lasch seemed to be advocating.

"What democracy requires," Lasch wrote in "The Lost Art of Argument," "is vigorous public debate, not information. Of course, it needs information too, but the kind of information it needs can only be generated by debate. We do not know what we need until we ask the right questions, and we can identify the right questions only by subjecting our own ideas about the world to the test of public controversy."

There was something appealing about this argument -- one that no blogger would reject -- when Lasch advanced it almost two decades ago. But now we have the opportunity to witness it in practice, thanks to the blogosphere, and the results are less than satisfying. One gets the uneasy sense [less than satisfying... one gets the uneasy sense... These vaguely British locutions, coupled with the Samuel Johnson mention, tell you that Skube wants his style to be what he considers non-bloggy -- profound, weighty with gravitas, for the ages. But he's writing for the LA Times.] that the blogosphere is a potpourri of opinion and little more. The opinions are occasionally informed, often tiresomely cranky and never in doubt. Skepticism, restraint, a willingness to suspect [Er, suspend?] judgment and to put oneself in the background -- these would not seem to be a blogger's trademarks.

But they are, more often than not, trademarks of the kind of journalism that makes a difference. And if there is anything bloggers want more than an audience, it's knowing they are making a difference in politics. They are, to give them their due, changing what is euphemistically called the national "conversation." But what is the nature of that change? Does it deepen our understanding? Does it broaden our perspective? [Old Grandad prose again. And again, the problem is that people who want to deepen and broaden understanding don't write op/eds for the LA Times.]

It's hard to answer yes to such questions, if only because they presuppose a curiosity and inquiry for which raw opinion is ill-suited. Sometimes argument -- a word that elevates blogosphere comment to a level it seldom attains on its own -- gains from old-fashioned gumshoe reporting. Compelling examples abound. On the same day I read of the Daily Kos convention in Chicago, I finished "The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation," winner this year of the Pulitzer Prize for history. No one looms larger in the book by Gene Roberts Jr. and Hank Klibanoff than Claude Sitton, whose reporting in the New York Times in the 1960s would become legendary. [Cliches abounding.]

Full disclosure: I once worked for Sitton at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., after he had left the Times, and I knew that he and others, including Karl Fleming, had put themselves in harm's way simply to report a story. I naively asked Sitton once if he had encountered veiled threats. "Veiled?" he asked. "They were more than veiled."

He recounted the time in Philadelphia, Miss., when "a few rednecks -- drunk, shotguns in the back of their truck -- showed up at the Holiday Inn where Fleming and I were staying." The locals invited the big-city reporters -- Sitton from the Times, Fleming from Newsweek -- to come out and see the farm. "I told 'em, 'Look, you shoot us and there'll be a dozen more just like us in the morning. You going to shoot them too?' " [John Wayne bullshit.]

When I knew him, Sitton seldom mentioned those dangers of 20 years earlier. What mattered was the story, and the people swept up in it. But it was his vivid, detailed reporting that, as Roberts and Klibanoff write, caught the attention of the Kennedy White House and brought the federal government to intervene in a still-segregated South.

In our time, the Washington Post's reporting, in late 2005, of the CIA's secret overseas prisons and its painstaking reports this year on problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- both of which won Pulitzer Prizes -- were not exercises in armchair commentary. The disgrace at Walter Reed, true enough, was first mentioned in a blog, but the full scope of that story could not have been undertaken by a blogger or, for that matter, an Op-Ed columnist, whose interest is in expressing an opinion quickly and pungently. Such a story demanded time, thorough fact-checking and verification and, most of all, perseverance. It's not something one does as a hobby. [Gotta get paid, baby.]

The more important the story, the more incidental our opinions become. Something larger is needed: the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence and, as the best writers understand, the depiction of real life. Reasoned argument, as well as top-of-the-head comment on the blogosphere, will follow soon enough, and it should. But what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart, is the fidelity with which a writer observes and tells. The word has lost its luster, but we once called that reporting.'

[SOS summarizes: A pisher trying to sound like a grownup.]


On First Looking Into
Lance Brigg's
Lamborghini Murciélago Roadster LP640

[List price $345,000
Curb weight 4160 lb

Engine, transmission 6.5-liter V-12; 6-sp-e-gear sequential manual

Horsepower, bhp @ rpm 632 @ 8000

0-60 mph 3.4 sec

0-100 mph 7.8 sec

0-1320 ft (1/4 mile) 11.6 sec @ 125.4 mph

Top speed 205 mph

Braking, 60-0 mph 107 ft

Braking, 80-0 mph 189 ft

Lateral accel (200-ft skidpad) 0.96g

Speed thru 700-ft slalom 70.5 mph

EPA city/highway mileage 10/16 mpg]

Much have I traveled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one edenic expressway had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Briggs spin out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the pacific--and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise--
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Yes, UD could spend all day gazing at the sublime video of Lance Briggs' smashed Lamborghini on the Edens Expressway; she'd much rather do that than finally read the increasingly-notorious blog-hostile piece by Michael Skube in the Los Angeles Times... But everyone's talking about about the Skube... and UD does have a blogoscopic feature on her blog... So here I go... I'll put aside this image which has engrossed me, expressing as it does so much about these United States ... and I'll turn to the Skube. Hold on. I'll blog my reading of it in real time.

Oh - here's what's going on, described by a blogger at the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

"Retire, man. I’m serious. You’re an embarrassment to my profession, to the university where you teach, and to the craft of reporting you claim to defend." That is Jay Rosen excoriating Michael Skube on account of this Los Angeles Times opinion column.

Rosen, who teaches journalism at New York University, joins a growing chorus of Skube critics after Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo contacted Skube, an assistant professor of journalism at Elon University, to inquire why Marshall's blog was singled out in the column as evidence that blogs don't do any real reporting. Skube's response (according to Marshall): "I didn't put your name into the piece and haven't spent any time on your site. So to that extent I'm happy to give you benefit of the doubt. ..."

Surprised, Marshall followed up, asking Skube why Talking Points Memo was criticized if he admits to never having visited the Web site. To which he got this response: "I said I did not refer to you in the original. Your name was inserted late by an editor who perhaps thought I needed to cite more examples ... "

"It seems Skube's editor at the Times oped page didn't think he had enough specific examples in his article decrying our culture of free-wheeling assertion bereft of factual backing," Marshall concludes. "So the editor came up with a few blogs to mention and Skube signed off. And Skube was happy to sign off on the addition even though he didn't know anything about them."

Dan Gillmor, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, calls this episode a "mini-travesty" and an "astonishing admission by a journalism professor."
Move Over, Christopher Hitchens

In the Australian newspaper, The Age, a dean of students at Melbourne University clarifies the relationship between football (here, Australian Rules football) and the divine:

'Last week The Age ran an intriguing story about a Christian group called Third Coast Sports who want to hold "faith nights" prior to football matches. The Kangaroos seem keen on the idea and why wouldn't they be?

This suggestion offers the prospect of a few extra supporters through the turnstiles and the confirmation that God really is on their side.

But I wonder if this idea might be missing a rather obvious point: isn't God at the footy already? I mean if God is everywhere why not at the MCG on a cold Saturday afternoon in winter when we're eating "Four and Twenties" and screaming to our heart's content?

This link between God and footy may not be all that obvious for some. Our newspapers this year have been littered with stories of footballers and allegations of drug use and some suspect friendships.

Yet there are some obvious links that can be found between God and The Game. Both invoke a sense of awe, wonder and mystery. The theologians brand this as our awareness of the "numinous," [and] football supporters label it as "there's always next year." Watching Peter Daicos dribble the ball through the goals from near impossible angles, Chris Judd tear through packs at high speed or Gary Ablett sit on people's heads from a standing start have all been ample reminders of the unexplainable in our midst.

Going to the football really is a near religious experience. You find yourself lost, completely absorbed in something else. Time does not matter. The similarities don't end here.

Both God and football value the underdog. The Book of Exodus in the Bible speaks of a stuttering murderer called Moses becoming the great lawgiver and leader of the Jewish nation. This was to be a dramatic turnaround.

Football has similar tales of epic proportions and memorable reversals of fortune. In 1990 a player who had been discarded from his previous club and who stood only 163 centimetres tall had a Brownlow Medal draped around his neck. Libba was to become a byword for gutsy determination and reward for hard work in AFL circles (although some other less well chosen bywords were also used for him from supporters of others clubs at times.)

Most of all, faith and the footy are both about giving things up for the benefit of others. Glenn Archer (who has his own hard won label of Shinboner of the Century) has just passed Wayne Schimmelbusch's games record at the North Melbourne Football Club. He deserves it. A rugged kid from Noble Park, he has sacrificed his own physical well being for the benefit of others. Week in, week out. A few years ago he was willing to appear on TV with Wayne Carey for the first time after a bitter falling out. He did this in order to raise support and funds for a friend to build a new house. Glenn Archer's selfless demeanor and underlying courage exhibit the best virtues of religious faith.

All these things make me think that God is at the footy already. I guess there's no harm in making the link official by holding the now ubiquitous Christian rock concert (after all God seems to speak now more through guitar amps and drums than sermons in 2007.) But I hope that we Christians don't start thinking that we are bringing God to the footy, a place where he has never been present. To do so would be to dishonor both God and The Game.

Oh and one other thing . . . God might be at the footy but after years of hardship I can safely confirm that he lives interstate and definitely does not barrack for Collingwood.'

Ignore the totally obscure references throughout. UD's point is: Those arguing that football should be a discipline, part of the university curriculum, might want to look into incorporating it into Schools of Divinity...
USC Football:
Arrested If You Do,
Overheated If You Don't

From the blog Lion in Oil: (Oh. I get it. It's a palindrome.)

'USC may be ranked as the overwhelming number one team in the pre-season polls, but all has not been well for the Trojans. First, some star players like Emmanuel Moody have left the program, realizing that it's only possible to play 11 All-Americans on the field at a time. But there was a bigger test facing the team this week, and it was serious. The incoming Freshman class didn't like the dorm rooms assigned to them.

It used to be that the Freshman players were allowed to live in Cardinal Gardens complex, a university-owned apartment building. But a few too many players were arrested while living there, so the effort was made this year to integrate the new students with the rest of their slightly less athletic peers. Their hope was that the players would have some semblance of a normal student life. It was a rude awakening, as they quickly learned that normal life maybe wasn't what they really wanted.

'Several freshmen balked at their campus dorm assignments, unhappy with the new living arrangements for first-year players.

"A lot of guys were mad because there was no air (conditioning) and the room was small," tailback Marc Tyler said.

After complaining to administrators, Tyler, tailback Joe McKnight, wide receiver Brandon Carswell and defensive end Trey Henderson were among those moved into a better dorm.

"It's a lot more comfortable," Tyler said. "Everybody is happy now." '

That's some normal life, I guess. I can only imagine that the pre-med student or whoever Tyler was sharing a room with got the same traction with their adviser that he did upon complaining. The advice was probably something more like - "go buy a fan."'

UD thanks a reader for the link.
Tangled Weber

'...Several SDSU athletic staff members have checkered pasts, burdened with accusations of academic dishonesty and a range of recruiting miscues.

Athletics Director Jeff Schemmel leads the pack in both Aztec authority and prior suspicions.

Before coming to SDSU on July 6, 2005, Schemmel was the senior associate athletic director and chief operating officer at the University of Minnesota. He left Minnesota when it was rocked by an athletic scandal caused by a lack of compliance and institutional control. While he was there, the university dealt with academic fraud and was reprimanded for allowing cheating under the supervision of the men's basketball coach.

Schemmel, of course, isn't the only interesting athletics character.

One rung down on the Aztec ladder of importance, as far as visibility and revenue-producing ability go, are the men's basketball and football coaches.

Football head coach Chuck Long is a pleasant guy. Never without a smile, Long emphasizes senior leadership and academic progress amongst his team.

His previous post as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oklahoma, however, is a bit tainted.

Oklahoma boosters were found giving Sooner football players jobs with unreasonable salaries last year and the NCAA recently hit the university with a loss of scholarships and forced it to vacate all victories from the 2005-06 season.

Nor is men's basketball head coach Steve Fisher without flaw.

Yes, he's a good guy who brought national recognition to a once decrepit program. And yes, Fisher had success coaching at Michigan before joining the Aztecs. He led the famed "Fab Five" and won a national championship there. His players, however, were found to have accepted money from boosters, resulting in forfeits of victories and tournament championships.

They're three affable men who wield plenty of power in the athletics department - who all, by the way, have ties to shady programs.

Oh, the tangled web we weave.

And who's the guy who began netting this framework of questionable characters? President Stephen Weber, and he's got all the answers - logical ones at that - for everything and everyone.

How about some of those hires, Mr. Weber?

"First of all, we live in a fishbowl in athletics, but we know that and so (we) hire athletic directors and coaches that know they're (going to be) in that fishbowl."

But why get guys with histories steeped in controversy if you know there's going to be scrutiny?

"The shorthand is simply that you don't want a case of guilt by association," Weber said. [That's why we associate with the guilty!] "But the history of (some of the hires) very much weighed on our decisions because we had to do our due diligence. We had to be satisfied that (the hires) weren't involved in bad situations. It's more difficult to make some of those decisions because you know the press will run every story down and you have to be confident that they're not going to find something that you don't know about. [It's not that we want these hires to be moral. It's that we want to be able to handle the fallout when their immorality goes national.]"

Luckily for Weber, little dirt has been found.

Academic progress rates have increased in the football program, Fisher's basketball team has become a haven for transfers seeking better opportunities and Schemmel has steered clear of trouble.

Fisher has executed his job almost to a tee, getting to the NCAA Tournament and fielding a strong team annually.

"He's definitely bought himself some respectability and fans because he's got the chips stacked up," Weber said, "and that's good for everyone."

Long and Schemmel, on the other hand, still have work to do.

Schemmel's job focuses on producing successful athletic programs, and not every SDSU team is first-rate. His is a never-ending, rarely rewarding job, but it is what it is.

Schemmel's glaring blemish is the floundering Aztec football team, which, not coincidentally, is what keeps Long's status in the red too.

Long's first season was a 3-9 catastrophe. Injuries and a lack of talent resulted in one of the worst seasons ever for SDSU.

But Long has rebounded - somewhat - in the summer and fall practices to date. His players had almost perfect attendance in off-season workouts and are determined to improve.

Long's first year was a disaster, but a recipe of health and hard work should steady his standing.

"I love everything about Long that I've seen so far," Weber said. [That losing streak is a thing of beauty.] "He's trying to set the right standard and if things go the way I hope they'll go, (I think) Chuck will develop a winning program."

So all is good, right? Not exactly.

Aztec athletics is a fuzzy picture at this point. From afar, that picture looks clear.

The basketball team is on the rise, the football coach is optimistic, several other athletic programs are succeeding and the director of athletics is presiding over a relatively scandal-free program.

But come a few feet closer, take a clearer view, and all of the blemishes show up.

The football team was absolutely abysmal last year, the basketball team had just one great run in 2005-06, no other program is at the top of its respective food-chain and Schemmel's primary past experience is still marred in scandal.' [Mired in scandal? Think the writer was reaching for this.]

---the daily aztec---
That'll Teach 'Em.

'It's been a rough week for several Gamecock football players.

First, starting quarterback Blake Mitchell was suspended from the teams first game for not going to his summer school classes, something he denies.

Then on Friday another starter, safety Emanuel Cook, was arrested on gun charges.

These are the latest in a series of arrests that have plagued the football team.

To combat future problems, the University of South Carolina's Athletics Department put on a seminar Sunday for freshman athletes called "There Are Consequences For Your Actions."

The University of South Carolina is trying to make sure its student athletes understand that they are under a microscope, and they are not above the rules.

USC Athletics Director Eric Hyman put together a panel of experts on the subject, including the Columbia Chief of Police, to talk to freshman student athletes Sunday afternoon.

The athletes also watched a short video, in which senior athletes like running back Corey Boyd talked about what he has learned from his mistakes.

It is just one part of the orientation for new student athletes.

It is important to note that this seminar has been planned for about three months, so it was not triggered by the recent football player suspensions.

Student athletes new to the university were required to attend this as part of orientation Sunday.

Athletics Director Eric Hyman says he got the idea to do this when talking to a freshman after the arrest of two Gamecock baseball players in the spring.

And as an update on the suspensions of Gamecock football players last week, sophomore Emanuel Cook will have a hearing with the university on Tuesday to discuss his arrest for possession of a firearm.

There is no word on the appeal of quarterback Blake Mitchell's suspension, so for now he remains on the bench for Saturday's game.'
Parable of the Walking Catfish

'A few years ago, someone smuggled into the U.S. a species of catfish that could actually walk on land for limited periods. They got established in Florida, where they quickly became a terrible nuisance. They’d come out at night and attack toddlers and small dogs and cats, then vanish back into the pond when pursued.

So somebody in the Florida Fish & Game department had a bright idea: poison the ponds that were offering a refuge to the walking catfish. Kill them off.

He forgot one thing: the walking catfish could, in fact, walk. So they poisoned the ponds, killing everything in them that was alive — slugs, snails, frogs, other species of fish — and the catfish simply up and left for nearby ponds that hadn’t been poisoned.

This is a parable about Div IA sports in American higher education, especially at sports factories. The faculty who have the publication record and the teaching reputation to move, do.'

From an interview at Inside Higher Ed with William C. Dowling, author of Confessions of a Spoilsport. Read the whole thing.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Chair Speaks

'[New Yorker critic and Harvard professor James] Wood, 41, has always hovered intriguingly between academia and journalism -- a space that can be lonely and vexing. Leslie Epstein, director of the creative writing program at Boston University, says he tried to interest the English department chairman in hiring Wood, before Harvard did, but that the chairman retorted that Wood was a mere journalist. (The then-chairman, James Winn, denies that account of "what must have been informal and private conversations that allegedly took place eight or nine years ago" and says he has great respect for Wood's writing.)'
Kinsley Gaffe,
University Athletics

'University of Hawaii Athletics Director
Herman Frazier has had a busy summer with everything from football schedules to legislative inquiries.

Now only a week and a half away from kickoff, comes accusations from a former player about the state of the football program.

"I've already had three or four meetings as it relates to the alleged things said by Mr. Sample," Frazier said, "We will make sure we leave no stone unturned as we try to figure this out." [the alleged things said...]

The source of the controversy are excerpts edited out of former UH wide receiver Ian Sample's new book, 'Once a Warrior,' and posted on his My Space web page.

Ian Sample My Space web excerpts:

"Have people on the team taken steroids? yes, they have. sometimes it's obvious, you see someone improve over a couple months by leaps and bounds."

"When one of these "random" p*** tests comes around it's amazing that none of our valuable players are ever selected, especially the ones known for smoking weed."

"I'm convinced the "random" tests are not random at all. the higher ups definitely know what they are doing when they decide who will be tested."

Frazier disagrees.

"There was some miscalculations as to it relates to some of it, especially the drug testing part," he said, "The NCAA does that so I know there's no staff person involved in how that's done."

Warrior Head Coach, June Jones says he's disappointed one of his former players would choose to do something like this.

"We have the greatest kids in the world at this campus and its just a shame that someone kind of threw them under the bus," Jones said.

To acquire the information, Sample interviewed several of his teammates and stands by his work.

"I've talked to a certain number of my teammates because i know there's a lot of controversy on what's out there," Sample said "But i'm happy inside because i have their blessings so i'm good with myself."

Frazier said currently he and the school are still reviewing the accusations and have not decided on any future actions.

"We're reacting to something that's on the internet," Frazier said, "There's all sorts of things on the internet and we can only go by what's factual."'
A New Day at the
University of Wisconsin,

A newspaper columnist analyzes the latest US News and World results:

'Professors aren't doing the job during the day, students aren't doing the job at night. The only ones doing the job, it seems, are the football players.

There's really no other way to look at it because the numbers don't lie. Football has taken over. Indeed, most of the sifting and winnowing that goes on at UW these days involves figuring out to which online betting service to subscribe during football season.

At various times over the last 50 years, UW has had a reputation as a brain school, a party school and a hotbed of radical thought. But a football factory? A jock school?

The transformation began 20 years ago when [Donna] Shalala arrived at UW, packed the athletic board with athletics-friendly professors and made winning a priority. But UW is winning so much these days that people are starting to look at it like it's Alabama or Oklahoma or Florida State. You know, one of those schools that exist only because its football players need transcripts to satisfy the NCAA.'
Subsequent to the Otago Couch-Burning Phase-Out

'Dunedin is cleaning up after alcohol-fueled students rioted in the city last night, pelting police with bottles and setting cars, mattresses and couches on fire.

The rioting, [...] centred in the heart of the student area of North Dunedin, was triggered by excess alcohol in the wake of the student Undie 500. [Not to be confused with this.]

...Mr Ross said police were at one of the flats talking to the occupants when they began to be pelted with bottles.

"It was totally unprovoked."

It took police, with extra reinforcements from outlying areas, until about 11pm to bring the crowd under control.

Police and fire crews were lucky to escape without any serious injury as students threw bottles and set cars alight, he said.

"Some police have got some nasty grazes from flying bottles."

...While he did not know what triggered the students to riot, Mr Chin said the length of time people had been drinking had to be a major contributor.

Partying outdoors, from the early hours of Saturday morning when the students started arriving, had been helped by an unusually warm weekend for the city, he said.

Mr Chin said the rioting came at a time when the culture of the university had been broken down and Otago university past-times such as couch burning had been phased out.

"Things had been working extremely well."

The majority of students at Otago were there for the education and a minority was spoiling it for them with their bad behaviour, he said.

"I'm really pissed off with what's happened."'

Saturday, August 25, 2007

UD's Extremely Grateful...

... to sensitive and highly literate Florida Atlantic University students -- like this one -- who help her, and her readers, understand the internal realities of the place.

'FAU: Forcing Alumni Underground

FAU has made news again, but not in a good way.

University Diaries has been chronicling FAU's "bad press" for some time now. UD has, sadly, missed some of the drama that went down while I was there, but what's available on her blog tells a sordid story.

I will be the first to confirm—okay, not the first and hardly the second, third, fourth, or fifth—that it's ugly in the Boca trenches. Those who've been (un)lucky enough to hear my story know that I don't paint a positive image of FAU. My story is unique, but it's not isolated. I know plenty of English students, former and current, who could tell their own stories.

But let me add that despite my grievances, I have nothing but love for my professors and colleagues at FAU. As Mark has already pointed out in the comments to the above-linked post, "[T]he university does not equal its gormless administration. . . . our students at least are getting an education." USM's English Department can certainly testify to FAU's ability to educate me. But again, I'm not an isolated incident. Many people—and their institutions—know that our graduates hold their own as PhD candidates, faculty, employees, etc.

There's a reason why people joke that FAU stands for "Find Another University." The numbers quoted in this UD post don't lie. What's unsaid is that the 63% of students who don't graduate in six years is made up of two major groups: people who take more than six years to graduate, and people who transfer out.

To be fair, FAU still has a reputation as a university geared toward the non-traditional student. Spring Break at FAU falls a week before Spring Break at most universities—ostensibly so working students could actually have a break. Of course, little of what FAU says in theory actually works in practice. Why would working students want attend class during the busiest week of the Florida year? Plus, FAU's non-traditional students are treated poorly and have as much, if not more, trouble getting the classes they need to graduate.

FAU's retention problem was the impetus behind the Freshman Learning Community (FLC) program. The policy makers hoped that students who took classes together would form lasting friendships and stick around to graduate. It sounds good on paper. Unfortunately, what FLC did was create cliques of student "lobbyists" who used their tandem schedules as a means to bamboozle unsuspecting TAs, instructors, and professors into easier assignments. It sounds cynical, but it's true. The retention problem is still there; FLC hasn't changed a thing. Neither will this gym project.

When I mentioned this to irksnapple, she replied, "Well, you know the reason I dropped out of my grad program was because I couldn't lift weights." Underneath the sarcasm, she makes a good point about how things are run at FAU. What really needs to be improved falls by the wayside in favor of surface-level "tweaks"—things designed to make the school look better, not actually be better.

FAU's most famous graduate is Carrot Top, whose ultra-serious portrait hangs in the library. I can't think of a better metaphor for how the policymakers treat their students—faces to post on the wall, jokers in scholar's clothing. Do they honestly think installing some ellipticals will change that? Will increase student retention, attract world-class faculty, up their rankings, bring in reputable donors, and improve alumni relations? Please.

It will take more than a shiny building on a campus run by scandal-happy bureaucrats to make that happen. The real work of university-making happens in the classroom, not the boardroom. They need to make FAU graduates—the ones who did, and are still doing, what should be done in the university—proud to have graduated from there. Until that happens, I expect those of us who are actually invested in success will continue to roll our eyes.'
Liam Rector...

...a poet, has died. Here's a nice one of his poems.

UD doesn't find the first half of this poem all that entrancing, actually, but the thing concludes beautifully.


Now I see it: a few years
To play around while being
Bossed around

By the taller ones, the ones
With the money
And more muscle, however

Tender or indifferent
They might be at being
Parents; then off to school

And the years of struggle
With authority while learning
Violent gobs of things one didn't

Want to know, with a few tender
And tough teachers thrown in
Who taught what one wanted

And needed to know; then time
To go out and make one's own
Money (on the day or in

The night-shift), playing around
A little longer ("Seed-time,"
"Salad days") with some

Young "discretionary income"
Before procreation (which
Brings one quickly, too quickly,

Into play with some variation
Of settling down); then,
Most often for most, the despised

Job (though some work their way
Around this with work of real
Delight, life's work, with the deepest

Pleasures of mastery); then years
Spent, forgotten, in the middle decades
Of repair, creation, money

Gathered and spent making the family
Happen, as one's own children busily
Work their way into and through

The cycle themselves,
Comic and tragic to see, with some
Fine moments playing with them;

Then, through no inherent virtue
Of one's own, but only because
The oldest ones are busy falling

Off the edge of the planet,
The years of governing,
Of being the dreaded authority

One's self; then the recognition
(Often requiring a stiff drink) that it
Will all soon be ending for one's self,

But not before Alzheimer's comes
For some, as Alzheimer's comes
For my father-in-law now (who

Has forgotten not only who
Shakespeare is but that he taught
Shakespeare for thirty years,

And who sings and dances amidst
The forgotten in the place
To which he's been taken); then

An ever-deepening sense of time
And how the end might really happen,
To really submit, bend, and go

(Raging against that night is really
An adolescent's idiot game).
Time soon to take my place

In the long line of my ancestors
(Whose names I mostly never knew
Or have recently forgotten)

Who took their place, spirit poised
In mature humility (or as jackasses
Braying against the inevitable)

Before me, having been moved
By time through time, having done
The time and their times.

A place for repose and laughter
In the consoling beds of being tender,
I tell them now, my son, my daughter.

"Nearer my god to thee" I sing
On the deck of my personal Titanic,
An agnostic vessel in the mind.

Born alone, die alone—and sad, though
Vastly accompanied, to see
The sadness in the loved ones

To be left behind, and one more
Moment of wondering what,
If anything, comes next. . .

Never to have been completely
Certain what I was doing
Alive, but having stayed aloft

Amidst an almost sinister doubt.
I say to my children
Don't be afraid, be buoyed

—In its void the world is always
Falling apart, entropy its law
—I tell them those who build

And master are the ones invariably
Merry: Give and take quarter,
Create good meals within the slaughter,

A place for repose and laughter
In the consoling beds of being tender,
I tell them now, my son, my daughter.

(From The Executive Director of the Fallen World.)

UD only really cottons to this when Rector finds himself a good metaphor and extends it, meaning that although she likes the concise history of one's life that takes up most of the poem, she really likes this:

A place for repose and laughter
In the consoling beds of being tender,
I tell them now, my son, my daughter.

"Nearer my god to thee" I sing
On the deck of my personal Titanic,
An agnostic vessel in the mind.

Born alone, die alone—and sad, though
Vastly accompanied, to see
The sadness in the loved ones

To be left behind, and one more
Moment of wondering what,
If anything, comes next. . .

Never to have been completely
Certain what I was doing
Alive, but having stayed aloft

Amidst an almost sinister doubt.
I say to my children
Don't be afraid, be buoyed

—In its void the world is always
Falling apart, entropy its law
—I tell them those who build

And master are the ones invariably
Merry: Give and take quarter,
Create good meals within the slaughter,

A place for repose and laughter
In the consoling beds of being tender,
I tell them now, my son, my daughter.

He only gets seriously poetic at the end; not merely with the lovely reiterated "consoling beds of being tender" image, but with serious end-rhyme, or almost-rhyme, and serious rhythmic lulling... And of course UD notes yet again the theme of a father telling his children to be buoyed, to be brave. "Create good meals within the slaughter" sounds as though it comes right out of Stevenson's Aes Triplex.
The New Republic...

...on professional and college sports.

'...Both [professional] teams and leagues seem to enable player misconduct even as they publicly condemn it: by recruiting players with known character problems, looking the other way when those players get into trouble, and then intervening to spare them bad publicity or legal trouble after-the-fact. In some cases, that's meant assigning team personnel to watch over players and then clean up the messes they left behind...

...It starts in college, if not before, where most schools with major sports programs now have special programs designed to facilitate athletes' easy passage through higher education. In theory, they help athletes cope with the difficulties that come with heavy practice and travel schedules, by offering tutoring and such. In practice, they frequently simply baby-sit players, doing whatever is necessary to maintain their eligibility.

"We had managers at Iowa State whose job it was to take players to class," says Paul Shirley, an NBA journeyman and author of Can I Keep My Jersey?, a newly-published memoir of his time playing basketball. "I mean physically drive to their apartment, put them in a car, drive them to class, wait for them, take them to the next class, and so on." And that may be a relatively benign example of what these support staff do. A few years ago, the University of Tennessee was rocked by scandal when a tenured professor suggested the athletic assistance department was basically doing the athletes homework--although the university, after investigating the matter, concluded the allegations were unfounded.

Sharon Stoll, a University of Idaho professor who has worked as a consultant to national sports organizations, says many college coaches don't mind such behavior. "They tell me, 'you don't know the expense and effort of recruiting them.'" As a result, even those athletes who go to college can leave with a sense that they aren't accountable for their own actions. As Stoll puts it, "If somebody is always there to make sure you don't pay a price, then what do you learn? You learn that you live by a different set of rules."

...Journalist Jeff Benedict has... written two books on the subject. Their titles speak for themselves: Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA's Culture of Rape, Violence, and Crime; and Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL. In the NFL book, published in the late 1990s while Paul Tagliabue was still the league's commissioner, Benedict and a co-author found that more than 500 players had criminal records--including guilty pleas or convictions on such charges related as assault and sexual misconduct. As Benedict and his co-author note, "With [Tagliabue's] recent strong public stance against players' off-field deviance, one might wonder how many of the players in the authors' survey were kicked out of the league? None."'
Scathing Online Schoolmarm:
The Movement to Make Football
an Academic Discipline Grows

Over at UD's branch campus, we've already considered one argument in favor of making football a university major (the post's title is The Oregon Trial). Here's another, from Massa Saban's plantation:

'Not All College Education is In the Classroom

There is at least one aspect of this Hoover High School investigation that does not seem in doubt: At least one grade was changed, and that grade change enabled a football player to become eligible to play at the college level.

Josh Chapman apparently missed being eligible under NCAA minimum standards by the narrowest of margins.

Unfortunately for Chapman and Alabama, being "barely" ineligible is kind of like being pregnant: Either you are or you aren't. And Chapman, according to the correct transcript, wasn't.

That's the problem with having standards. [There's a refreshing village-idiot quality to this piece... That's the problem with having standards...] The NCAA has a minimum standard that is supposed to draw the line that determines whether an athlete has a reasonable chance to do the work necessary to get a college degree.

But like most such standards, the numbers are arbitrary. [Everything's subjective.] I've known athletes who graduated near the top of their high school class who struggled in college, and others who were accepted as "special admissions" - in the days when schools could take one or two athletes who didn't meet minimum standards - who wound up becoming outstanding students. It often depends on what they go to college for. [Each case is special. Everything's arbitrary. You wouldn't want to consult graduation statistics, grades, test scores, and shit like that.]

I do not know Chapman, so I can't speak to his motivation for attending college. [His total fuckupery as a high school student tells you nothing.] But I have met many athletes whose primary interest in attending college was to get an education not in the classroom but in football or basketball. These athletes' ambition was to play sports at the highest level for as long as possible. [So why did they go to college, where they have, like, classrooms?]

Is that really so wrong? No less than Princeton Athletics Director Gary Walters made the argument last spring that participation in athletics should be given the same status as playing in the band, or performing drama, or getting a degree in art - all endeavors in which students can take classes and get academic credit. Shouldn't football players, Walters seems to suggest, get some kind of academic credit for playing football? [You haven't yet told us why playing football is equivalent to academic training in the arts. And nobody gets a degree for playing in the band.]

Walters quoted Jon Veach, a starting tailback on the Princeton football team who wrote a paper that said: "The reason athletes put so much time and dedication into athletics is because the athletes do not view varsity athletics as simply an extracurricular activity but rather a vital part of their life and an intense learning experience. I have been an athlete since I was eight years old, and I can honestly say that the summation of my athletic experiences to this point has prepared me for the hard times of my life better than any other experience. Varsity athletics are imbedded with an abundant number of life lessons, values, and striking comparisons to the real world. I believe so strongly in these values that I feel varsity athletes should be given some type of academic credit for the countless hours of training and learning." [To be sure, a cursory reading of this blog -- or your daily news feed -- reveals the profound values college and professional sports imbed in so many of their participants. Glance at a few headlines to grasp the life lessons our sports heroes have absorbed... UD proposes that rather than make football an arts performance major, we make it an Ethics major.]

Of course, playing at Princeton is a far cry from playing at Auburn or Alabama. And the potential for abuse in rewarding academic credit for athletics - or even the idea of creating majors based on athletic participation - gives academicians the willies. [What's the matter with these dour academicians? Don't worry! Be happy!]

But if playing football is why some kids go to college, and the ability to play football is the primary reason many colleges award scholarships (and accept minimum academic standards in return), then is Walters' idea really so far off base?' [Again, refreshing. Admits that some football players only go to college to play football. The solution to this isn't to change college into a football training facility. It is to find a place to stash these guys -- far, far away from colleges -- until they can play on professional teams.]


Serrano Withdraws

An update on diploma mills, baseball coaches, and the University of Oregon.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Other New Stuff.

Note three new links on UD's blogroll - Rate Your Students, Culture Industry, and Lucky Jane.
Law School of Diminishing Returns

UD has already looked at the larger institutional fiasco of Florida A&M. The possibility that its law school will fail to be accredited has now drawn press attention to that component of the campus:

'Florida A&M University's College of Law is failing. When lawmakers re-established the school in 2000, they hoped it would help substantially increase the number of black lawyers in the state. They hoped it would be a place where nontraditional students would be nurtured and groomed to pass the bar examination.

Today, however, the school is in a crisis, and some powerful legislators are questioning whether the $40-million to build the Orlando campus has been a good investment after all.

Many students are failing their courses and the bar exam. Others are transferring because, among other reasons, the school is at risk of not being fully accredited by the American Bar Association, which would devalue the students' degrees.

The major causes of the crisis are well-documented: ineffective leadership, administrative incompetence, low morale among faculty, inadequate student counseling and questionable student recruitment.

Since its inception, the school has had one dean, who was fired for his role in a ghost-employee scandal, an interim dean, and a current nominee for dean who awaits board of trustees approval. This leadership vacuum has led to the resignations of several popular professors who will be hard to replace any time soon.

Students are the biggest losers as the problems worsen at FAMU. One student, Vilma Martinez, told the St. Petersburg Times that she was "heartbroken" to leave FAMU, but remaining there would be "like staying in dysfunctional family. At some point, you have to have tough love and cut your losses." She transferred to Stetson Law School in Gulfport. Another student, Torrie Orton, who left for the University of Missouri, told the Times: "I wanted to stay, but I felt like my degree was jeopardized because of the inner workings of Florida A&M."

This state of affairs is unfortunate because many otherwise deserving students, with subpar grade point averages and standardized test scores, would have been rejected by more elite schools. FAMU is their only chance for a career in law.

Such students, who only need a chance to succeed, should not be treated so shabbily by a tax-supported school.'

The Orlando Sentinel notes "rumors that the school's provisional accreditation is in jeopardy."

'Officials said [a meeting with students] was arranged in recent days in response to e-mails, calls and letters from [them] worried about accreditation and upset about sluggish responses to problems that range from delayed transcripts to lack of help in career planning.... Without accreditation, law-school graduates cannot take the bar exam and become lawyers. ...The main FAMU campus in Tallahassee is preparing for a review of its own accreditation after being placed on six months' probation in June by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

FAMU was sanctioned for a variety of financial and managerial shortcomings.

FAMU's accreditation problems at its Tallahassee campus are separate from those facing the Orlando law school.'

Another Florida paper:

'Students and professors say they have seen little evidence that FAMU is seriously addressing ABA concerns, including faculty quality and low bar passage rates. Instead, they say, the college is marred by administrative blunders and faculty infighting. Several professors described fierce battles over tenure and promotion.

...Last spring, a number of students told the Times that Witherspoon never responded to their written complaints about legal writing professor Victoria Dawson, criticizing her teaching style and writing ability.'

Cronyism appointed Dawson to the position of writing director even though she cannot write:

'In 2004, the woman who would become legal writing director at Florida A&M University's law school posted a working paper online so legal scholars nationwide could see her work.

The subject was heady: environmental dispute resolution.

But Victoria Dawson's paper was so riddled with grammatical errors and mangled writing that some FAMU law students are now using it to help build a case that Dawson is not qualified to teach and was hired primarily on the strength of her personal ties.

Dawson "can neither write nor spell," one student, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation by law school administrators, wrote in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "This is not an exaggeration."

Some observers say concerns about Dawson show FAMU's much-publicized oversight problems may extend beyond the fiscal realm into hiring and firing.

But law school supporters have even more pressing worries. The school, which opened in Orlando in 2002, is in the midst of an intense review by the American Bar Association to gain full accreditation. And among the areas that will get scrutiny: faculty quality.

FAMU hired Dawson, 48, in 2005. At the time, she was a legal writing instructor at Texas Southern University and a $10,000-a-year municipal judge in Houston.

The year before, either she or Texas Southern paid an online submission service run by Berkeley Electronic Press to circulate her paper to law journals in hopes of getting it published. She asked the service to post it on the Internet.

The paper -- which Dawson had removed from the site after the Times began asking questions -- is peppered with spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. Even the title is off: "Environmental Dispute Resolution: Developing Mechanisims (sic) for Effective Transnational Enforcement of International Environmental Standards."

Examples of clumsy writing can be found throughout: "Old pipes, rusty and in possible need of repair, run above ground, crisscrossing every which way in cumbersome clusters may have experienced undetected leaks."

Another example: "He consulted with government officials and he sent his general manager of asset management representative repeatedly crossed the creek to negotiate with village leaders of Ugborodo during the women's 10-day occupation."

Pat Daniel, an English education professor at the University of South Florida who reviewed Dawson's paper at the Times' request, said in an e-mail that it was "sloppily written, in need of serious proofreading."

But more than that, wrote Daniel, "I wonder if the paper makes sense. It appears to be a string of quotes with little synthesis." [Yes. If you look at the additional examples at the bottom of this post, it seems the paper was simply sloppily plagiarized, with this phrase and that phrase taken from here and there and mashed together...]

Dawson did not respond to numerous requests for comment. She referred questions to the development office at the law school, which in turn referred them to the communications office at the main campus in Tallahassee. Officials there did not respond to written questions from the Times.

Jean-Gabriel Bankier, executive vice president of the Berkeley, Calif.-based company, said Dawson's paper was posted as presented by Dawson. "We do not edit drafts of articles that authors post to get feedback from colleagues," he wrote in an e-mail.

A cleaned-up version of Dawson's paper was published in the fall 2006 edition of the Missouri Environmental Law & Policy Review.

A Times search of major legal databases turned up no other papers published by Dawson. Her resume doesn't list any papers.

Then-interim law school dean James M. Douglas recommended in August 2005 that Dawson be hired as a visiting associate professor. Last year, FAMU made her a permanent part of the faculty and put her on track toward tenure. She makes $105,000 a year.

As an instructor, she's charged with teaching students how to conduct legal research and prepare coherent legal briefs. As director, she helps shape the curriculum.

One student told the Times that several students submitted written complaints to interim dean Ruth Witherspoon's office in March and again in May. The student said Witherspoon has not responded.

Witherspoon did not respond to e-mailed questions from the Times. FAMU officials said the complaints were off-limits under Florida public records law because they were submitted as part of a faculty evaluation -- an assertion one student said was incorrect.

Some students are questioning how much Dawson's personal ties had to do with her hiring.

Douglas, the former interim dean, is a former dean of the Texas Southern law school and still a distinguished professor there. And Dawson's personnel file includes four letters of recommendation -- one from a Texas Southern professor and three from Texas Southern instructors.

Douglas returned to Texas Southern earlier this year.

"Obviously I thought she could do the job," he said, when asked why he made Dawson legal writing director. "I thought she did a good job while I was there. There were no complaints."

Douglas said he only glanced at Dawson's paper and could not remember his impressions.

Excerpts from the paper:

* "This reports served as a welcome-mate to concerned groups seeking to resolve potential conflicts regarding international environmental concerns, thus allow disputing parties the opportunity to be heard in an agreeable dispute resolution procedure."

* "This inherent conflict between economic development and environmental protection needs and interest and the focus of managing environmental disputes for sustainable results is the cause of a 10-day delay in productions and obligations."

* "Such an institutional framework would include implementation of sound sustainable development strategies and international treaties by countries should contribute to improved socioeconomic and environmental conditions, and help reduce potential sources of conflict between countries."

* "International environmental disputes can involve parties who hold very strong feelings that they are right and other parties are wrong present unique challenges if fundamental values are in conflict."

* "Borrowing from the environmental dispute strategy of the local threats and the focus of Agenda 21 with the sustainable development flavor it is dispute settlement that is one of the key elements to ensure that the environmental dimensions of security can be maintained."'

The contemptible indifference that put a functional illiterate at the head of a law school's writing program is only one instance of a larger institutional indifference that takes money from struggling students and offers them in return cynicism and silence.
Snapshots from Home
New Stuff.

Although this Sedona Giant DX

is classed a pathetic "comfort bike,"
UD finds it plenty discomforting so far,
as she wheels her new purchase around Garrett Park.

Having finished her summer of swimming,
UD has decided to take up cycling for the autumn.

She'd forgotten how vulnerable you can feel
on your skinny cruiser, just a little helmet
between you and the heaving Navigator hard by...

She rode to the Garrett Park post office yesterday,
and Mary Moyer, a neighbor, seeing the bicycle, said:
"Oh, that's what I ought to do."

"No!" said UD. "I'm not long for this world.
I'm going to meet my end on this bike.
It feels dangerous.
I can feel my life span shrinking as I pedal."

"I thought my life was over after I got shot
in the war," said an old guy who was
listening in while throwing catalogs away.
(I can never remember his name.
He plays Uncle Sam in the Fourth of July celebration.)
"Absolutely thought I was done for. But here I am.
I survived. And a whole lot of other people my age are dead."

"Okay," said UD. "You'll be my inspiration."
Live Professor Acts

UD's already mentioned that she and Mr. UD are listening to a Teaching Company tape about music; here's a charming opinion piece by another professor who listens to this stuff.

His essay's a companion piece to something UD quoted recently from Richard Rorty. Here's Rorty:

'The only point in having real live professors around instead of just computer terminals, videotapes and mimeoed lecture notes is that students need to have freedom enacted before their eyes by actual human beings. ... Such enactments of freedom are the principal occasions of the erotic relationships between teacher and student that Socrates and Allan Bloom celebrate and that Plato unfortunately tried to capture in a theory of human nature and of the liberal arts curriculum. But love is notoriously untheorizable. Such erotic relationships are occasions of growth, and their occurrence and their development are as unpredictable as growth itself.

Yet nothing happens in non-vocational higher education without them. Most of these relationships are with the dead teachers who wrote the books the students are assigned, but some will be with the live teachers who are giving the lectures. In either case, the sparks that leap back and forth between teacher and student, connecting them in a relationship that has little to do with socialization but much to do with self-creation, are the principal means by which the institutions of a liberal society get changed. Unless some such relationships are formed, the students will never realize what democratic institutions are good for: namely, making possible the invention of new forms of human freedom, taking liberties never taken before.'

And here's Wilfred M. McClay:

...[O]ne of the chief things that [older students] come to class for is something that a tape or a TV or even the best virtual connection cannot ever provide: The bodily presence of others. It is one thing to listen alone to a videotaped lecture, it is quite another to hear the same subject expounded by a flesh-and-blood human being standing there before you -- someone responsive to your questions, attentive to your particular concerns, capable of cracking jokes about the events of the day, someone with the full range of human quirks and oddities, and yet also someone for whom the subject forms a living and present reality, and with whom you can have a personal relationship.

There is an electricity in the sheer human presence that draws us in, as every theatergoer or churchgoer knows, in ways that can be only remotely approximated by televised or online content. That electricity is generated not merely by one's teacher but also by the presence of one's fellow students, whose company makes the classroom into a community of sorts. That experience of connection with others in the disinterested pursuit of knowledge is one of life's great pleasures, and it is a considerable part of what students are searching for when they return. I only wish that they found it more often than they do.

All honor, then, to the Teaching Company for doing what it does, providing Americans with things that they do not get elsewhere. Let traditional educational institutions take respectful note of their new competitor's success, and learn the right lessons from it: Rather than sneer, they should instead respond intelligently to the challenge, acknowledging that higher education has served its clientele poorly. Rather than imitate the Teaching Company by seeking to digitize and standardize and commodify ever more of their own offerings, colleges and universities should instead build on their comparative advantages, and focus on the humanizing effects that they uniquely can impart -- and work to impart them better.
Memories of Underdevelopment

'One of the hardest things [former president Karen Holbrook] had to do at Ohio State was to pull the reigns in on out-of-control tailgaiting.

"I went to Ohio State and had no idea there was a culture of rioting," Holbrook said. "Any good excuse gets some of the people on the street and they think it's fun to flip cars and really have absolute drunken orgies."

Holbrook put together a task force to turn the situation around.

"I was told that was the culture and I was ruining football," she said. "I don't want to be at a place that has this kind of culture as a norm."'

[SOS stalwarts no doubt noticed up there an extremely popular spelling error: reign for rein.]

[Yeah. Got tailgating wrong too.]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"I don't think we're facing reality here."

As with Charles Reed trying to talk sense to Florida university officials, so also with William Friday trying to talk sense to a similarly benighted group in North Carolina. In both cases, you've got an overwhelmingly brainless, brawny state system, and no one cares.

William Friday is working back to ambulatory status following knee surgery that nearly coincided with his 87th birthday last month. But wear and tear has dulled neither his interest in promoting restraint in funding college athletics, nor his outrage when new borders of excess are crossed.

It’s tempting to shrug and move on, recognizing business-as-usual as the merger tightens between college athletics, the entertainment industry, and government. Fortunately, Friday and others outside the athletic mainstream have not succumbed to such cynical acceptance.

Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina system, had barely returned from the hospital to his Chapel Hill home before learning Rep. Charlie Dannelly of Mecklenburg County had inserted into the recently adopted state budget a half-million dollar subsidy for athletic scholarships to 10 historically black universities. The bill included minimal academic requirements.

This on top of, or in reaction to, the $8 million in taxpayer funds spent this year alone to subsidize out-of-state athletes at in-state rates for the benefit of sports programs at higher-profile North Carolina universities. That escalating sum derives from a 2005 bill for “nonresident scholarships,” with less than a third of the funding going to support academic scholarships.

Portrayed as a tool for attracting budding scholars, this legislative legerdemain neatly reduced fundraising pressure on booster clubs and athletics departments that proudly – and falsely – boast they do not require public funding.

“There’s got to be some sense of order about our spending on athletics in North Carolina,” Friday said. “I don’t want to be a prophet of doom, because I’ve been an optimistic person all my life, but I don’t think we’re facing reality here.”

That reality, Friday said, included nascent plans to spend approximately $100 million on expanding Kenan Stadium at the University of North Carolina. The former 30-year president of the UNC system objected to the Kenan expansion on fiscal and, if you will, moral grounds.

Friday cited a recent report that fewer than 10 percent of athletic programs break even financially in the so-called Football Bowl Subdivision. Yet that barely slows the train as more schools incur massive debt, and seek ever more problematic revenue streams, in order to muscle to the top of the competitive heap. [Mixed metaphor... starts with a train, ends with a heap.]

“It’s the power of money, and it’s the insatiable appetite: this isn’t enough, let’s do more,” Friday said. Referring to ACC expansion, he added, “What you’re seeing here with the stadium is the natural evolution of that merger. You’ve got to keep up with Clemson and Florida State.” Not to mention Virginia Tech and Miami, the latter school where UNC coach Butch Davis earned his coaching stripes.

... [Where] does the athletic arms race end when members of the University of North Carolina system such as Winston-Salem State and N.C. Central rush head-long to embrace high-profile athletics, and news of upgraded athletic facilities is almost constant at the state’s ACC schools?

... [Many boosters claim that] no state monies go to supporting college athletic enterprises.

This will come as news to Pricey Harrison, a representative from Guilford County who co-sponsored legislation with Onslow’s George Cleveland to repeal what she called “the Ram’s Club subsidy” for out-of-state athletes. “I don’t see how you could justify the taxpayers subsidizing the booster clubs at these institutions,” Harrison said, mentioning UNC, N.C. State, and East Carolina in particular. “It bugs me no end. There are so many other priorities in the state, I can’t justify it.”

So, Harrison and Cleveland forced a vote on their bill in late July, breaking Democratic party discipline to do so. (Harrison, a second-term member, “was a little bit chastised” for her effrontery, she said, and felt properly abashed.) But the upstart legislators succeeded; their effort to repeal subsidized athletic scholarships for nonresident students passed the House on a 93-13 vote. The measure now sits in the state senate, where it may never see the light of day.

The recent round of scholarship aid is the tip of a taypayer-funded iceberg. Public support for college sports already includes direct appropriations to construct arenas, subsidies for grounds and building maintenance, incentives to secure tournaments, providing infrastructure such as roads to service facilities, and making up for income tax deductions claimed by booster contributions dubiously related to educational purposes.

“It’s a question of where your priorities are,” Friday said. “That’s the ultimate issue that we have to be accountable for.”
Florida Atlantic University:
Ranked at the Very Bottom of
American Universities....

...and pouring its money into more gyms:

'Working out at Florida Atlantic University can be a cramped and confusing experience for students.

Want to lift weights or use the cardio machines? There's a tiny, 3,500-square foot fitness center on campus. Need to change clothes afterward? Then you have to walk outside to a campus pool, where there's a 1970s-era locker room.

If you want to shoot hoops or join an aerobics class, the college does have an arena. But it's shared with the athletic teams, so students don't have access until 5:30 p.m. most days.

"It's pretty bleak," Eric A. Hawkes, director of campus recreation, said of the recreation offerings on the Boca Raton campus. "We are really behind, in terms of what other state universities are doing."

But the situation should improve late next year when a 38,000-square-foot facility is expected to open. FAU plans call for a second phase, which eventually would expand the building to 140,000 square feet, although money hasn't been identified for that yet. A groundbreaking for the first phase likely will be this fall.

"It's definitely needed," said senior Roberto Roy, 26, a Boca Raton resident, who was using machine weights. "It gets very crowded in here."

While the fitness offerings are tucked in the southwest part of campus, away from most academic buildings, the new center will be more centrally located at the northeast entrance of the campus breezeway along Lee Street.

It will have at least 40 pieces of cardio equipment, including treadmills, stationary bicycles and elliptical machines, which is twice what the current fitness center offers. The weight room also will be larger.

There will be two indoor basketball courts, volleyball courts, badminton courts and two multipurpose rooms for yoga, aerobics, Pilates and spinning.

"Recreational facilities are becoming the new student unions, a place where students can meet," Hawkes said. "Universities are putting millions into these facilities, because they become a true recruitment and retention vehicle for university students."

The $11 million building will be paid for with state capital dollars that are earmarked to enhance student life. Student government money will be used to run the center.

FAU expects to pay another $30 million to $35 million for the second phase of the project, which would include a pool, juice bar, more fitness space and possibly a sauna and steam room.

The university likely will come up with a fundraising plan for the second phase, Hawkes said.

The recreation center is part of FAU's effort to become more of a traditional campus, similar to University of Florida and Florida State University. FAU is building more residence halls and planning a stadium and more on-campus shops.

Most of FAU's 26,000 students are from South Florida or the Treasure Coast and commute to class.

"If you really want to persuade kids to come here, we have to have a better gym," said Felix Rydz, 23, a senior from Delray Beach.'
Having Heard from the Blancheites...

...of college athletics (see below), let's listen to the real stuff, the authentic voice, the one true thing. SOS likes this writing very much.

When Football Players Go Bad

By Lyndon Collins

'A while back I sold a restored car and got a check for $5,241. It was the most money I’d ever had. For a poor kid like me, who considers a bowl of rainbow sorbet and rented porn a delicacy, $5,241 may as well have been seven ka-billion dollars. [We've got a charmer on our hands. Rented porn a delicacy alone is worth the price of admission.]

There were limitless possibilities for this seemingly endless supply of money. [I'd drop seemingly.] The spending spree I went on was monumental. I lost my fucking mind. I wasted money on everything from a $150 ping-pong paddle (seriously), [Drop seriously.] to $30 hair gel from one of those fancy-pants hair salons. My hair has never had so much body, so much life. It glowed. One time, I even bought shots for a girl and seven of her friends if she showed me her boobs, when I could have gotten the same action at a strip club for a buck (which I did later that night anyway)...I digress. [Drop I digress.]

Of all the ridiculously stupid things I did with my money, [Drop ridiculously.] one thing I didn’t do was sponsor a dog-fighting ring out of my house. This makes me exponentially smarter than Mike Vick  —  who apparently has the intelligence of your average pube hair. [Fine, this is juvenile. He's allowed one or two of these.]

Being the all-knowing, ever-seeing, devilishly good-looking, cocky fucker [The writer puts bashful little stars over the u's in all of his uses of the word fuck. UD's removed them.] that I am, it’s hard for me to criticize someone for being arrogant, but Mike Vick makes me look like the Dali Lama.

Athletes are a different breed of people. By their very nature they are a confident, sometimes cocky, bunch  —  they have to be. Performing in front of thousands, sometimes millions, of spectators takes a certain kind of confidence that most people just don’t have. And while that confidence is great for throwing touchdowns, it can also be a recipe for disaster and embarrassment. [He's young. He's already a very good writer. He'll learn to excise all the to be verbs that are gumming this up.]

Mike Vick had three things that never mix well: amazing talent, a shit-ton of money, and glowing arrogance. [Shit-ton's fun.] This combination is getting Vick a free 18-month vacation to prison. But Vick isn’t alone in his dangerously obvious arrogance.

I love college football. Moreover, I love Ohio State football. If it weren’t for college football I would kill myself every autumn. [There's a pleasant absurdity to the seasonal suicide idea.] The first fallen leaf is a reminder of the frozen drudgery that looms in the coming months. [Drop in the coming months.] But the prospect of drunken Saturdays and screaming ‘til I can’t speak keeps the razor blade from ever piercing a vein. [Lovely.] And while I love Ohio State football, some of their players REALLY worry me.

I would never be so silly as to pretend to know all 100 (or whatever) players on the football team, but I’ve had my share of run-ins. I’m sure that most of them are fine student-athletes who do very little to tarnish the reputation of themselves or the University, but every once in a while a player shows Clarett-like qualities that scare the shit out of me. [Clarett-like qualities. It's poetic.]

I once had a class with an unnamed-but-easily-recognizable football player. He was hard to miss. Before each class he stood out in front of the building laughing obnoxiously, cursing loudly, and grabbing his crotch with a bothersome frequency. [Drop the adverbs -- obnoxiously, loudly. I love the jarring formality of bothersome frequency. It's clever to play with your tone a bit.]

As if annoying the entire campus outside of the building wasn’t enough, he usually spent most of the class talking with his buddies and disrupting the whole class. [Don't repeat class.]

One time the professor actually had to stop class to ask him and his friends to be quiet. The class was in Hitchcock. The player was sitting in the balcony...he was being that loud. [Drop being.]

This guy never brought as much as a pencil to class. I never missed a class, took every note, studied my ass off and still only got a C. It could be that I’m just really, really dumb (and I am)...but then again, I didn’t spend my whole life getting pounded in the head by 300-pound linemen. [Drop (and I am).] Apparently the little brown-haired jock-sniffer that followed him around campus took really good notes for him. I’m sure he [pronoun reference?] didn’t have a problem passing the course. Am I just jealous? Yes, yes I am.

People like our unnamed football player and Mike Vick annoy the shit out of me. They think that their athletic ability and money puts them above the standard.

I know what you’re thinking...”Money?!?! How does a college football player have so much money?” Hell if I know. But you don’t have to be an NCAA investigator to drive by the Woody Hayes Athletic center during football practice. The parking lot looks like a Cadillac dealership. And I won’t even go into the platinum chains and diamond earrings that decorate some of our more eccentric players.

I can’t stress enough that I’m sure that a vast majority of the players for our fine football program are upstanding models of academia. [Redundancy here okay because he means to lay it on thick.] But it only takes one arrogant and talented asshole to bring a story like Mike Vick’s to our own campus.

An important part of life is knowing what you have to lose. A loser like me can drink, smoke, curse in public, and spend my hard-earned money on hookers, [See how nicely he returns to his first paragraph? Good instincts.] and no one would ever care. But when you truly have something to lose and everyone is watching, maybe you ought to act like you have some fucking sense.'


UD's Happy to See...

...University Diaries as part of the blogroll at History Compass Blog, an online forum for historians around the world. Here's its journal.
Grace Paley, 1922-2007

A long take on her long life.
Florida: Anti-Intellectualism as Team Sport

'U.S. News & World Report "America's Best Colleges 2008" rankings [show] the University of Florida falling from 47th place to 49th and Florida State University dropping from 110th to 112th among the top 125 U.S. universities. Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and Florida International University in Miami all reside unceremoniously in the bottom tier of the 1,400 rated institutions.

At the other end of the spectrum was Monday's fun-loving assessment of party schools [which ranked] UF as No. 4 in the top 20 party schools and FSU as No. 18...

..."We're cheap and we're proud of it," [Former chancellor Charles] Reed said [in a speech Monday] of Florida's attitude toward its university system. It's a line he made famous when he left Florida more than a decade ago to become chancellor of the California State University System. Regrettably, it still holds today. Our state budget doesn't dependably fund enrollment growth. In California, he said, there is a sacrosanct 2.5-percent budget for enrollment growth. Florida lawmakers haven't funded growth for more than five years. One result is that we are dead last in the teacher-to-pupil ratio, a situation that puts a serious squeeze on quality learning and getting students graduated on time.

Some Board of Governors members in attendance Monday were forced to endure a deserved finger-wagging for the BOG's inactivity almost since its inception in 2002.

Just this summer, however, it has awakened to its authority and obligations, joining a lawsuit asserting its autonomy to control tuition, freezing new enrollment and generally going to war with a legislative branch that has, to its shame, elevated anti-intellectualism to a team sport.

Gov. Charlie Crist has tiptoed into the fray, saying he's ready to strike "an accord" with Chancellor Mark Rosenberg, the BOG and other leaders. Clearly they need to stabilize funding, as Mr. Reed observed, and fix a badly flawed and ultimately unaffordable financial-aid system that helps the well-off through Bright Futures scholarships while skipping over many needy students.

In California, he said, citizens understand that higher education is the bread and butter of their economy and also it has "a Legislature that has a long history of supporting their universities because of the economic and cultural development they provide."

Back east in the Sunshine State, such enlightenment is far from prevalent. We remain in need of passionate leaders to strike that "accord" and lead our university system out of the miserable slump it's been in and the political savaging it has endured.'

---tallahassee democrat---

[these are dunce caps]

Excerpts from Reed's speech:

'Most people outside higher education don't think that much about how their state college and university systems are run.

But somehow only Florida has made such a mess of its own governing system that it generated an opinion piece in the national edition of The New York Times by Stanley Fish.

Try explaining to an outsider that there was a Board of Regents, then the Regents went away, then voters passed a former governor's initiative that brought back the Regents, but they are now called Governors, and we still haven't settled once and for all who has the right to set tuition.

The average person would say “Huh?” to which I would respond, “Exactly.”

...Scholarships should be based on need, not solely on merit.

Why are we financing higher education for students from families who can well afford the tuition many times over?

I called [Bright Futures] “one of the dumbest public policies” when it was created when I was Chancellor here. I think today I'd call it “the dumbest, not just one of the dumbest.”

The effect is that Florida's universities are not educating the growing populations of underserved students, particularly those of color and most needy. It is these students whose educational levels will ultimately shape the direction of the state's economy.

Florida must disconnect from the Bright Futures program. You can't afford it and it is just plain wrong.

Mark Howard, editor of Florida, recently called the Bright Futures program and the Prepaid College Plan, “programs that for all their good intentions, help imprison the system in mediocrity.”

...One university getting something at the expense of all the others, based upon who is Speaker or President of the Senate - will never work!'
Coach Dubois

["I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic. I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don't tell truths. I tell what ought to be truth."]

"[The NCAA should] leave graduation rates up to the presidents of each institution. Certainly, any president and responsible coach will see that their institution does the right thing for athletes, and seeing that those athletes graduate would be a prime objective."

Dick Bestwick, Athens Banner-Herald

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

UD Loves to be Interviewed.

She loves to compete with Mr. UD to see who gets more interview requests over the course of, say, a month. With his expert knowledge of and involvement in the Iraqi constitution, Mr. UD almost always wins this competition, but UD could tell he was impressed when a reporter from the Washington City Paper caught UD on the beach at Rehoboth for a long chat about whether George Washington University's most-expensive-tuition-in-the-country is worth it.

The article's just come out - it's this issue's cover story -- and it's a very good one. It begins with a wonderful description of the Versailles-level entertainments the university provides for incoming freshmen (UD, who knows little about extra-curricular GW, had no idea about Colonial Inauguration), and then considers why GW costs so much, and whether the cost is justified.

UD mentioned to the reporter that she knew a couple of students who'd left GW because they concluded it cost too much relative to the value of the education it offered. "Could you get me in touch with one of them?" the reporter asked. So UD told her about her student and friend Kevan Duve, who has transferred to Columbia University. Kevan's comments appear at the very end of the article.

UD's quoted describing GW's culture of wealth.
View Cart...

...isn't the sort of thing you expect to see on a university's home page. Greetings from the president, sure... campus scenes... a few news items... But View Cart?

At the Trinity College & University diploma mill, however, way low prices on any level degree in the field of your choice are so tempting, you'll want to start shopping right away, just like Dave Serrano, the top candidate for baseball coach at the University of Oregon:

'The University of Oregon has delayed a follow-up interview with Dave Serrano, the award-winning University of California Irvine baseball coach, amid reports that Serrano obtained his bachelor's degree from a Spanish school that awards degrees but does not require students to attend class.

Oregon, which is restoring baseball after a 26-year hiatus, has listed a bachelor's degree as a requirement for the baseball coaching job. The university dropped the degree requirement when it hired Pat Kilkenny as athletic director in February.

Kilkenny left the University of Oregon short of graduation before a successful career in the insurance industry in which he accumulated a net worth of more than $100 million. The Oregon athletics booster now serves as athletic director on a token salary.

Kilkenny did not return calls to The Oregonian. He told The (Eugene) Register-Guard that the delay in interviewing Serrano was caused by logistics. But Kilkenny acknowledged the school was reviewing Serrano's degree from The Trinity College and University, a school in Malaga, Spain, that awards degrees "based on previous life experiences."

Renee Baumgartner, a senior associate athletic director at Oregon, said the university was concerned about Serrano's degree... '

UO should hire him. I think it wants to, because it's handling the diploma mill problem correctly. It's acknowledging it, and it's telling us it's concerned about it. That'll do. It matters not a bit for this job whether the guy is educated, and they've already made an exception for Kilkenny.

I mean, I guess you could argue Serrano's not a very good academic role model for the players, but almost no one in a major university sports program is.

It's sleazy of Serrano to have bought a bogus BA and passed it off as authentic. But bringing sleaze to major university sports programs is bringing coals to Newcastle. Who cares.
Mike Lopresti, USA Today.

'The idea was to get oriented for another college football season by checking recent news about the major programs. Catch up with current events by studying just two days of wire reports. Monday and Tuesday.

We might have spotted a trend.

You be the judge. (Incidentally, judges will play a prominent role from here. As will police and district attorneys).

Start with Alabama, to see if the Tide and new coach Nick Saban are all ready for Western Carolina...

"TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama coach Nick Saban said cornerback Simeon Castille would be punished "internally" for his early morning arrest on a disorderly conduct charge, the fourth arrest in the same off-campus bar district this summer.

"The police report said (all-SEC cornerback Castille) was cursing at people in an SUV stopped in the street and challenging the people inside to a fight."

Onward to West Virginia, where the high-ranked Mountaineers are preparing for Western Michigan...

"MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia suspended cornerback Ellis Lankster and linebacker J.T. Thomas on Tuesday, two days after they were charged with transferring and receiving stolen property."

Michigan is highly ranked, too. Wonder how things are going for the Appalachian State game...

"ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan tight end Carson Butler has been reinstated to the team after being cleared of charges of attacking a student on St. Patrick's Day.

He was charged along with reserve defensive back Christian Richards, who was convicted of assault and sentenced to six months' probation. He was released from the team in March."

Speaking of shining Big Ten powerhouses, Penn State opens against Florida International. The latest from Happy Valley...

"BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — A judge dismissed five of seven charges against Penn State safety Anthony Scirrotto for an April off-campus fight.

"The judge let stand a felony criminal trespass. Scirrotto still faces one count of harassment ..."

Hawaii is expected to have a noisy and productive passing game, when the Rainbow Warriors open against Northern Colorado. So it's natural to wonder what the receivers have been up to...

"HONOLULU (AP) — University of Hawaii officials on Monday said they will look into allegations made by a former receiver, including the claim that school officials and players manipulated NCAA-mandated drug tests.

Ian Sample, who recently published a book chronicling the 2006 season entitled "Once a Warrior," released unpublished material on his blog about excessive drinking, widespread use of marijuana, sex with groupies and rigged drug tests."

Oh. Well, over to Notre Dame, where everyone is wondering who will start at quarterback against Georgia Tech. As for late-breaking quarterback news...

"SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said Monday that quarterback Jimmy Clausen's citation for transporting alcohol as a minor is a simple case of ignorance of the law."

And this just in from Kansas State, which is preparing for a rugged opener against Auburn...

"MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State tight end Rashaad Norwood was suspended Monday after being arrested and charged with domestic battery.

Norwood was arrested twice early Sunday at the same location, and charged with domestic battery, criminal damage to property, criminal trespassing and obstruction of the legal process."

Meanwhile, just up the road, Iowa is getting ready for its trip to Northern Illinois...

"IOWA CITY (AP) — Iowa leading receiver Dominique Douglas and another player were suspended from the team Monday after being arrested and charged with unauthorized use of a credit card.

Douglas, who led the team in catches and receiving yards last season, was arrested Sunday and charged with making more than $2,000 in purchases to credit cards belonging to two other people."

Not hard to understand why the NFL has so many problems, is it? Probably a good thing we didn't check back for a whole week.

But if the goal was to draw any conclusions about college football, here certainly was one.

The vast majority of players never find trouble. That should never be forgotten. But this is why college coaches fear a ringing phone.'

UD appreciates Lopresti doing her compilations for her, but look at his conclusion: We are to take from this litany an attitude of anxious pity on behalf of the coach who crouches by the phone, full of dread about the lads -- like granny knitting nervously through the night, worrying about her precious cubs...

But wait! This would only work if granny went out of her way to choose felons for grandchildren, the way coaches routinely recruit way bad boys...

So Lopresti's coach-pity seems misplaced. Pity instead the players, confused by their schizoid lives (crime, jail; and then, because they can play football, sudden universal adulation; then crime and jail again...), doomed to lose life's game. Their two million dollar a year coach will be just fine.
UD Loves a Laugh With her Morning Coffee...

...or, rather, her morning Marco Polo tea (yes, you're right, it's an afternoon blend, and UD should be slapped down for drinking it before twelve), and this breaking news about online university classes did the trick. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

Teaching online courses can be frustrating for professors and may ultimately bring them to experience "a high degree of burnout," according to a study by R. Lance Hogan, an assistant professor of technology at Eastern Illinois University, and Mark A. McKnight, an assistant professor of business communication at the University of Southern Indiana.

"Burnout," write the authors, describes "a syndrome of emotional exhaustion and cynicism that occurs in response to the stressors and strains of professional life." In their study, based on responses to a questionnaire completed by 76 faculty members at colleges and universities across the United States, they found that online-course instructors exhibited the three main symptoms of burnout: Instructors were emotionally exhausted, they felt a sense of "depersonalization" in interactions with students, and they experienced "reduced feelings of personal accomplishment."

A variety of factors play into why teaching online courses can be so deflating. For example, faculty members "traditionally perceive teaching online as more work and more time-consuming than teaching a traditional course," write the authors. That stigma can become "a major workplace stressor," they say. Another possible source of stress, they say, is "the additional training and knowledge required to effectively teach online."

"Burnout is an important concept and has rarely been investigated among higher-education faculty," write the authors. With more than two million students now enrolled in at least one online course, they say, the "need to examine burnout specific to online instructors" has been established.

UD's had what to say on this blog about the online scam, with its obvious destruction of education. But this latest study is a delicious new confection... Recall the Money magazine list of best jobs in America, with professor ranked number two, largely because of low stress and high autonomy... Now this class of ninnies among us who fell for the you don't even have to get out of bed bullshit reports its discovery that a virtual life makes you feel depersonalized...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Saint Tublitz

Every great social movement
has its martyrs, and the movement
to rid universities of corrupt
and destructive bigtime sports
has now got one in Nathan Tublitz.

Professor Tublitz looks like
a professor. He writes like
a professor. But he's also,
unlike professors as a class,
very tough. He goes up against
corrupt and destructive bigtime
sports on his campus, the
University of Oregon.

And you just know he's pissing people off when the boosters come out of the woodwork and swarm all over him, like this guy Mike DeCourcy, who writes for Sporting News. Mike's mad with Nathan. He's having a hard time arguing his points against him onaccounta he's real mad. Let's walk calmly through Mike's points and help him collect himself.

'It's not easy being a billionaire, apparently. You think ahead. Work hard. Build a business. Grow the business. Create jobs. Make billions. Give a lot of the money away. All good, right?

No, sir.

You've got to give it to the right people. It doesn't matter that it's your money. It doesn't matter that your vision built that fortune. If you give the money away as you see fit, well, then, gentlemen such as Nathan Tublitz come along to tell you how indecorous you really are. [I'm steamed! Signed, Disgusted! I mean, the guy's not even working up to the rage and the insults. It doesn't occur to Mike that most people think it actually matters a great deal what you do with large sums of money. It matters how you make it (working conditions for Nike employees around the world aren't merely a matter of what Phil Knight feels like making them) and it matters how you spend it.... Of course we can't dictate to Knight's twin, T. Boone Pickens, that he not give 165 million dollars to Oklahoma State University for the exclusive use of the sports teams there; but we can certainly do what Nathan Tublitz is doing in regard to Knight, which is criticize such choices harshly. We can point out that, like Pickens, Knight will increase the corruption of the program because the size of his gift will mean he can basically run it as he likes. We can point out that Oklahoma State University is a third-tier school kept there by the anti-intellectualism of powerful people like T. Boone Pickens, etc. All of this and more Mike should think about before he begins shouting.]

You know who Phil Knight is, most likely. He's the guy who built the Nike empire after attending the University of Oregon and running track for the Ducks. His love for the university and appreciation for what his sporting background helped do for him led Knight recently to donate $100 million to the athletic department, which reportedly will help to fund a replacement basketball arena for the esteemed -- but crumbling -- McArthur Court.

You probably don't know who Nathan Tublitz is. I can't say for sure, but this seems to trouble him. [Here Mike offers his psychoanalysis of Tublitz. Tublitz, fundamentally, is jealous. He wants to be rich and famous like Phil Knight. His opposition to bigtime campus sports stems from these psychological problems.] Tublitz is an Oregon biology professor who is co-chairman of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, a self-appointed group of professors that presumes to tell universities who they should be admitting and athletic departments how they should be operating. [Yes, Mike's annoyed that professors complain about special admits who will never ever ever graduate. Mike doesn't care that these guys don't graduate, because he doesn't care about universities. He cares about sports. And he really dislikes people who care about universities.]

And now, Tublitz is telling Knight how to spend his money.

"The priorities of the university are totally out of whack when so much money can go to an ancillary activity of the university when the rest of the university goes begging," Tublitz told The Oregonian about Knight's gift.

Tublitz is registering his ire with Oregon, but the university really only had two choices when Knight called to offer the chance to bathe in his largesse: yes or no. [Mike, Mike. Your monomania has kept you from learning about university philanthropy. It's quite common for universities to advise alumni on how they might best direct their gift. In fact, it's not unknown for universities to turn down all or part of gifts which alumni donors insist must go in directions the university for whatever reason doesn't think they should go. This is called integrity, Mike. All universities have it, or should have it.] Any other response would have been more than a little presumptuous. One does not keep one's relationships intact by opening the Christmas present and saying, "Great, but I'd much rather have a Rolex." [What sort of relationships do you keep intact by passively acceding to everything your friend demands?]

In fact, Knight has given many more millions to his alma mater, money that helped build a law school building, renovate the library and endow academic chairs. As if to prove he's as much a fan of higher education as hoops, he also dropped $105 million on Stanford's business school, where he long ago earned an MBA. [Mike's first good points. He's buried them in this paragraph, though, and he's about to leave them.]

Tublitz and the group he fronts, however, have an obvious animus toward collegiate athletics. When they issued a report in June that essentially called for universities to make their athletic teams more in line with their student bodies, I wrote an e-mail to him and posed the question of why, indeed, athletes aren't treated more like other students in similar disciplines. I asked why students who major in theater, dance and music are presented academic credit and degrees in those subjects, whereas athletes do similar work in their sports are said to be performing strictly extracurricular activities.

His response was so revealing:

"You seem to have a bit of a misunderstanding of the fundamental bases of academics. Art, music, theater, and dance are serious academic disciplines; they are not a game. If you believe that their subjects are only 'entertainment,' you might consider taking an art history, music theory, theater staging or physics of dance course at an accredited university. These courses are academically rigorous and packed full with serious academic content, something not present in any athletic endeavor." [UD would have been a mite less condescending. On the other hand, Mike's confusion is pretty amazing.]

This is the kind of attitude sports frequently confront within a campus setting. It does not matter that the coaches who work for colleges study their sport and innovate within their sport with as much rigor as any ballet teacher or voice instructor. [LOL] It does not matter that the public and the university community, on the whole, place an obvious value in what the coaches and athletes are creating for them. [Everybody loves us!] You've still got professors such as Tublitz demeaning their work -- dismissively calling basketball or football "a game," as if it's no more sophisticated than Parchesi. [What are we supposed to call it? A Socratic dialogue?]

When a person with this approach makes a public statement about athletics, he or she should be taken no more seriously than the person who looks at a Picasso and claims the guy just didn't know how to draw.'



This new feature has University Diaries' Scathing Online Schoolmarm SOSing prose which is itself SOSing prose. Know what I mean?

I mean, SOS ain't the only person out there subjecting prose to close, usually hostile, analysis; there's even a verb -- to fisk -- which describes the activity, although fisking tends to be satisfied with eviscerating an argument only, rather than, like SOS, going after argument and prose (they're connected, after all).

SOS proposes to look at two recent style and content fiskings. One of them's not too bad, though it doesn't knock my socks off. The other is very bad indeed.

The not too bad one's by Alex Beam in the Boston Globe. He's taking off after a soft target -- the simulacral Mortimer Zuckerman -- but it's worth attacking writers like Zuckerman, writers who don't really write their pieces themselves, and for whom publishing is about keeping their name in the papers. Zuckerman represents the lazy corruption that gives journalism a bad name, so he certainly should be fisked. Here's how Beam does it:

BREAKING OUT THE WOODEN PROSE-O-METER [Starts with an absolutely terrible title. There's nothing clever here, and it's also rather confusing as to meaning.]

There was a curious detail in The New Yorker's recent, none-wished-it-longer profile of real estate and media tycoon Mortimer Zuckerman. The longtime chairman [Repetition of longer/longtime not good.] of Boston Properties, Zuckerman writes a weekly column for U.S. News & World Report, which he owns. Here is how he goes about it:

"Generally, Zuckerman reads up on his column subjects on the weekends, underlining as he goes. He writes early in the week, dictating a first draft of the column over the phone to a secretary in Mexico City. She transcribes his musings, and sends them to him; he fiddles and dictates anew, until he has a workable draft."

Inhale. These New Yorker paragraphs run on for ever. Exhale. [Inhale/Exhale fun, but you kind of have to think about it.]

"('I wish that I could write with metaphors, but I just try to marshal the facts as well as I can,' he said.) Then, typically, he sends it to Harry Evans, the eminent newspaperman and publisher. Characterizations of Evans's contribution vary, depending on which former editor of the magazine you talk to. Evans calls his round 'a conventional dust job.'"

Wow. Phoned down to Mexico City; more fiddling and dictating; multiple drafts; touched up by the legendary former editor of the London Sunday Times. [The wow's good. And he's already insinuating that all this fiddling actually isn't wow.]

So why are the columns so bad? How come they read as if -- metaphor comes naturally to me -- they were written with a trowel? [Trowel's great, as in just lays it on.]

How bad are Zuckerman's columns? They are pretty awful, a solid 8.7 on the Wooden Prose-o-Meter, where the typical Eleanor Clift or Clarence Page outing scores a perfect 10. [The o-meter thing just isn't working here. Too tired. It is itself a species of woodenness.] They are awful because they are boring and predictable, which is the last thing an opinion column should be.

Let's flit through some recent work. Zuckerman offers up a dutiful, by-the-numbers hand-wringing about Don Imus: "Imus has helped reset the boundaries of acceptable speech. But we must go further, reawakening awareness of the unmet needs of our society." [Great selection. How much more pompous and vapid can you get than the unmet needs of our society?] And of course an in-crowd abrazo for New York mayor Michael Bloomberg: "He has governed in a common-sense, adult, nonideological manner." Doubtless it is so. [Abrazo's embrace. Nice offbeat word. Good. But I'm not sure his "Doubtless it is so" is doing the work he means it to do -- I mean, being sarcastic. It's not quite strong enough.]

Separately, Zuckerman frets over the disturbing political insurgency of Senator Barack Obama: "He must grow." Of course he frets big-time over the Hamas insurgency in Gaza and the West Bank. Zuckerman saves his worst writing for the subject he cares about most -- the state of Israel -- because he fancies himself a player in Mideast politics. To wit: "The stakes are high. This is a time not for rolling the dice but for prudent, tough-minded diplomacy and realism. Or else we are doomed to repeat the past failures." What? No "Time will tell"? Perhaps that was in a previous column. [Excellent. I giggled a bit at this ridicule of the stupefying cliches Zuckerman's elaborately-edited work produces.]

Zuckerman writes with the moribund evenhandedness of someone worried that he might not be invited back to A-list dinner parties. [Here's where satirists need to be careful. The sentence is great until Beam gets to A-list dinner parties, which is itself a cliche, and a rather dumb populist one at that.] Which is curious, since he hosts about one-half of them. On Israel, I'd much rather read Marty Peretz from the right or Eric Alterman from the left. To paraphrase the Book of Revelations, Zuckerman on the Middle East is neither hot nor cold; I spew him out.

Maybe I should ease up on the former Hub resident who calls Cambridge a "suburb" of Boston; did U.S. News fire all the fact-checkers too? The fact is that any jackass can write an opinion column and many do. [Repetition of fact not so hot; also, he needs a transition -- maybe a new paragraph -- to the jackass point.] Zuckerman's work matches up nicely with syndicated scribblers like Susan Estrich, Bill O'Reilly, or the Emperor of All Received Wisdom, David Gergen. [Again, Emperor, etc., just falls flat. It's too broad a species of satire.] When I applied for a fellowship years ago, the first words out of my mouth were: "I am a newspaper columnist, but that doesn't mean I am an idiot." [Probably should have begun the piece with this.]

So who does columns right? Marc Fisher of the Washington Post, whom I don't get to read often, may be the best reporter/writer/commentator at a big newspaper. Ron Rosenbaum at the weekly New York Observer could really cook. Whether writing about Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, or Yale's secret society Skull and Bones, Rosenbaum pursued ideas to the very end, with fussy, envy-inducing prose. [Not sure fussy's the right word here.]

Michael Kinsley is probably the best newspaper columnist of my generation, but he's really a magazine guy, so we don't have to feel threatened.

Me? Let others judge. I'd love to hold forth longer, but I have to phone some of these thoughts down to Mexico City. [Very good. Nicely revisits this absurdity.] These deadlines creep up quicker than a bobcat with slippers on. Oh, look -- a metaphor! I must be doing something right. [Actually, I think that's a simile...]

Beam admires Ron Rosenbaum's writing, but if the following Rosenbaum fisking is typical, he can't be right to do this.

THE WORST OP-ED EVER WRITTEN? [Again, a terrible title. Unless the essay to come is the cleverest, most definitive decimation of a piece of writing ever. Which it's not. One reason it's not, right up front: Cast your eye down the page. It's way too long. You want to get in and get out of these things pretty quickly -- after all, they're talking about a short, pretty superficial bit of prose; and the more you rant on, the more the thing seems to be about you, which is death on wheels for this sort of writing. It shouldn't be about your resentment or irritation or disdain; it should be about the prose.]

It was Aug. 5, and Professor Stanley Fish, the famous postmodernist and "guest columnist" [Already the bizarre and unhelpful use of quotation marks. Why the marks? Does he mean to suggest that Fish isn't a guest columnist? That guest columnist is a pretentious formulation? WHAT?] for the New York Times, had some breaking news to expound upon in an op-ed piece. He had discovered a new development in American culture that deserved the kind of exegesis only he could deliver: the appearance of a new kind of coffee place. [Expound... exegesis... Rosenbaum thinks using these fancy words satirizes what he sees as the intellectual pomposity of Fish. But they're not working this way; they're just vague snark-markers...]

Have you heard about these new coffee places? Professor Fish's column made it seem as though they had never been noticed or discussed before. [Drop second sentence. It's sentences like this one that make this far too long a piece.]

"Getting Coffee Is Hard To Do" was the title of his essay, which in its self-satisfied cluelessness may just qualify as the worst op-ed ever written. [Rosenbaum's shooting off his guns far too soon. And he's telling rather than showing -- he's name-calling rather than doing what, say, Christopher Hitchens does so well -- cunningly, calmly, working the prose of his adversary so as to expose, amid gradually building hilarity on the part of the reader, its stupidity.] (I'm not sure if "Worst Ever" will become a recurrent feature in this space, but my column on "The Worst Celebrity Profile Ever Written" (Esquire's pretentiously fawning profile of "the best woman in the world," Angelina Jolie) stirred up some useful controversy.) [Bad idea to mention in a self-aggrandizing way an earlier column he's written along these lines. Makes this one look like a lazy effort to replicate that success.]

At the very least, Fish's column showcases what happens when certain academics descend from the ivory tower to offer us their special insights on popular culture. [UD's got nothing against anti-professor rhetoric, but this is really meager stuff.]

Not that Fish would cop to living in a tower. The professor took great pains to demonstrate that he is not one of those academics who mingle among the commoners for a mere 20 minutes or so before pronouncing on their baffling customs. [Why is the satire falling flat here? One reason is that it's simply very badly written, clogged with adjectives - great, mere, baffling - which dilute the force of the writing and account for its length.]

It seems that professor Fish is a real man of the people who has been getting his coffee served to him amidst the regular folk for years, at the kind of place where you could order your coffee and cheese Danish, and "twenty seconds later, tops, they arrived, just as you were settling into the sports page."

You can tell he's a down-to-the-earth guy, not some pointy-headed intellectual, because he uses phrases like "twenty seconds later, tops" and reads "the sports page."

But our professor seems to think he has encountered a brand-new cultural phenomenon: coffee places that are disturbingly different from the lunch counters of yesteryear.

Well, I did a little Googling, and it turns out he's right! There are hosts of these coffee chain stores, including one with the improbable name Starbucks, infiltrating our cities. I don't understand why the Times' cutting-edge "Styles" section hasn't done something on this before. Wake up and smell the coffee, "Styles" section editors! [Comes across as protesting too much, pleasing himself, stretching out to admire his irony... ]

It turns out these new coffee places are incredibly difficult to navigate, even for a brilliant academic like professor Fish.

Here's how he describes his harrowing experience: "As you walk in, everything is saying, 'This is very sophisticated and you'd better be up to it.' "

Of course, we know that professor Fish is being ironic here. Some might say condescendingly so. From his tone, we know that the elements of what he mockingly describes as "sophistication" — "wood or concrete floors, lots of earth tones, soft, high-style lighting, open barrels of coffee beans, folk-rock and indie music, photographs of urban landscapes, and copies of The Onion" — aren't true sophistication to a man of professor Fish's discernment. They're kitsch, faux-sophistication — and you can't fool him. He can see right through it! [It's quite damaging to Rosenbaum's case that this short excerpt in which Fish describes the place's interior is superior to anything Rosenbaum has so far written.]

Although at this point you begin to wonder if his op-ed wasn't meant to be a feature in The Onion ("Area professor befuddled by coffee place"), Fish is apparently serious about the profound difficulty this new cultural phenomenon presents. [Most readers have stopped reading by now. Rosenbaum is excruciating in his insistence on chewing at this prose...]

In any case, professor Fish's description of his terrifying encounter with this coffee store is enough to make a grown man weep [Wan cliche.]:

First, unlike his previous coffee shop, which evidently was never crowded, you have to get in line [!] and wait to be served for more than 20 seconds, tops. In fact, "You may have one or two people in front of you who are ordering a drink with more parts than an internal combustion engine." Oh the humanity! [DOA cliche.]

What's worse, these, these PEOPLE, whoever they are, use unfamiliar terms: "something about 'double shot,' 'skinny,' 'breve,' 'grande,' 'au lait' and a lot of other words that never pass my lips."

Not only are they unfamiliar, practically indecipherable, these terms (what could au lait possibly mean? It doesn't even sound like English!), you virtually have to sound them out to read them. They are, furthermore, literally, unspeakably vulgar to a man of educated taste. (They "never pass my lips" — imagine if a man of his intellectual distinction had to say au lait!) [Sorry baby. You're all worked up, but it ain't working. You're overdoing.]

And by the way, you satirists and improv comics out there. Why haven't you picked up on this elaborate coffee-name trend and made fun of it? That new show I've heard of, Seinfeld, could really get some mileage out of those funny names for coffee sizes. Tall is small! Comedy gold! (I myself have tangled with Starbucks, though mostly back in the day when Seinfeld was still on the air. But my tiffs were with its management, not with the 20-second-plus wait or the beleaguered baristas.)

But professor Fish's ordeal does not end with the profoundly confusing names, confusing even for someone who specializes in language. (And I should say here I am an admirer of his early, pre-postmodern work Surprised by Sin, a controversial study of Milton's Paradise Lost.) [Any reader still with Rosenbaum is befuddled at this point. Suddenly he's expressing respect -- but are we sure it's non-ironic respect? -- for Fish's scholarly work... Rosenbaum's tone is all over the place, and tone is crucial in hit pieces like this.]

No, the ordeal continues even after you master the ordering process: "[Y]ou get to put in your order, but then you have to find a place to stand while you wait for it."

Professor Fish is particularly good on the inhuman stress positions this requires of him. "[Y]ou shift your body, first here and then there, trying to get out of the way of those you can't help get in the way of."

How he maintains his priceless sense of humor in this Abu Ghraib-like environment of torment is hard to imagine. But it gets worse. You can bump into people and spill coffee, and it's hard to find a seat. I'm not kidding. (Well, he isn't.) [No selectivity here at all. Far more effective to use one or at most two of Fish's comments against him... It feels pathological for Rosenbaum to gas on like this.]

But there's more! "[T]hen your real problems begin," he says with stoic grit. Some readers, the faint of heart, may want to skip this next part, because things really get ugly: the "accessories" difficulty. (Note to self: Tell agent about plans for thriller to rival The Bourne Ultimatum — The Accessories Difficulty.)

You must face "a staggering array" of "things you put in, on and around your coffee ... " Here, he's referring to such highly fraught choices as sugar or Splenda, whole milk or skim. High stakes choices, with so little time to tease out the implications and consequences. What's more, there's no service person to help him make these terrible decisions. "[S]o you lunge after one thing and then after another with awkward reaches."

At this point, one can sympathize not so much with professor Fish as with the Times op-ed editors who had to come up with a "pull quote" for the hard-copy edition. You know, the pithy phrase that billboards the column's essence. Here's what they came up with:

"Cream? Sugar? Get it yourself."

I think that about captures the unbearable excitement of these revelations. Oh, the exquisite, um, awkwardness of those "awkward reaches"! But he "got it himself" despite the indignity. And he lived to tell about it. And make it relevant! In fact, one can see a hint of professor Fish's signature moral relativism — known in the lit-crit trade as anti-foundationalism — creep into his prose as he attempts to grapple with the accessories difficulty.

"There is no 'right' place to start," he notes, no solid philosophical foundation upon which to base difficult sweetener decisions. As with the most difficult questions of philosophy, politics, and literature, there are only subjective perspectives.

He is once again face to face with the tragedy of the human situation.

But he's got a much larger point to make. The dread "New Coffee Experience" turns out to be emblematic of one of the key ills of modern times, the servant problem:

It is "just one instance of the growing practice of shifting the burden of labor to the consumer — gas stations, grocery and drug stores, bagel shops (why should I put on my own cream cheese?), airline check-ins, parking lots."

Imagine, a man of his distinction, forced to "put on my own cream cheese." Why is there no one to do it for him?

He might have mentioned ATMs. Used to be you could walk into a bank and ask a teller to give you a couple hundred bucks, and they'd hand it over, "twenty seconds, tops." No troubling paperwork, remember? And what about credit card machines? Now, it's "insert this, swipe that, choose credit or debit, enter your PIN, push the red button, error, start again."

One wants to feel sympathy for professor Fish in his distress. But although most of the unintentional humor in professor Fish's column comes from his comic cluelessness about things he thinks are "new" in the culture, this note of entitlement gives it a kind of nasty edge. [We're totally not with the writer by now. We're not necessarily with Fish, but we're nowhere near the writer's sensibility and response. This piece became a dud in the fourth or fifth paragraph; anyone still chugging along is a marm or a Duke student whose dissertation defense Fish failed.]

He concedes toward the close of his column: "[N]one of us has chosen to take over the jobs of those we pay to serve us."

Is it just me, or is there something grating in that phrase: "those we pay to serve us"? So distasteful, the life of the servant class, compared with the life of the mind.

But at least in the old days the servant class hopped to it and got professor Fish his coffee and Danish in "20 seconds, tops" and worked themselves to the point of exhaustion all day for less than a minimum wage to make sure he would have something to consume with his "sports page."

As multidegreed as he is, I have a feeling that it would be an invaluable addition to his education if professor Fish spent a week "serving" as a barista. You know: For someone who believes in perspectives rather than foundations (except when it comes to grants), it would seem like a useful additional perspective on the whole coffee-servant question. [The parenthetical snark about grants is just mystifying.]

He also might want to consider that, while in some ways we do more ourselves these days, some of us might just prefer that to having servants? Just another perspective.

Still, the column makes clear why his kind of deep thinking has earned him academic stardom and university deanships. Such a man deserves to be served. Not to have to serve himself. [Rosenbaum doesn't believe any of this shit. He's just going with his formula.]

In any case, the op-ed may not have been a total loss; it might suggest the subject for his next magnum opus: Surprised by Starbucks.


It was Bound to Happen.

UD's extensive knowledge of college football has landed her on the home page of College Football Resource, the "big daddy of them all, the nerve center." Good call, boys.
SOS Travels to the Heartland...

... for an up-close look at how they write about university sports in the center of the fiasco.

Receivers' Suspensions a Blow to Depth [Why've they been suspended? Oh, same old shit... Doesn't matter... What matters is the blow to our depth...]

With Douglas, Bowman out, Hawks' receiving options few

By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The receiver position on the Iowa football roster morphed from an area of concern to a source of strength for the Hawkeyes during the second half of 2006, and the excitement generated with that growth carried through the first two weeks of preseason camp. [Starts on an up note. Will also end on one. Actually, the last note will be not just up, but inspirational, intended to swerve our attention from the latest, er, unpleasantness...]

Sure, Iowa had a few causes for concern leading up to the last two weeks of preparation for the Sept. 1 season opener against Northern Illinois. But there were seemingly few questions regarding the receiver position, perhaps other than how the Hawkeyes would utilize so many young and talented players. [Not terrible writing -- and SOS likes that cozy Sure to begin the paragraph -- but note the weasel words: seemingly, perhaps. And note his use of the very ugly utilize. Always use use when tempted to use utilize. And given the charming casualness of tone he's got, a word like regarding clashes.]

Until Monday.

That's when Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz announced the indefinite suspension of sophomore receivers Dominique Douglas and Anthony Bowman after both players were arrested for unauthorized use of a credit card stemming from a May 8 incident when the Detroit natives allegedly racked up more than $2,000 in charges on two cards belonging to two separate victims, according to Johnson County District Court records. [Kind of reads like a run-on sentence; too many clauses. But it's okay.]

"The accusations are serious and, if proven to be true, are extremely disappointing for everyone associated with the University of Iowa and our football program," Ferentz said in a university-released statement. "As always, we will work with the appropriate individuals and entities on and off campus as this matter works its way through the legal system.

"As is often the case in matters of this nature, I am aware of inconsistencies in what may or may not have taken place. We need to let the legal process run its course."

[The writer simply quotes the coach - who, like most bigtime university coaches, is probably reading from very yellowed notes here - and then goes back to his anxious concern about depth.]

In the meantime, the Hawkeyes are left assessing who they have left [Repetition of left is a little clunky.] and which players slide into the roles previously held by Bowman and Douglas, Iowa's leading receiver last season.

Without Douglas and Bowman, the Hawkeyes have just two wide receivers on their roster who have caught passes at Iowa -- Brodell (45) and sophomore Trey Stross (13).

Stross sat out Saturday's scrimmage with leg soreness, although Ferentz said he expected Stross to return to practice early this week. Freshman Paul Chaney also spent time on the sidelines Saturday with a foot injury.

That left a lot of repetitions for redshirt freshmen James Cleveland and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and true freshman Colin Sandeman.

"(The receivers) had really good practices -- about as good as I've ever had in any camp that I've ever had since I've been here," junior starter Brodell said Saturday. "We all seem to be making plays. ...We all have the potential and we all have the ability, but it's production over potential, and whoever makes the most plays on a consistent level is going to play."

Douglas had already proven to be a consistent performer. He broke Iowa freshman receiving records for catches (49) and receiving yards (654) last year when he ranked first in the country among freshmen in those categories.

Bowman played sparingly last season as a true freshman. He returned four kickoffs for 76 yard but did not catch a pass.

Both players participated Saturday when the Hawkeyes scrimmaged at Kinnick Stadium and Douglas was one of 10 players made available to the media afterward. [This is all perfectly competent sports writing. And it moves the reader's attention swiftly from the routine, uninteresting business of criminality on the team -- these two aren't the only Iowa players in trouble with the law at the moment -- to what the guy's readers really care about: Whether they can win the next game.]

Douglas started the final 11 games of 2006 for the Hawkeyes and seemed to work his way back into good graces with the team after being demoted to working with the reserves late in the spring when he was dealing with academic issues. [Academic issues is a pleasant euphemism. The graduation rate for Iowa football players is appalling. But let's not go there.]

"I messed up in school my first semester and I learned from it," Douglas said Saturday. "I'll never put myself in another position like that because I hurt myself and I hurt the team also. I'm not a selfish person and I want to get my education, that's first things first."

When asked if he was fearful of having football taken away, Douglas said: "Definitely because you love football."

Douglas said two weeks ago at Iowa's annual media day gathering that he felt he learned a lesson from having to get his academics in order.

"I feel like I've grown as human being and as a football player," he said. [Note the power of ending this piece on this resounding cliche. From the start, the article has shifted our attention from the newsworthy, scandalous aspects of this typical bigtime American football team to parochial questions of field strategy. And to make sure we forget why the team's up shit's creek, the reporter will end with this utterly false assurance from one of the players that all is well.]


Monday, August 20, 2007

When Worlds Collide

British taxpayers have taken a look at some of the university courses they're subsidizing (Horse Psychology is one), and they're not happy:

...[T]he Taxpayers' Alliance highlighted 401 [non-academic] courses starting this autumn in the UK, which it said cost £40m a year to run.

... [Defenders of the courses] said [they] were over-subscribed and graduates much in demand.

The TaxPayers' Alliance report said the courses "lend the respectability of scholarly qualifications to non-academic subjects."

The training they offered would be better learned on the job, it suggested.

The report had a "top five" of target courses:

Outdoor adventure with philosophy, at Marjon, the College of St Mark and St John in Plymouth

Science: fiction and culture, at the University of Glamorgan [UD doesn't quite get this one. Do they mean science fiction and culture?]

Equestrian psychology, at the Welsh College of Horticulture in Mold, Flintshire

Fashion buying, at Manchester Metropolitan University

Golf management, at UHI Millennium Institute, based in Inverness.

Author Peter Cuthbertson said: "Political priorities have led to a never-ending drive to increase the number of students in university.

"As a result, there has been a massive expansion of 'non-degrees' of little or no academic merit.

"The government has failed in its pledge to abolish 'Mickey Mouse' degrees.

"If 'non-courses' were abolished, all the other students could save over £100 on their tuition fees or buy an extra pint of beer a week."

Two worlds are in collision here, one the old-fashioned taxpayers, still operating with concepts like "academic merit" and "scholarly qualifications," and the other the new managerial administrators, who've pretty much tossed out things like philosophy and literature in their zeal to respond to market demands. ... I mean, if you ask people what they want to study, they'll say golf management or casino studies every time...

Here in the US, where taxpayers bear much less of the cost of higher education, you rarely hear a peep about this. If a private college wants to offer courses in surfing or catering, that's considered its own business. And of course America, unlike England, never had much time for intellectuality for its own sake.
"Every school's a party school."

'...West Virginia University is No. 1 on The Princeton Review's annual list of the top 20 party schools.

The school has made the list seven times in the past 15 years, despite efforts to curb underage drinking and rowdy behavior.

But not since 1997 have the Mountaineers taken the top spot. Last year, WVU was No. 3, bested by the University of Texas at Austin and Penn State, both of which remain in the top 10 this year.

Senior Katie O'Hara, 22, said WVU is No. 1 because "no matter what kind of party you want it's here—bars, fraternities, house parties. ... If you want to take shots all night, there's a bar; no matter what you want to do, it's there."

Still, O'Hara said her friends "know how to manage their time. They know when to party and when not to," which wouldn't explain the school's No. 1 ranking in the category of Their Students (Almost) Never Study.

The rankings are contained in the 2008 edition of "The Best 366 Colleges," which is going on sale Tuesday and is based on a survey of 120,000 college students at those schools, mostly during the 2006-07 school year.

No. 2 on the party list was the University of Mississippi, followed by the UT-Austin, the University of Florida and the University of Georgia.

West Virginia's No. 1 ranking is just speculation, said West Virginia sophomore Stuart Sauer.

"I think there's no way to measure that," said Sauer, 20, of Richmond, Va. "Every school's a party school."

... At the other end of the partying spectrum is Brigham Young University, claiming the top spot in the "Stone Cold Sober" category for the 10th straight year.

The book has 62 categories in all, including: Best Campus Food, Virginia Tech; Most Beautiful Campus, Sweet Briar (Va.); Dorms Like Palaces, Smith College (Mass.); and Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians, Hampshire College (Mass).

This year, WVU finishes among the Top 10 in several other categories: No. 4 in Students Pack the Stadiums; No. 5 for Best College Library; No. 6 for Lots of Beer; No. 7 for Lots of Hard Liquor; and No. 8 for Best College Newspaper.'

--san jose mercury news--
Phi Beta Cons...

...the National Review website about universities, takes note of UD today, describing her blogging as having "a nice, unvarnished** quality," and then quoting her IHE branch campus on the Dynes resignation/firing at the University of California.


**un·var·nished /ʌnˈvɑrnɪʃt/

Pronunciation [uhn-vahr-nisht]


1. plain; clear; straightforward; without vagueness or subterfuge; frank: the unvarnished truth.

2. unfinished, as floors or furniture; not coated with or as if with varnish.

[Origin: 1595–1605; un-1 + varnish + -ed3, -ed2]

—Synonyms 1. bare, naked, candid, direct.


Not coated with varnish: unvarnished floors.

Stated or otherwise presented without any effort to soften or disguise; plain: the unvarnished truth.


1604, of statements, "not embellished," from un- (1) "not" + pp. of varnish (v.).

Lit. sense of "not covered in varnish" is recorded from 1758.


1. not having a coating of stain or varnish [syn: unstained]
2. free from any effort to soften to disguise; "the plain and unvarnished truth"; "the unvarnished candor of old people and children" [syn: plain]
Results, Slate Bad Poetry Contest
The James Joyce Underground

'Q. In the subway corridor under Bryant Park on 42nd Street, there is a huge artwork with a strange quotation by James Joyce: "Telmetale of stem or stone. Beside the rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters of. Night!" Can you make sense of it?

A. Samm Kunce, the environmental artist who created the 2002 glass, stone and marble mosaic, "Under Bryant Park," obliged. The line, she said, is from "Finnegans Wake." She suggests pronouncing the first word "Tell me tale" with an Irish accent.

Like quotations from Jung and Ovid that are also in the artwork, Joyce's words deal with nature, water and stone. "For me it talks about music," Ms. Kunce said of the Joyce quotation. "It talks about the sound the water makes in the night, how you might hear the brook babbling over stone, how the leaves may rustle in the night." Joyce, she said, "cared so much about capturing the musicality of language in his native Irish."

The Bryant Park station is used by many commuters, and she didn't want people to grow tired of something too simple. "I wanted it to have a long life for them," she said.'

---new york times---
The Styrofoam Cup Defense

'As the trial for former Texas State University [How much trouble is a university in when the Houston Chronicle gets its name wrong in the first sentence? Long, long ago, the place was called Texas State... The Chronicle reporter needs to update his files... UPDATE: And UD needs to get corrective lenses. Andre Mayer, a reader, points out that the writer says "former Texas State University." My bad. Though it seems a strange choice to start your piece about the place by using an obsolete name for it... UPDATE UPDATE: Another reader, TAFKAU, points out that former seems to refer not to the school but to the school's president... And that therefore UD is at least correct that the formulation's messy... Anyway, TAFKAU notes that the reporter has now rewritten the sentence.] President Priscilla Slade starts this week, observers expect a fight that is more contentious than the paper-heavy trial of her chief financial officer who was convicted of criminal financial mismanagement as part of the same investigation. [that is... who was... Especially in concise newspaper writing, you want to avoid these draggy to be verb formulations. Notice how the sentence reads if you simply take them out: "...a fight more contentious than the paper-heavy trial of her chief financial officer, convicted of criminal financial mismanagement..." See? Just drop them.]

And while prosecutors are expected to bring in alleged bad acts like wrongful termination of TSU employees and minor legal infractions if Slade is convicted, university supporters hope the public can separate the allegations against her from the troubled institution. [For background to this story, go here. ]

Slade, 55, is charged with two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property over $200,000. If convicted, she faces five to 99 years or life in prison for the first-degree felonies. She could also receive probation.

Slade was fired in June 2006 after a TSU investigation concluded she had failed to follow university policies and state laws while spending more than $260,000. A criminal investigation concluded that more than $1.9 million was spent during her tenure on such purchases as home furniture, artwork, club memberships, spa treatments and tickets for sporting events.

Slade's attorney, Mike DeGeurin, said other university presidents, like Slade, buy fine furniture and accessories, like crystal stemware, to entertain donors at home. He framed the expenses as reasonable and necessary to turn TSU into a "first-class university."

"Dr. Slade ordered crystal and china for Texas Southern University so that when people came to visit, they weren't drinking out of Styrofoam cups," DeGeurin said. [These being the only alternatives.] "The complaint reflects, to me, that where other universities can have nice things, TSU should not have that nice of stuff." [She's hired herself quite the eloquent advocate.]

DeGeurin said Slade was working to improve TSU, and would have shepherded the university through its current troubles.

"What TSU needs right now is someone like Dr. Slade," DeGeurin said. [TSU has endured enough thieves. It's time for it to look for administrative officers who don't steal. But so far no competent and ethical people want to work at a place that has fallen to pieces.]

He said no crime had been committed, and he isn't worried about prosecutors proving a crime.

Assistant District Attorney Julian Ramirez noted that one jury has already found that a crime was committed.

In May, Slade's former CFO, Quintin Wiggins, was convicted of the same crime and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He is appealing that conviction.

With Slade, both sides began gearing up for a bitter battle months ago.

During the monthlong Wiggins trial, prosecutors kept a fraud investigator in the courtroom and DeGeurin had a staff attorney observe the entire trial. In pretrial hearings, both sides have staked out their positions and say the gloves have come off.

Assistant District Attorney Donna Goode said the two indictments relate to about $523,000 worth of purchases that benefited Slade. Wiggins, on the other hand, was part of her plan and received little benefit, Goode said.

"The stakes are higher," Goode said. "We're now trying the alleged principal of the crime."

If Slade is convicted, prosecutors have filed a notice of "past bad acts" they will work to prove up to bolster the jury's outrage. Because of a motion that limits what they can say about these acts, neither side would discuss alleged wrongful firings of TSU employees and legal infractions.

In Slade's wake, the spending scandal left the state's largest historically black university in turmoil. Shortly after firing Slade, regents eliminated 178 jobs, or 16 percent of the workforce, in an attempt to contain costs while enrollment continued to slide.

Gov. Rick Perry later asked the regents to make "tough decisions" to turn the university around. But the board failed to offer the specific proposals necessary to correct the financial situation, prompting Perry to pressure the regents into resigning en masse in May.

The new regents are now working on a reorganization plan that should soon be forwarded to the governor and state lawmakers. The board also is making plans to replace interim President J. Timothy Boddie Jr. with another temporary leader after recently extending the search for a new president.

Enrollment, meanwhile, is expected to be down as much as 15 percent when classes resume Aug. 27, officials said.

Legislators who have supported TSU historically said they hoped the public would be able to separate the university from the scandal.

"I don't want the school to be penalized for mistakes some have made," said state Sen. Rodney Ellis. He said he hopes the public will be able to draw a distinction between the university and the crimes alleged to have been perpetrated.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman said the public hasn't learned to separate TSU from Slade.

"Priscilla Slade has done a disservice to TSU," Coleman said. "She abused the public trust, harmed the students and harmed the school."'


Sunday, August 19, 2007


'The partner of Denice Denton claims she was mistakenly left out of the late UC Santa Cruz chancellor's will and is suing Denton's estate for $2.25 million.

Denton, who died June 24, 2006, after jumping from a San Francisco high-rise where her former partner Gretchen Kalonji lived, left her estate to her three siblings. She was 46.

Kalonji, her partner of more than 10 years, filed suit in Santa Cruz County Superior Court in June after her attempts to negotiate with Denton's family for a portion of the estate - which includes at least two homes, a six-figure life insurance policy and more than $700,000 in other assets - faltered.

"This really kicks sand in the face of her mother and her siblings," said James Farrar, a Watsonville attorney representing Denton's mother, Carolyn Mabee, who is also the executor of her daughter's estate. "This is tragic. She died a tragic death and then this woman files a lawsuit."

The lawsuit alleges Kalonji and Denton were in a long-term monogamous relationship and had a verbal agreement to provide support, companionship, care and domestic service to each other. Should something happen to one of them, the other would be taken care of and provided for, according to the suit.

"It's just a bunch of lies, that's all it is," Mabee said on the phone from her home in Houston before hanging up.

Kalonji's attorney, Charles Wolff, said it was a mistake or oversight that Denton's will doesn't mention her life partner.

"Like any other couple, they had agreements and arrangements," said Wolff, who practices in San Francisco.

For example, he said, Denton had told Kalonji she would name her as the beneficiary of her UC life insurance policy.

UC officials declined Friday to comment on what Denton's benefits were and how they were dispersed, but according to Farrar, Denton didn't leave the insurance money to anyone and the policy has been split between Mabee and Denton's estranged father in accordance with UC protocol.

Kalonji also was left out of Denton's will, which was certified in July 1985 - nine years before the women started dating in Seattle.

"She didn't make any changes to that. She had plenty of time to do it," said Farrar, who questioned the couple's status at the time of Denton's suicide.

Wolff declined to comment on why Denton's will wasn't updated ...'

---san jose mercury news---

You don’t have to write an essay, submit letters of recommendation, or take tough exams. There are no deadlines, worries, or pressure. Just fill out a simple form and we’ll get things going. Then you’ll...'

This language appears at the top of Florida Metropolitan University's online Admission page. What you'll need for admission to this vocational school is money plus a pulse.

What do you suppose the graduation rate of such a place is?

And what is the school going to do about that?

It's going to call in a cadre of expensive coaches. FMU's a client of InsideTrack, a firm described in this San Francisco Chronicle piece:

Some freshmen will find more than roommates, textbooks and course catalogues waiting for them at college this fall.

They'll also find a personal coach.

A 7-year-old San Francisco firm called InsideTrack has carved out a flourishing business providing executive-style coaching to college students throughout the country.

Created by the founders of SCORE Educational Centers, InsideTrack has coached more than 75,000 students at campuses including Northeastern University in Boston, Chapman University in Southern California and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Its 130 coaches hold weekly sessions by phone or in person with their student clients. They offer encouragement when things seem tough; they help students manage their time and set priorities; they let them know about campus resources or share tips about how to approach a professor for help.

The company's revenue shot up from $7.9 million in 2005-06 to $12 million in 2006-07, a big enough jump to land it in Inc. magazine's forthcoming annual list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in America.

"We provide guidance, structure, positive reinforcement, accountability," said CEO Alan Tripp, who together with Kai Drekmeier founded both SCORE and InsideTrack. "Some people say college is a time to see if you can work by yourself without guidance. At InsideTrack, we don't see it that way. Most people benefit greatly from structure and positive reinforcement. But you get much more guidance and reinforcement (as a manager) at a company like General Electric than the average 18-year-old entering college."

InsideTrack has found an unusual niche. Although there are countless SAT tutors, private guidance counselors and other businesses aimed at helping kids get into college, there are relatively few for-profit enterprises geared to helping students once they are in college.

The company markets its services not to individual students and their families, but to college administrators who are looking for ways to increase the number of freshmen who ultimately graduate. [Get it? The firm specializes in schools whose low graduation rates threaten government grants, income flow, and ultimately the very existence of the institutions. They're desperate to retain the many hopelessly college-unready among their students ... UD wonders just how the system works, you know? What do you suppose some of those coaches actually do for these students? All the incentives are in the direction of the coaches keeping the students in school, passing classes... If the coaches don't do this, they don't get paid; they lose their client... What are the coaches doing to get these people through?]

It's an area where many schools could use help. Only 57 percent of students at four-year colleges manage to graduate within six years, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

"The graduation figures haven't changed over time, but universities are paying a lot more attention to this because the federal and state governments are starting to tie funding into retention," said Alan Seidman, director of the Center for the Study of College Student Retention in New Hampshire.

Many students who fail to graduate drop out during or soon after their first year of college - the time period that InsideTrack has targeted for coaching.

Tripp said he came up with the idea by combining the positive reinforcement practices he'd seen at SCORE with the techniques of executive coaching.

The company typically charges colleges a fee of $800 to $1,400 per student for coaching. [Keep this sort of thing in mind the next time you wonder why college is so expensive.]

Some schools have turned to InsideTrack for help with populations of working-class students who struggle to balance jobs and classes, and who are sometimes unprepared for the academic demands and cultural expectations of college.

"I worked with a single mother who, the first time I called her, was at the Boston Public Library trying to find scholarships," said Meaghan Joyce, InsideTrack's director for Northeastern University.

"She had no idea how to start. She had no idea how she would be paying for school. She had significant fears about going back to school based on her high school experience. Writing was a real fear for her, since she'd never really been taught it before."

Joyce helped connect the student with a financial aid adviser at the university. She also put her in touch with its writing center.

She encouraged her to take a required writing class during her first semester, when Joyce would be available for coaching support, rather than put it off until later. She helped her set weekly goals for completing course work and term papers.

That student completed her courses and re-enrolled for a second year.

"Probably the biggest take-away for her was having that time (during coaching sessions) to reflect on what needed to happen that week," Joyce said. [Notice that what Joyce is doing to earn her money is exactly what the on-campus student assistance office is supposed to be doing. Why the duplication?]

Some other schools have used InsideTrack to work with students taking online courses. The Academy of Art University started using InsideTrack for online students this summer and recently expanded its scope to regular students.

Jourdain McClure, 26, is a systems administrator in Roseville, near Sacramento, who was given a coach when he started taking online filmmaking classes at the Academy of Art.

"If you're not a self-disciplined person, online learning is probably the worst thing for you since you don't have to log in, and it's really easy not to," McClure said. [Uh, so why not take a real-time class instead? And notice what this guy needs coaching for -- an online course in filmmaking... You don't even need to show up... You can access the course material whenever you feel like it... Does the coach stand next to him and press McClure's finger down on the ENTER key?]

"That's where InsideTrack comes in. You have a success coach who's like an angel at your side, to support you and listen to you. I'm online - I don't see students. I don't physically have teachers. But no matter what, I can tell my coach how things are going. I'm very confident I'm not alone."

Some observers question whether InsideTrack's function could be filled less expensively by existing on-campus services such as counseling centers or academic advisers.

"There are many ways of going about these things," said Seidman, who was not familiar with the details of InsideTrack's program. "If I were the director of a (campus) counseling center, I'd say, 'Hey, we're here, we want students to take advantage of us. Maybe we need to get out a little more.' "

However, administrators at Chapman University in Orange County say their spending on InsideTrack has been clearly worthwhile.

Chapman started using InsideTrack in a pilot program in 2002. The college provided coaching to 120 freshmen, and identified a similar control group that did not receive coaching. More of the coached students made the dean's list and returned for their sophomore year; fewer of the coached students landed on academic probation or withdrew from a course. [Chapman needs to look more closely at precisely the sorts of assistance the coached students received. Only it's so not going to do that. That'd be like asking Auburn to look into the details of its football players' coursework...]

"On every metric we identified - credits, grade point average and so on - the pilot group with coaching did better," said Saskia Knight, vice chancellor for enrollment management. "We feel the results are well worth the commitment."...
So Long, Suckers

'Last year, I came to teach at the University of Florida from a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. At the time, I imagined that the Gator Nation would be rich in academic resources. Maybe I was in the wrong corner of this massive institution, but I found the classes were bulging and the faculty so caught up with snagging grants to keep their departments financially afloat that I heard nary a word from any administrators about students or the joys of teaching.

I am headed back to the tundra, but looking in the rear-view mirror I must have been extremely naive to think that unparalleled sports success would translate into economically healthy academics.

This year the University of Florida Athletic Association enjoyed a cash flow of about $81-million. Given these numbers and the storied three national championships, you would expect scholars at the University of Florida to be sitting pretty in their wainscoted studies; sitting pretty and thinking with gratitude about their football and basketball teams. Not exactly.

Applications are up, and the school has a strong academic reputation, but it's at risk. In a piece of news that cuts both ways, Newsweek has just named the University of Florida as the hottest college for sports fans, a small sign of what's going on in Gainesville.

The Gator Nation is like a Third World country with the sports in clover and their academic programs in the weeds. Almost doubling their salaries of last year, the big three - Urban Meyer (football coach) Billy Donovan (basketball coach) and Jeremy Foley (athletic director) - will together average earnings of $7.75-million per year. According to the Gainesville Sun, assistant football coaches received almost a half-million dollars in raises.

There is more to life than money, but it is worth noting that while a full professor in the humanities may be in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, the coach for Gator tight ends takes down $140,000 a year, the offensive and defensive coordinators, $290,000. Adjunct faculty might make a measly $4,000 per course.

The athletic association has already raised $20-million toward the projected $28-million bill for cosmetic changes and renovations of the Griffin stadium complex, including the building of a Gator Hall of Fame, office renovations for coaches, improved weight lifting facilities, etc.

At the same time, it may as well be 1929 for the academic programs. Because of budget shortfalls, president Bernie Machen has instituted hiring and salary freezes at the university. As a result of the crunch, classes are packed and fewer courses are offered. This is especially troubling since because of the sun and sports and the free tuition of Bright Futures scholarships, the university attracts students with real intellectual muscle. The average Gator freshman had a 3.99 GPA in high school. And the average SAT scores were above 1,300.

You can tell a lot about a person by what makes them blush. The same holds for institutions. A football booster recently groaned that it was embarrassing to have to meet recruits in the air-conditioned tent that they have been using. (Now, of course, a new meeting room is under construction.)

Last year, money was so tight where I taught, the Department of Tourism and Sport Management, that faculty members were asked to pay for their own meals when attending a luncheon with a job candidate.

However, the so-called Bull Gators are unabashed by the fact that among state-supported institutions, the University of Florida has the second worst professor-to-student ratio. Nor do the football fundamentalists seem overly troubled by the budget cuts that have sliced some department operating budgets to zero.

You could argue that we have our priorities wrong, with bread and circuses first and books much later. Indeed, this summer a proposal was floated to try to entice UF students to take more classes. The proposed bait was nothing other than enhanced prospects for snagging gridiron tickets.

Sports in the Sunshine State are, of course, a secular religion. Superficial as it might be, the Gator guff binds together people who might not have any other ties in common. All of which is to acknowledge that there is a sense in which carping about certain practices and salaries belies a failure to grasp the sacral significance of the Gator playing fields.

Rather than act as though they exist in some other realm from the university that they represent, the men who walk the sideline and court could show some solidarity and concern for the people who work the front of a classroom. When academic programs are in financial trouble, they should blow the whistle that hangs around their necks and ask everyone to pitch in and help.

Coaches in the multimillionaire circle have always prided themselves on being teachers, and as such they might insist on refusing raises so long as the salaries of their fellow teachers remain on hold. They might want to think about coaching their faithfully fervent boosters to direct their fundraising efforts to resolving the financial crisis at the university. Sure, president Machen announced last week that the athletic association will be contributing $6-million toward scholarships for low-income students, but boosters could do much more, especially in the current crisis.

This might mean that the coaches will have to forgo their promised office renovations this year, but these are rugged guys and they could live with that. What they should not be able to live with is the fact that if the current trend continues they will soon be representing a third-rate academic institution. After all, the universities of Texas, California, Wisconsin and Michigan certainly attest that you can appear in bowl games without falling to the bottom of the academic barrel.'

---gordon marino---
Thanks to Nathan Tublitz and to the Editor of...

... William C. Dowling's recent book, Confessions of a Spoilsport, UD now has a couple of hot new sources on the subject of professor/bigtime campus sports incompatibility to consider.

Dowling's editor wrote to UD a few months ago and told her that her blog's healthy readership helped convince his press that Dowling's book would have an audience; he then sent UD a copy of the book when it came out.

Professor Tublitz is one of the strongest bigtime sports dissenters at the University of Oregon; he just forwarded UD an intriguing essay by one of his colleagues.

Loyal readers will recall that UD herself, in a column at Inside Higher Education last year, considered why professors and university sports machines don't mesh. Some of what she said there is echoed in Dowling's book and in the piece by Jim Earl that Tublitz sent; but while clownish UD played a lot of this material for laughs, these other guys are real serious...

By the way, all three of us -- Soltan, Earl, and Dowling -- are English professors... Don't know what to make of that... Anyway, let's take a look at what these guys say.

Dowling has this Nietzschean take on the campus culture of bigtime sports boosterism, on the emergence of student Yahoos (he's a Swift scholar) whose distinctive characteristic -- in direct opposition to the founding ethos of the university -- is "a simple refusal of the gift of rational consciousness."

He says, citing Nietzsche's term, that they suffer from ressentiment:

[They have] an inferiority complex that is compelled to seek revenge in symbolic terms. [They are] denied any real outlet in action becuse of the perceived power or social superiority of their opponent. That's why they're driven to compensate for their weakness with an imaginary revenge. In the case of booster ressentiment, that revenge is an attempt to exert symbolic ownership of the university through Div 1A sports. This is one major reason why boosters are so eager to commercialize universities through professionalized athletics. The more the campus is plastered with logos saying "Always Rutgers, Always Coke!" the less it will seem like an alien citadel of ideas and higher culture. The more often a university faculty member can be persuaded to lead fans in chanting advertising slogans, the less one has to feel intellectually inferior to professors as a remote and cerebral caste. The sooner the university resembles a shopping mall - with "customers" instead of students and "consumer preferences" instead of course requirements and a coherent curriculum - the more rapidly the boosters' ever-present fear that someone, somewhere, is trying to live life on a higher level than that of Monday Night Football and satellite pornography can be assuaged.

Again, Dowling writes a few pages later:

At Div 1A universities, the oppression is felt to be the university itself, with its ancient associations with a "higher" culture of knowledge and ideas, and, on the individual level, its demands for reading and analytic thinking.

Dowling's book is a tight and intelligent narration of heroic efforts on the part of Rutgers students and faculty to fight off the brain damage of bigtime sports, but his theory of underlying Yahoo-motivation isn't very convincing. It assumes an awareness of professors as such; it assumes a vague grasp of the nature of universities. Neither of these things seems to UD likely to be present in many of these students, so resentment -- or any other emotion in regard to them -- cannot develop.

His theory flatters professors, founded as it is on an assurance that we're envied for our higher-level existence; but no American walks into UD's book-lined house and says "I resent the fact that my walls only have flat-screen tv's on them while your walls have books. You must be living a more valuable life than I. Fuck you. I will now torch your shelves."

No, UD's visitors look around for the tvs, and, not finding them, smile at her with frightened eyes and get the hell out of there. They're spooked, man! You should see them scoot! "G-gotta go feed the meter..." "There aren't any meters in Garrett Park." "G-gotta go...uh..."

Jim Earl has a more down to earth take on the matter in his essay in the Eugene Weekly. Here's some of what he says:

Most intellectuals have relatively highbrow tastes. They wouldn't make a great booster club. They don't especially like crowds, they don't like uniforms, they don't like to paint their faces or do the wave. Most professors don't look very good on a dance floor. As a group, we're pretty repressed. [Sounds about right, and UD says something very similar in IHE. Keep in mind, though, that he's conflating professors and intellectuals. Only a few professors are intellectuals.]

It's one of our shortcomings. We live in a culture where it's a little embarrassing already just to admit you're an intellectual.

Earl recalls getting annoyed while talking to a coach at his school:

... I'd just heard Bill Moos say one too many times how football teaches the kids about life. God, I'm tired of that argument: Football belongs in higher ed because it teaches students about life? That's so empty a thought that it's hard to refute politely. To be polite I usually respond (it's pitiful, I know) with statistics from Bowen and Shulman's Game of Life that show that the kids actually learn no such thing from football. We happen to know (from a book, naturally) that most players don't have particularly great track records in the business and professional worlds after college, for all their storied leadership skills, team playing, discipline and motivation — though they do a lot of coaching of kids' sports on the side, which is nice. I'm not criticizing the players; I just don't want to hear the AD tell me how much they're learning in the locker room or on the field. Not everything is educational. Some things are just for fun, for entertainment, and football might just be one of them.

...What bothers me, really, is what football is teaching the kids about life. Take a bunch of high school kids, many of them from tough backgrounds, and just shower them with luxuries like private jets and air-conditioned lockers with Xboxes. Fulfilling their crudest teen fantasies is teaching them something?

Too true. Earl now proceeds to show greater discernment than Dowling:

...I saw in an instant that in the world most men inhabit, my beliefs in the natural superiority of understanding over force and of cooperation and compromise over competition are naïve and idiotic. I might as well have said that the unexamined life isn't worth living or that money and celebrity aren't the highest goals of a wise man. What freakin' universe do I inhabit, anyway?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Petee in Exile

An Alabama newspaper columnist brings us up to date on the Thomas Petee saga. Background here.

'Montgomery is nothing like Siberia.

But it might feel that way if you're Thomas Petee.

Officially, Montgomery is where you'll find the former chairman of Auburn University's sociology department these days.

Last summer, Petee was accused of handing out high grades to students in independent "directed reading" courses that required little work and no attendance.

Because athletes were found clustered in these classes, some suspected that the sociology department was actively working to keep players eligible.

An investigation conducted by Auburn faculty decided there was no favoritism by the sociology department toward athletes, and [though] the faculty inquiry dismissal committee agreed Petee should step down as chairman of the school, they didn't think he should lose his position as a tenured professor.

That didn't satisfy former Auburn President Ed Richardson, who made the decision to disregard the faculty committee recommendation and go ahead with dismissal proceedings against Petee.

Petee countered by suing Auburn.

Last month, after Richardson stepped down as Auburn president, the school reached a settlement with Petee. In exchange for dropping his lawsuit, the school agreed to allow Petee to retain all-important tenure status, his salary of approximately $90,000 a year, and all the back pay that had been withheld since May.

However, Petee will not teach, but instead serve as a "consultant" to Auburn's extension campus in Montgomery.

Petee would not comment on the settlement. His attorney, Davis B. Whittelsey of Opelika, said Petee is "going to be maintaining an office at the main campus. However, technically, he is an employee of Auburn-Montgomery, in a consulting capacity. He will work to obtain grants and do research. He will not maintain a capacity as professor, although he is tenured."

In other words, Petee becomes professor in exile, paid to disappear.

"Let me just say that it was resolved in the mutual best interest of both parties," Whittelsey said.

While Auburn's investigation decided the substantial benefit received by athletes was purely accidental, it is hard to believe the "mutual best interest" didn't include what was in the best interest of the football team. After all, despite Richardson's effort to change the image of Auburn as a school run by athletics, others familiar with the inner-working of the school continue to say that the football program is considered in every major decision at Auburn - as it is in most big-time football-playing schools.

What kind of details might have come out in a lawsuit? Would a lack of oversight of the sociology and criminology departments have painted a picture of a much cozier relationship with the athletic department than Auburn administrators wanted to admit?

Is it coincidence that the settlement with Petee did not come until Richardson was out of power? And is this a sign that, with Richardson having done his job in restoring Auburn's accreditation, the school will revert back [Revert back is redundant. Just write revert.] to the old ways Richardson worked so hard to clean up?

Keeping someone on the payroll while no longer expecting that person to do his job ... does that sound familiar?

Petee keeps his benefits, but is exiled to Montgomery.

At least it's not cold.'

Auburn really is run like a criminal enterprise. You can't rid yourself of Petee because he knows too much. So you feed him $90,000 a year forever in exchange for his doing nothing, just to shut him up.

Mr. Ingarao (scroll down a few posts) would understand.

Friday, August 17, 2007

UD Has Designated,
Over the Years...

...very few heroes, people and groups this blog considers notably brave and determined in confronting the ills of university life. She's now prepared to name the faculty at the University of Oregon (not all of it, of course, but a good chunk of it) as heroic, as one after another they take to the pages of the Register-Guard to attack the grotesque sports culture on their campus.

Here's the latest of them, a research associate at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, who notes an upcoming excellent football adventure:

'The University of Oregon football team's plans to play its 2009 opening game in China were announced with front page headlines in the Aug. 7 Register-Guard. The proposed Beijing or Shanghai game against Boise State includes flying the marching band and cheerleaders, as well as sports marketing professors and administrators, to China. Everyone could feast on Peking duck as they talked up the UO and Nike brands.

This scheme is just one more danger signal of the growing chasm between massive funding for UO sports vs. bare bones for academics.

Athletic director Pat Kilkenny did not mention costs, but $4 million is a conservative estimate. Flying 400 Ducks to China for one week at $5,000 a head comes to $2 million for transit and lodging.

According to UO Web site figures, that would include 62 football players, 13 coaches, 240 members of the marching band, seven band staff members, 38 cheerleaders, six cheerleading coaches and 34 sports marketing professors and staff.

No one in China plays football. Converting a Chinese soccer field into a football field then back again would be expensive. Other expenses include interpreters, guides, visas and new passports for students. Boise State, or any other opponent, would require the UO to pick up its costs. So the total easily doubles to $4 million.

Now, look at UO spending on academics.

The average UO undergraduate works part time 20 hours a week, but graduates $20,000 in debt. Each year, a dozen UO students fly to Beijing for a year's study, which costs at least $20,000 apiece (out-of-state tuition is $27,000). Regular financial aid and loans apply. But no UO funds exist for dedicated Asia scholarships.

Kilkenny plans to give 12 full scholarships for competitive cheerleading. If the UO created even one Asian Studies scholarship, we'd celebrate.

Another perspective on the imbalance: The budget for the entire UO Chinese Studies program is $2.7 million per year. That includes everything: the world class art museum and library collections, the 16 professors specializing in Chinese subjects ranging from political science to art history, and the Chinese half of the department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, with its lecturers and teaching assistants.

The East Asian Languages department pays among the lowest faculty salaries on campus, yet manages to educate 100 undergraduate majors, 40 graduate students and hundreds of nonmajor students in Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

The Center for Asian and Pacific Studies coordinates classes and research for 47 affiliated faculty; hosts scholars from Asia; and sponsors community lectures, films and exhibits. Last March, a sewer main exploded under the center's office. Soaked in filth, the office had to close for a month. Carpets were not replaced until July - one more casualty of the Oregon University System's backlog of deferred maintenance.

A sewer explosion in Autzen Stadium would be cleaned up immediately.

Something else smells when students and professors, including the University Athletic Committee, get their first news about flying 400 Ducks to China from The Register-Guard, rather than from campus discussion. The August press release, when classes are out, looks suspicious.

If UO athletics paid a 10 percent tax toward education, 40 Asian Studies students could fly to Asia. That would make international news. So would funding travel for 40 students from any major who had taken a China-related class. Even four academic grants would be a bonanza. Other UO academic programs are even more starved.

Kilkenny said nothing about costs in relation to the football game in China. He vaguely mentioned "profits" and "donations."...'
Your Guides to
College Football

'Fox has found a whole new reason for viewers to avoid its NFL pregame show like the plague. It will have not one but two analysts who were among the most detestable coaches in college football.

... Fox announced earlier this week that ex-Oklahoma, ex-Dallas coach Barry Switzer will join ex-Oklahoma State, ex-University of Miami, ex-Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson in a "Coaches Corner" segment to discuss both the NFL and the BCS.

Their, um, debates will be refereed by Terry Bradshaw — who is to Fox's NFL coverage what Krusty the Clown is to "The Simpsons."

Fox is the home of the patently unfair Bowl Championship Series. Are we to expect impartial analysis from the network that's in bed with the BCS?

It is true that Johnson and Switzer know both the ins and outs of college football. Johnson won a national championship coaching Miami; Switzer won two coaching Oklahoma. Which is about as "in" as you can get.

But they both have more than a bit of experience on the "out" side of college football. Under Johnson, Miami was widely perceived as an outlaw program, with myriad off-field problems including a play-for-pay scandal.

Switzer was forced to resign from Oklahoma after he landed the program on probation. And his team had numerous off-field problems, up to and including rapes and shootings...'

---deseret morning news---
Coach Speaks

'... [Clemson coach Tommy] Bowden ... says all athletes eligible by NCAA standards should be admitted to Clemson.

“That’s what you’d like,” Bowden said. “They’re going to pay me all this money and put me in charge, then I’d like to make the decisions (about admissions).”

I’m not certain when coaches began to believe they had more power than a school president, or an admissions committee or any other segment of the academic community. In Bowden’s case, maybe it stems from watching his famous father — Florida State coach Bobby Bowden — become bigger than his athletics director or university president.

...His claim is that a commission of university presidents several years ago established minimum NCAA guidelines for prospective athletes to be admitted to school. Thus, he says, schools should abide by those minimum standards.

“They took the presidents and they spent years and invested millions of dollars and said, OK, if he gets an 820 (SAT score) and 2.5 (GPA), for the most part, he can succeed in college,” Bowden said. “Now, who are we to say, wait a minute, no, no, not this school they can’t (be admitted and succeed). That’s where I have a problem.”

The problem with Bowden’s logic is that nearly every request for a special admission to his program — and that of Spurrier’s at USC — has been granted over the past three years. More than 50 percent of both coaches’ past three recruiting classes were special admissions. Understand, a special admission is one who would not qualify under standard college admissions guidelines.

The handful of prospective athletes at USC and Clemson who were denied admission over the past two recruiting classes were extreme cases.

... Bowden ... said that there is natural friction between academics and athletics. He said animosity is created when athletes get into school as special admissions while prospective students with a 4.0 GPA and 1200 SAT score are denied admission. He said there exists jealousy over his million-dollar salary, while university professors seldom reach six figures.'
Inauspicious Start

UD sometimes wonders how the extra-professorial world reacts to the things academic insiders write to each other.

Here, for instance, is the first paragraph of the first column by a guy who's writing a series of pieces about tenure for the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Everyone on the tenure track should get tenure. I think so not because I'm either an academic socialist or a delusional optimist. Rather, I hold that if you have the brains, skills, guts, initiative, and self-awareness to survive a serious, accredited doctoral program at a research university (sorry, mail-order Ph.D.'s don't count) then you should be able to get tenure -- somewhere.

Tenure's already at least a puzzle and at most a scandal to many Americans. It's a secretive process ("[M]any faculty votes are secret -- and only revealed by a lawsuit," the columnist notes.) by which the overwhelming number of tenure-track assistant professors at American colleges and universities are granted lifetime guaranteed employment. From the point of view of many people outside of universities, tenure looks bizarre.

Maybe it is. Maybe people who argue for a radical revision of tenure, people like Richard Chait, are right.

Chait's been arguing for years that universities should retain tenure in some instances, but also introduce a wide range of other forms of contractual employment. This reasonable and well-grounded view has generated hysteria among academics, whose view, as Chait says, is give me tenure or give me death. Yet he points out that

In reality, about one-half of all American faculty members (when part-timers and adjuncts are included) do not have tenure, a fact that calls into question the unbreakable bond between academic freedom and tenure, and more than justifies efforts to find other ways to guarantee academic freedom for all members of the faculty. Ironically, under the current system, many junior faculty members feel that the quest for tenure and the perceived need to accommodate the preferences and prejudices of senior colleagues significantly limit their academic freedom.

Chait notes the irony of intellectuals who in other circumstances insist on rational argumentation suspending this insistence when the subject of tenure arises. He calls for "no unexamined assumptions, no unsubstantiated claims, and no blind allegiance to convention" as the academy considers the question of tenure.

...Which brings UD back to that opening paragraph in the Chronicle, a model of unexamined assumptions and unsubstantiated claims. Everyone on the tenure track should get tenure. Uh, why? Because if you've "survived" (the word tells you how excruciating graduate school is) a "serious" (whatever that means) and "accredited" (standards for school accreditation are so notoriously high) university you must be so smart and brave as never to have to worry about being fired.

Think of all the universities in the United States, tons of them with so-so, not very selective Ph.D. programs in shaky fields. Think of how seldom anyone fails their dissertation defense examination. The reality is that our schools produce many weak Ph.D.s, and that in many cases the granting of tenure for these people is the final link in a chain of automatic approvals. It's just that this one has permanent implications for the university that has hired them.

It's truly unhelpful for the Chronicle writer to launch his series on tenure with a blind assurance that all must have prizes.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mr. Ingarao

From "Aes Triplex" ---

And, after all, what sorry and pitiful quibbling all this is! To forego all the issues of living in a parlour with a regulated temperature — as if that were not to die a hundred times over, and for ten years at a stretch! As if it were not to die in one’s own lifetime, and without even the sad immunities of death! [Sad immunities of death is gorgeous poetry.] As if it were not to die, and yet be the patient spectators of our own pitiable change! The Permanent Possibility is preserved, but the sensations carefully held at arm’s length, as if one kept a photographic plate in a dark chamber [Wonderful simile.]. It is better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste it like a miser. It is better to live and be done with it, than to die daily in the sickroom. By all means begin your folio; even if the doctor does not give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, make one brave push and see what can be accomplished in a week. It is not only in finished undertakings that we ought to honour useful labour. A spirit goes out of the man who means execution, which out-lives the most untimely ending. All who have meant good work with their whole hearts, have done good work, although they may die before they have the time to sign it. [Again, notice how simple great writing tends to be. A very simple sentence here, and among the most moving of the essay's.] Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind. And even if death catch people, like an open pitfall, and in mid-career, laying out vast projects, and planning monstrous foundations, flushed with hope, and their mouths full of boastful language, they should be at once tripped up and silenced: is there not something brave and spirited in such a termination? and does not life go down with a better grace, foaming in full body over a precipice, than miserably straggling to an end in sandy deltas? When the Greeks made their fine saying that those whom the gods love die young, I cannot help believing they had this sort of death also in their eye. For surely, at whatever age it overtake the man, this is to die young. Death has not been suffered to take so much as an illusion from his heart. In the hot-fit of life, a-tip-toe on the highest point of being, he passes at a bound on to the other side. The noise of the mallet and chisel is scarcely quenched, the trumpets are hardly done blowing, when, trailing with him clouds of glory, this happy-starred, full-blooded spirit shoots into the spiritual land.

Of course I don't mean any of this to glorify Mr. Ingarao, who along with being a very good student of philosophy seems to have been a cold-blooded murderer. I suppose I mean only that even wretched Mr. Ingarao, with all his sins on his head, appears to have been responsive to some of what Stevenson's going on and on about here. He seems not to have wanted to be one of the deadly philosophers Stevenson satirizes, but rather to have wanted to deepen his experience of life by consulting the thoughts of people who had actual contributions to make along these lines. He had what Stevenson calls "the hungry curiosity of the mind."

For after all, however seductive Stevenson's raptures about the saving power of non-reflective engagement in life, vibrant reflection on life is itself part of a life well-lived.


Mr. Ingarao
Part Four

From "Aes Triplex" --

There is a great deal of very vile nonsense talked upon both sides of the matter: tearing divines reducing life to the dimensions of a mere funeral procession, so short as to be hardly decent; and melancholy unbelievers yearning for the tomb as if it were a world too far away. Both sides must feel a little ashamed of their performances now and again when they draw in their chairs to dinner. Indeed, a good meal and a bottle of wine is an answer to most standard works upon the question. [Funny.] When a man’s heart warms to his viands, he forgets a great deal of sophistry, and soars into a rosy zone of contemplation. Death may be knocking at the door, like the Commander’s statue; we have something else in hand, thank God, and let him knock. [Again, note the casual tone, which makes things amusing and authentic.] Passing bells are ringing all the world over. All the world over, and every hour, some one is parting company with all his aches and ecstasies. [Repetition of all the world over works well; aches and ecstasies is an attractive pair.] For us also the trap is laid. But we are so fond of life that we have no leisure to entertain the terror of death. It is a honeymoon with us all through, and none of the longest. Small blame to us if we give our whole hearts to this glowing bride of ours, to the appetites, to honour, to the hungry curiosity of the mind, to the pleasure of the eyes in nature, and the pride of our own nimble bodies. [These last phrases are beautiful, if you ask me.]

We all of us appreciate the sensations; but as for caring about the Permanence of the Possibility, a man’s head is generally very bald, and his senses very dull, before he comes to that. Whether we regard life as a lane leading to a dead wall — a mere bag’s end, as the French say — or whether we think of it as a vestibule or gymnasium, where we wait our turn and prepare our faculties for some more noble destiny; whether we thunder in a pulpit, or pule in little atheistic poetry-books, about its vanity and brevity; whether we look justly for years of health and vigour, or are about to mount into a bath-chair, as a step towards the hearse; in each and all of these views and situations there is but one conclusion possible: that a man should stop his ears against paralysing terror, and run the race that is set before him with a single mind. [Incredibly long sentence. Yet it's full of charms. I particularly love pule. Pule, pule, pule. Great word. And the nasty phrase it's part of -- pule in little atheistic poetry-books -- hot stuff.] No one surely could have recoiled with more heartache and terror from the thought of death than our respected lexicographer [That'd be Samuel Johnson.]; and yet we know how little it affected his conduct, how wisely and boldly he walked, and in what a fresh and lively vein he spoke of life. Already an old man, he ventured on his Highland tour; and his heart, bound with triple brass, did not recoil before twenty-seven individual cups of tea [Again the amusing deflationary tack.] As courage and intelligence are the two qualities best worth a good man’s cultivation, so it is the first part of intelligence to recognise our precarious estate in life, and the first part of courage to be not at all abashed before the fact. A frank and somewhat headlong carriage, not looking too anxiously before, not dallying in maudlin regret over the past, stamps the man who is well armoured for this world. [Sure, this is nineteenth century bootstraps stuff. SOS doesn't care. She's captured.]

And not only well armoured for himself, but a good friend and a good citizen to boot. We do not go to cowards for tender dealing; there is nothing so cruel as panic; the man who has least fear for his own carcase, has most time to consider others. That eminent chemist who took his walks abroad in tin shoes, and subsisted wholly upon tepid milk, had all his work cut out for him in considerate dealings with his own digestion. So soon as prudence has begun to grow up in the brain, like a dismal fungus, it finds its first expression in a paralysis of generous acts. The victim begins to shrink spiritually; he develops a fancy for parlours with a regulated temperature, and takes his morality on the principle of tin shoes and tepid milk. The care of one important body or soul becomes so engrossing, that all the noises of the outer world begin to come thin and faint into the parlour with the regulated temperature; and the tin shoes go equably forward over blood and rain. To be overwise is to ossify; and the scruple-monger ends by standing stockstill. Now the man who has his heart on his sleeve, and a good whirling weathercock of a brain, who reckons his life as a thing to be dashingly used and cheerfully hazarded, makes a very different acquaintance of the world, keeps all his pulses going true and fast, and gathers impetus as he runs, until, if he be running towards anything better than wildfire, he may shoot up and become a constellation in the end. [Mad dashing prose!] Lord look after his health, Lord have a care of his soul, says he; and he has at the key of the position, and swashes through incongruity and peril towards his aim. [Swashes! A swashbuckler!] Death is on all sides of him with pointed batteries, as he is on all sides of all of us; unfortunate surprises gird him round; mim-mouthed friends and relations hold up their hands in quite a little elegiacal synod about his path [Crazy Quilt prose! But its wild vitalism is its subject... ]: and what cares he for all this? Being a true lover of living, a fellow with something pushing and spontaneous in his inside, he must, like any other soldier, in any other stirring, deadly warfare, push on at his best pace until he touch the goal. “A peerage or Westminster Abbey!” cried Nelson in his bright, boyish, heroic manner. These are great incentives; not for any of these, but for the plain satisfaction of living, of being about their business in some sort or other, do the brave, serviceable men of every nation tread down the nettle danger, and pass flyingly over all the stumbling-blocks of prudence. Think of the heroism of Johnson, think of that superb indifference to mortal limitation that set him upon his dictionary, and carried him through triumphantly until the end! Who, if he were wisely considerate of things at large, would ever embark upon any work much more considerable than a halfpenny post card? Who would project a serial novel, after Thackeray and Dickens had each fallen in mid-course? Who would find heart enough to begin to live, if he dallied with the consideration of death?


Mr. Ingarao
Part Three

From "Aes Triplex" --

Indeed, it is a memorable subject for consideration, with what unconcern and gaiety mankind pricks on along the Valley of the Shadow of Death. [pricks is the great word here.] The whole way is one wilderness of snares, and the end of it, for those who fear the last pinch, is irrevocable ruin. [pinch. pricks. There's a casualness of word and phrase tossed in to the more formal salad of this essay which creates a nice off-balance feel.] And yet we go spinning through it all, like a party for the Derby. Perhaps the reader remembers one of the humorous devices of the deified Caligula: how he encouraged a vast concourse of holiday-makers on to his bridge over Baiae bay; and when they were in the height of their enjoyment, turned loose the Praetorian guards among the company, and had them tossed into the sea. This is no bad miniature of the dealings of nature with the transitory race of man. Only, what a chequered picnic we have of it, even while it lasts! and into what great waters, not to be crossed by any swimmer, God’s pale Praetorian throws us over in the end! [Sure, this is exclamatory and overdone for our contemporary tastes... too many classical and biblical allusions, etc. And yet what's also here is a richness of thought and image that carries us along.]

We live the time that a match flickers; we pop the cork of a ginger-beer bottle, and the earthquake swallows us on the instant. Is it not odd, is it not incongruous, is it not, in the highest sense of human speech, incredible, that we should think so highly of the ginger-beer, and regard so little the devouring earthquake? [His ordinary images convey quite adequately our oblivious engagement in sublunary life.] The love of Life and the fear of Death are two famous phrases that grow harder to understand the more we think about them. It is a well-known fact that an immense proportion of boat accidents would never happen if people held the sheet in their hands instead of making it fast; and yet, unless it be some martinet of a professional mariner or some landsman with shattered nerves, every one of God’s creatures makes it fast. A strange instance of man’s unconcern and brazen boldness in the face of death!

We confound ourselves with metaphysical phrases, which we import into daily talk with noble inappropriateness. We have no idea of what death is, apart from its circumstances and some of its consequences to others; and although we have some experience of living, there is not a man on earth who has flown so high into abstraction as to have any practical guess at the meaning of the word life. [Attractive, conversational, straightforward prose.] All literature, from Job and Omar Khayam to Thomas Carlyle or Walt Whitman, is but an attempt to look upon the human state with such largeness of view as shall enable us to rise from the consideration of living to the Definition of Life [The capital letters tell you he thinks there's no such thing, and that it's pretentious to pretend otherwise.]. And our sages give us about the best satisfaction in their power when they say that it is a vapour, or a show, or made out of the same stuff with dreams. Philosophy, in its more rigid sense, has been at the same work for ages; and after a myriad bald heads have wagged over the problem, and piles of words have been heaped one upon another into dry and cloudy volumes without end, philosophy has the honour of laying before us, with modest pride, her contribution towards the subject: that life is a Permanent Possibility of Sensation. Truly a fine result! A man may very well love beef, or hunting, or a woman; but surely, surely, not a Permanent Possibility of Sensation! He may be afraid of a precipice, or a dentist, or a large enemy with a club, or even an undertaker’s man; but not certainly of abstract death. [dentist is very fine.] We may trick with the word life in its dozen senses until we are weary of tricking; we may argue in terms of all the philosophies on earth, but one fact remains true throughout — that we do not love life, in the sense that we are greatly preoccupied about its conservation; that we do not, properly speaking, love life at all, but living. Into the views of the least careful there will enter some degree of providence; no man’s eyes are fixed entirely on the passing hour; but although we have some anticipation of good health, good weather, wine, active employment, love, and self-approval, the sum of these anticipations does not amount to anything like a general view of life’s possibilities and issues; nor are those who cherish them most vividly, at all the most scrupulous of their personal safety. To be deeply interested in the accidents of our existence, to enjoy keenly the mixed texture of human experience, rather leads a man to disregard precautions, and risk his neck against a straw. [Here is the essence of Stevenson's argument.] For surely the love of living is stronger in an Alpine climber roping over a peril, or a hunter riding merrily at a stiff fence, than in a creature who lives upon a diet and walks a measured distance in the interest of his constitution.


Mr. Ingarao
Part Two

From "Aes Triplex" --

And yet, when one comes to think upon it calmly, the situation of these South American citizens forms only a very pale figure for the state of ordinary mankind. [Strong transitional phrase -- And yet, -- into this next, very long paragraph.] This world itself, travelling blindly and swiftly in over-crowded space, among a million other worlds travelling blindly and swiftly in contrary directions, may very well come by a knock that would set it into explosion like a penny squib. [A penny squib is a cheap firecracker. Notice how this long cosmic sentence ends with a fine deflationary thud.] And what, pathologically looked at, is the human body with all its organs, but a mere bagful of petards? [Pathologically here meaning scientifically. And a petard is also a firecracker. The body as a bagful of petards. Fun.] The least of these is as dangerous to the whole economy as the ship’s powder-magazine to the ship; and with every breath we breathe, and every meal we eat, we are putting one or more of them in peril. [A powder-magazine is a storage room for ammunition and weapons. Note the impressive extension of the explosion image.] If we clung as devotedly as some philosophers pretend we do to the abstract idea of life, or were half as frightened as they make out we are [Here he elaborates on his earlier criticism of philosophers; they think we actively fear death and grasp pathetically at life.], for the subversive accident that ends it all, the trumpets might sound by the hour and no one would follow them into battle — the blue-peter might fly at the truck, but who would climb into a sea-going ship? [The blue-peter's a flag flown when a ship is ready to sail.] Think (if these philosophers were right) with what a preparation of spirit we should affront the daily peril of the dinner-table: ["the daily peril of the dinner-table" -- amusing, poetic...] a deadlier spot than any battle-field in history, where the far greater proportion of our ancestors have miserably left their bones! [Yes. I recently mentioned here Joan Didion's book about her husband's death - The Year of Magical Thinking - and that's just how he died -- sitting down to dinner.] What woman would ever be lured into marriage, so much more dangerous than the wildest sea? And what would it be to grow old? For, after a certain distance, every step we take in life we find the ice growing thinner below our feet, and all around us and behind us we see our contemporaries going through. By the time a man gets well into the seventies, his continued existence is a mere miracle, and when he lays his old bones in bed for the night, there is an overwhelming probability that he will never see the day. Do the old men mind it, as a matter of fact? Why, no. They were never merrier; they have their grog at night, and tell the raciest stories; they hear of the death of people about their own age, or even younger, not as if it was a grisly warning, but with a simple childlike pleasure at having outlived some one else; and when a draught might puff them out like a guttering candle, or a bit of a stumble shatter them like so much glass, their old hearts keep sound and unaffrighted, and they go on, bubbling with laughter, through years of man’s age compared to which the valley at Balaklava was as safe and peaceful as a village cricket-green on Sunday. [Well-observed, funny, though a bit of too much in terms of length. You can't have everything. ... Larkin has a bit in a poem on this subject too. From The Old Fools: For the rooms grow farther, leaving / Incompetent cold, the constant wear and tear / Of taken breath, and them crouching below / Extinction's alp, the old fools, never perceiving / How near it is. 'Extinction's alp' - very same business you see in Stevenson.] It may fairly be questioned (if we look to the peril only) whether it was a much more daring feat for Curtius to plunge into the gulf, than for any old gentleman of ninety to doff his clothes and clamber into bed.


Mr. Ingarao
Part One

Philosophy Now takes note of it. So does the Chronicle of Higher Education. Nicola Ingarao, a Mafia chief who was shot and killed in Palermo a few weeks ago, turns out also to have been a serious student of philosophy, having just passed with a perfect score an advanced exam at the University of Palermo.

When an unknown assailant in Palermo, Sicily, fired five shots into Nicola Ingarao on June 13, he killed the reputed boss of the Porta Nuova gang, breaking a 10-month cease-fire among the city's Mafia bands and possibly setting off a new war among them.

The killer also deprived the University of Palermo of one of its most promising nontraditional students.

A day before his murder, Mr. Ingarao, 46, passed a final exam in the history of philosophy with a perfect grade of 30.

"He was a model student, very assiduous and attentive," says the course's professor, Pietro di Giovanni. "His tone was always very polite and distinguished."

Mr. Ingarao, who was facing trial for racketeering and extortion, had been in and out of prison since 1995 for various crimes, including murder, though that conviction was overturned on appeal. He began work toward a bachelor's degree in psychology while still behind bars, and was released from custody only four months before his death.

Mr. Di Giovanni, who is chairman of an interdisciplinary department at the university called Ethos, says that Mr. Ingarao introduced himself as a toy retailer. But the professor does not find it surprising that one of his best students had a more exotic occupation.

"It is quite common for people in their 40s to take a greater interest in culture," he says. "That this person had a private life, however you want to describe it, and yet wanted to learn more about these subjects, seems to me perfectly normal."

For some reason, this story reminded UD of an 1878 Robert Louis Stevenson essay, Aes Triplex (it's from Horace, and means 'triple brass'), which she's loved ever since she found it in an old copy of the Oxford Book of Essays. Times being what they are, the essay is right here, in its entirety, in a very pleasant typeface with a gray matte finish.

In a self-indulgent effort to figure out exactly why she so admires this essay, and to figure out why the death of Mr. Ingarao made her think of it, SOS will now consider Stevenson's writing very closely.

But before we get started -- Who more likely than a major Mafia player to be a philosopher? As Stevenson will note again and again in his essay, we all live under the threat of our own extinction, though we don't think much about it. Or at all about it. A person caught up in deadly turf wars, though, knows moment by moment the contingency of his life... He owes it to himself to get his thinking about it done, pronto...

Here's Stevenson's first paragraph, with SOS commentary along the way:

The changes wrought by death are in themselves so sharp and final, and so terrible and melancholy in their consequences, that the thing stands alone in man’s experience, and has no parallel upon earth. [There's something almost comical about this sentence... Yes, death certainly does change things... But it's also refreshing to read a writer who leaps into the subject in this rather naive and direct way. Why not...] It outdoes all other accidents because it is the last of them. [See Phillip Larkin's great poem, Aubade: Most things may never happen: this one will,/ And realisation of it rages out/ In furnace fear when we are caught without/ People or drink.] Sometimes it leaps suddenly upon its victims, like a Thug; sometimes it lays a regular siege and creeps upon their citadel during a score of years. And when the business is done, there is sore havoc made in other people’s lives, and a pin knocked out by which many subsidiary friendships hung together. There are empty chairs, solitary walks, and single beds at night. [Rather florid stuff, but I like his rich images, the way he plays a figure out...] Again, in taking away our friends, death does not take them away utterly, but leaves behind a mocking, tragical, and soon intolerable residue, which must be hurriedly concealed. [Sure, he's breaking some SOS rules -- He's wordy, and he uses evil adverbs - hurriedly, utterly... But there is something in the alternation between long sentences, and then short ones with a certain classical composure -- empty chairs, solitary walks, and single beds at night -- that is charming to me.] Hence a whole chapter of sights and customs striking to the mind, from the pyramids of Egypt to the gibbets and dule trees of mediaeval Europe. [There's a richness in his examples, and a lilt in his phrases.] The poorest persons have a bit of pageant going towards the tomb; memorial stones are set up over the least memorable; and, in order to preserve some show of respect for what remains of our old loves and friendships, we must accompany it with much grimly ludicrous ceremonial, and the hired undertaker parades before the door. [Again, his prose turns out to be about intriguing mixes -- in the earlier sentence, both mocking and tragical; here, grimly and ludicrous, the undertaker who parades -- it seems a way of capturing the tragicomic aspect of our life and death, our efforts to hide death, make the dead go away...] All this, and much more of the same sort, accompanied by the eloquence of poets, has gone a great way to put humanity in error; [Ah. The argument approaches. Our ornate death ceremonials have in some way put us in error.] nay, in many philosophies the error has been embodied and laid down with every circumstance of logic; although in real life the bustle and swiftness, in leaving people little time to think, have not left them time enough to go dangerously wrong in practice. [Bit convoluted here, but he seems to be saying that our philosophers too misunderstand death and lead us astray about it. Fortunately, we don't do much thinking in the heat of human event, so we ritualize death - and live our lives, for that matter - pretty adequately.]

As a matter of fact, although few things are spoken of with more fearful whisperings than this prospect of death, few have less influence on conduct under healthy circumstances. [As long as life moves along normally, we don't think about our death.] We have all heard of cities in South America built upon the side of fiery mountains, and how, even in this tremendous neighbourhood, the inhabitants are not a jot more impressed by the solemnity of mortal conditions than if they were delving gardens in the greenest corner of England. [Again, few of us in this century would write so floridly, but there's an energy and wit here that's attractive.] There are serenades and suppers and much gallantry among the myrtles overhead; and meanwhile the foundation shudders underfoot, the bowels of the mountain growl, and at any moment living ruin may leap sky-high into the moonlight, and tumble man and his merry-making in the dust. [If you don't think Stevenson was aware of the delicious alliteration in all the M's in this sentence, think again. Great prose stylists are very self-conscious. And yes, I've highlighted said M's. Note the internal rhyme, too, in "bowels of the mountain growl."] In the eyes of very young people, and very dull old ones, there is something indescribably reckless and desperate in such a picture. It seems not credible that respectable married people, with umbrellas, should find appetite for a bit of supper within quite a long distance of a fiery mountain; ordinary life begins to smell of high-handed debauch when it is carried on so close to a catastrophe; and even cheese and salad, it seems, could hardly be relished in such circumstances without something like a defiance of the Creator. [Again, a very long sentence, but just lots of fun to be inside, no? The adorable absurdity of "with umbrellas," the freshness of "to smell of," the humble foods...] It should be a place for nobody but hermits dwelling in prayer and maceration, or mere born-devils drowning care in a perpetual carouse. [Maceration? Neither do I. But as SOS has said before on this blog, we go to great writers in part for new words, for the pleasant interior twist we feel when confronted with strange formulations... We go especially to the poet for this, but also to the great prose writer... So, I looked it up, and I think Stevenson means starving themselves.]

Let's take a break. More paragraphs to come in a bit.


Ils titubent un p'tit peu...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Snapshots from
Away from Home

Mr UD took La Kid to
Poland this summer. Here they
are strolling around Gdansk.
Click on the image for a larger view.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

Jim Acho, Sports Review Magazine:

'I have received close to 1000 emails the last month, from people asking me to address this. Initially I disregarded, but it reared it's [First of many spelling errors. Dude cannot spell.] ugly head again, after a piece last week by ESPN's Pat Forde, a writer I generally respect [Pompous. Do you think we care who you do and don't respect? UD respects people who know how to spell.].

Well, its been a tumultuous two weeks for the folks at Michigan, I'm sure, having to defend itself against comments made by a once-proud alum who decided to take a cheap shot (twice) [Time to start listing the cliches... reared ugly head... once-proud... take a cheap shot...] at the nation's finest institution for blending sports and academics at a high level [Who says it's the finest? I do. End of argument. What a fool.]. This wasn't Fresno State he was chipping at, but Michigan. He took indirect shots at a program overseen by my wife [Yikes. This piece is a pissy defense of the little lady. Way to make your case.] and more directly, Lloyd Carr and his program. Now, what his motivation was for spouting off with such sophomoric vitriole [Spelling continues to eat shit.] is beyond many, though methinks it has to do with insecurity and some serious jealousy. [As opposed to my motivation -- Outrage on behalf of my wife.] What other reason could there be for going after not only his alma mater [God forbid you should ever criticize your university.], but spreading rumors about fellow Pac-10 school USC and coach Pete Carroll, who absolutely lambasted the comparitively [Spelling vastly shitty.] young coaching whippersnapper (Harbaugh's in his 40's, older than say a Brett Bielema, but never a head coach at this level) for running off at the mouth.

I've met Jim Harbaugh before, at a coaching clinic, and he is a nice guy. Handsome sonofagun, too. If Tom Cruise had been a real-life football player, he'd have been Harbaugh, I imagine. He showed a lot of moxie as a qb at UM and in the league--I was chatting today with former Rams qb Roman Gabriel (who belongs in the HOF, if not for his stats, his many guest appearances on tv shows in the 60's/70's) and it occured [Spelling creating a merdacious firmament which spreads throughout the essay.] to me that Harbaugh and Gabriel's careers mirrored each other, though in different eras: both played 15 years, both threw for nearly 30,000 yards, both went into coaching when their NFL careers ended. In other words, Harbaugh was legit. A gritty player whom Bo Schembechler adored. And perhaps that's what hurts--some of what Harbaugh said was true (as it applies to all schools at this level, not just Michigan) but Harbaugh pointed out Michigan, and it was said to dig, to jab, to prod a program no longer overseen by the emeritus, Bo Schembechler, who passed last November. Harbaugh never would have said what he did had Bo been alive. So, to me it smacks of cowardice. Plus, Harbaugh referenced grad rates from an old media guide without knowing the full scoop, and he was off-base on the crux of his argument. [Wacky sentence. His basic approach, of course, is Guy Writing bigtime -- Got his shoulder around your shoulder, confiding, one good ol' boy to another, in your ear... And that's fine, fine. But then he pops a word like referenced in and you think what a confused person...] As they say in the D, his mouth wrote a check his ass can't cash. [Hadn't heard this one. UD's hardly in a position to complain about vulgarity, but this saying is, er, a bit obscure...]

Now, does every D-I school let in some marginal kids to play ball? Yes. EVERY SCHOOL does, with the exception of the academies, which really cannot compete (see ex-AFA coach Fisher DeBerry's public begging for the admission of more black athletes two years ago) year in, year out, at this level. Michigan graduated 22 of 25 football players last year, a rate you can stack up against any school in the country. Jim didn't mention that though. Instead, he chose to talk about degrees, and now "general studies" was something unseemly. Well, we know that Michigan is an Ivy League-caliber school, right? That is uncontroverted [Again, suddenly uncontroverted... Just weird.] --it takes a 4.0 to get in. So you're saying that one of this prestigious school's majors (a major that dates back a century) is suddenly bogus because of football players? That it was okay for say, James Earl Jones in 1955, but not Chad Henne in 2007? Preposterous. How many of us ever use our specific degree in the occupation which pays us, anyway? The whole topic is absurd. [Absurd, preposterous. We're sputtering. UD's told you about high emotionality and argumentation.]

As a lawyer who has handled a number of defamation/slander/libel cases, I'm careful to say that I have no proof Jim Harbaugh was drunk (I do know the Thunderbird jingle above is lost on some of you young 'uns) when he spouted off about UM and USC. And I won't call him a drunk (as he's been referred to on sports radio and over the net by some), either--hell, we all make mistakes in this life. [Hard to think of a better example of sleazy rhetoric than these sentences.] ...[W]e do know that Harbaugh has been drunk before: 1) He got a DUI in recent months and had to take alcohol classes for those guilty of DUI and 2) he left his wallet in a bar just a few months ago. Now, is THAT the standard Stanford holds itself to? Obviously not. The moral here: don't cast stones when you're in a glass house. Especially when the reason you even have that house is because of a man who is now deceased. Don't spit on Bo Schembechler's grave, Jim Harbaugh; he taught you better. Your father Jack taught you better. Apologize, show contrition, and all will be forgotten; eventually, you'll be accepted back into the fold. But I think Jim may be too stubborn to do so. And that will be his undoing. [Really disgusting. At this point, only Mrs. Acho is nodding.] In the end, I think Harbaugh, who is making enemies among prominent coaches at an alarming rate, is jealous of two programs: USC and Michigan. And he foolishly went after both. A still-irate Carroll and USC will thrash Stanford. Oh, and check out Phil Steele's last two editions and see what Harbaugh's predecessor Buddy Teevens recruited. Buddy Hackett would have done a better job recruiting. He left Stanford bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard [Gawd.], and Harbaugh will likely go bowl-less the next three years, have his contract bought out, and take over Jack's old squad, Western Kentucky. Let's just hope the Hilltoppers don't have too many general studies majors there.'

SOS summarizes: Sucks radically.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Another Impressive Entry From
Slate's Bad Poetry Contest

Our Love is Like a Bowling Ball

Our love
is like a bowling ball

Like a brand new Brunswick Red Zone,

It rolls and rolls down the alley of desire

And rolls and rolls and rolls.

I will keep you out of the gutters, my love

And put my fingers in your holes

Every kiss a strike or at least a spare,

Our future a perfect game.

Our love is like a bowling ball,

Our scores will rise and rise

I shall never step beyond the foul line,

And I will rent your shoes.
Coach Stalks Out

Florida A&M has much bigger problems than this (background here), but it did solve this one.

'Florida A&M University fired basketball coach Mike Gillespie on Tuesday, less than three months after he was charged with misdemeanor stalking [attachment issues with an old girlfriend].... Gillespie has worn an ankle monitoring device since his arrest.'
The Shelby Maneuver

'With large swaths of the Gulf Coast still in ruins from Hurricane Katrina, rich federal tax breaks designed to spur rebuilding are flowing hundreds of miles inland to investors who are buying up luxury condos near the University of Alabama's football stadium.

About 10 condominium projects are going up in and around Tuscaloosa, and builders are asking up to $1 million for units with granite countertops, king-size bathtubs and 'Bama decor, including crimson couches and Bear Bryant wall art.

While many of the buyers are Crimson Tide alumni or ardent football fans not entitled to any special Katrina-related tax breaks, many others are real estate investors who are purchasing the condos with plans to rent them out.

And they intend to take full advantage of the generous tax benefits available to investors under the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005, or GO Zone, according to Associated Press interviews with buyers and real estate officials.

The GO Zone contains a variety of tax breaks designed to stimulate construction in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. It offers tax-free bonds to developers to finance big commercial projects like shopping centers or hotels. It also allows real estate investors who buy condos or other properties in the GO Zone to take accelerated depreciation on their purchases when they file their taxes.

The GO Zone was drawn to include the Tuscaloosa area even though it is about 200 miles from the coast and got only heavy rain and scattered wind damage from Katrina.

The condo deals are perfectly legal, and the tax breaks do not take money away from Katrina victims closer to the coast because the depreciation is wide open, with no limits per state.

But the tax breaks are galling to some, especially when red tape and disorganization have stymied the rebuilding in some of the devastated coastal areas.

"It is a joke," said Tuscaloosa developer Stan Pate, who has nevertheless used GO Zone tax breaks on projects that include a new hotel and a restaurant. "It was supposed to be about getting people ... to put housing in New Orleans, Louisiana, or Biloxi, Mississippi. It was not about condos in Tuscaloosa."

Locals say Tuscaloosa was included in the GO Zone through the efforts of Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, who is from Tuscaloosa, graduated from Alabama and sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee. But Shelby aides said Tuscaloosa made the cut because it was classified as a disaster area by the government.'
Sexual Harassment in Australia

'Peter Gauci, a former University of Queensland tutor, has won a two-year battle to appeal against a federal magistrate's decision that he was not the victim of sexual harassment by a student. [I know it's early, but wake up and concentrate.]

Mr Gauci was working as a first year tutorial co-ordinator in the university's psychology department when he met Cristelle Kennedy, a social work student, in 2002. As part of his job, he sometimes met Ms Kennedy to review her exam papers, or process her requests for extensions to assignments.

After one such meeting, she told him he had "really nice eyes". Unnerved by this comment, Mr Gauci immediately reported it to his supervisor, who advised him to keep a record. [Reported it to his supervisor? The last time a student told me I had nice eyes, I took it straight to the Compliance Line.]

He subsequently twice accepted Ms Kennedy's invitation to have coffee, and went for lunch with her once. After this lunch in 2003, she followed him back to the psychology building and asked him if he wanted to get a tattoo with her. [Yeah, the old want to get a tattoo with me routine...] Mr Gauci declined, but agreed to see a movie. "I was frankly too stunned to say anything other than OK," he told the Federal Magistrates Court in Brisbane. [Unnerved. Stunned. This is a Sensitive Man.]

But on the afternoon of the day they were supposed to go to the movies, Mr Gauci cancelled via email. "I don't feel good about seeing a movie with you," he wrote. "For me it's unusual for a student to throw this at me [asking him to be friends] and the whole situation is just uncomfortable … You're probably a nice person, but we can't be friends. Please don't persist with this."

Ms Kennedy wrote back saying it was Mr Gauci's own insecurities that made him feel uncomfortable. "I'm not asking a lot of you. If I wanted to 'jump you' I would have done it a lot sooner than this … As for persisting, well I'm not one to go down without a fight. If I wanted to make your life hell I could." [Notice how she puts jump you in quotation marks... UD would love to read a study of why, how, and when people choose to put quotation marks around things...]

Mr Gauci copied his supervisor, Judy Bowey, in on his response. "I've asked you not to pursue this. It's a simple fact of life that people have different personalities and they're not all suited to be friends with each other," he said. "I'm sorry that it's come to this - but I have to inform you that professionally, you have no reason to see me in the workplace … you've no reason to make any contact with me and if you do again I will consider it harassment." [I thought Australia was a rugged pioneer type country... Look at this guy...]

Although Mr Gauci said he was gay, and provided evidence that Ms Kennedy had been the aggressor, Dr Bowey told him he had not been harassed.

Instead she "felt he had been insensitive in effectively jilting Ms Kennedy by email", and suggested he write a letter of apology. Mr Gauci complied on May 9, 2003. [This started weird, and it's getting weirder.]

Ten days later Ms Kennedy made a sexual harassment complaint against Mr Gauci to the university. Within days, Mr Gauci lodged a complaint against her. [Haha! Two can play at this game!] He also lodged a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Board of Queensland. [Top that!]

On July 16, 2003, Ms Kennedy withdrew her complaint. Mr Gauci persisted with his, and when he was not satisfied with the university's handling of the matter he sued the university and Ms Kennedy for breaches of the Sexual Discrimination Act.

In October 2005, Justice Jarrett in the Federal Magistrates Court found there were "no facts that would or could amount to sexual harassment by [Ms Kennedy] of [Mr Gauci]".'

---sydney morning herald---

Remember: He's appealing. These momentous events will continue to resonate for years...
Annals of Learning Disability

'... College football is based on ...the illusion that the players are students, just like everyone else.

...Albert Means played football at Memphis after his high school coach admitted, in court, that he paid another student to take the ACT for Means. The Memphis basketball team includes six -- six! -- players who left high school early in order to graduate from prep schools that the NCAA's Myles Brand later labeled as "diploma mills."

...[A]s chronicled in the book The Blind Side, [Michael] Oher had former Ole Miss point guard Sean Tuohy to help him through the maze.

"Sean learned about the Internet courses offered by Brigham Young University," the book said. "All you had to do in one of the 'Character' courses was to read a few brief passages from famous works -- a speech by Lou Gehrig here, a letter by Abraham Lincoln there -- and then answer five questions about it."

Ahhhh, but the BYU courses had to be completed during the school year, which was almost over by the time Tuohy found them.

"That's when Sean discovered, deep in the recesses of the NCAA rules, yet another loophole; the student-athlete was allowed to generate fresh new grades for himself right up until Aug. 1, so long as that student-athlete was 'Learning Disabled.' Whatever that meant, thought Tuohy. He had no idea if Michael was actually learning disabled, but now that it was important for him to be learning disabled, Sean couldn't imagine any decent human being trying to argue that he wasn't."

So Tuohy found a psychologist who diagnosed Oher as learning disabled. Oher qualified to play at Ole Miss. And it's hard not to think that the most important difference between Oher and Powe might be that Oher had a savvy adviser looking out for him.

... The college system is corrupt enough without the bogus courses and the grade-fixing and the paid test takers and the sudden outbreak of learning disabilities.'
Three Strong Challenges... my - er, what'd philosoraptor call it - my "bemused, Gallic acceptance" of the fact that, foolishly or not, some students and professors at universities are going to sleep with each other, appear in the comments to this post. Maybe I'm just upping the acceptance ante, but I think that this 2004 Slate essay by Laura Kipnis answers these challenges in pretty much the way I would.

The burning academic question of the day: Should we professors be permitted to "hook up with" our students, as the kids put it? Or they with us? In the olden days when I was a student (back in the last century) hooking up with professors was more or less part of the curriculum. (OK, I went to art school.) But that was a different era, back when sex — even when not so great or someone got their feelings hurt — fell under the category of experience, rather than injury and trauma. It didn't automatically impede your education; sometimes it even facilitated it.

But such things can't be guaranteed to turn out well — what percentage of romances do? — so colleges around the country are formulating policies to regulate such interactions, to protect against the possibility of romantic adversity. In 2003, the University of California's nine campuses ruled to ban consensual relationships between professors and any students they may "reasonably expect" to have future academic responsibility for; this includes any student known to have an interest in any area within the faculty member's expertise. But while engineering students may still pair-bond with professors of Restoration drama in California, many campuses are moving to prohibit all romance between any professor and any student.

Feminism has taught us to recognize the power dynamics in these kinds of relationships, and this has evolved into a dominant paradigm, the new propriety. But where once the issue was coercion or quid pro quo sex, in institutional neo-feminism the issue is any whiff of sexuality itself — or any situation that causes a student to "experience his or her vulnerability." (Pretty much the definition of sentience, I always thought.) "The unequal institutional power inherent in this relationship heightens the vulnerability of the student and the potential for coercion," the California code warns, as if any relationship is ever absent vulnerability and coercion. But the problem in redressing romantic inequalities with institutional blunt instruments is that it just confers more power on the institutions themselves, vastly increasing their reach into people's lives.

Ironically, the vulnerability of students has hardly decreased under the new paradigm; it's increased. As opportunities for venting injury have expanded, the variety of opportunities to feel injured have correspondingly multiplied. Under the "offensive environment" guidelines, students are encouraged to regard themselves as such exquisitely sensitive creatures that an errant classroom remark impedes their education, such hothouse flowers that an unfunny joke creates a lasting trauma — and will land you, the unfunny prof, on the carpet or in the national news.

My own university is thankfully less prohibitive about student-professor couplings: You may still hook up with students, you just can't harass them into it. (How long before hiring committees at these few remaining enclaves of romantic license begin using this as a recruiting tool? "Yes the winters are bad, but the students are friendly.") But don't think of telling them jokes! Our harassment guidelines warn in two separate places that inappropriate humor violates university policy. (Inappropriateness—pretty much the definition of humor, I always thought.)

Seeking guidance, realizing I was clinging to gainful employment by my fingernails, I signed up for a university sexual-harassment workshop. (Also two e-mail communiqués from the dean advised that nonattendance would be noted.) And what an education I received — though probably not the intended one.

Things kicked off with a "Sexual Harassment Pretest," administered by David, an earnest mid-50ish psychologist, and Beth, an earnest young woman with a masters in social work. It consisted of unanswerable true-false questions like: "If I make sexual comments to someone and that person doesn't ask me to stop, then I guess that my behavior is probably welcome." Everyone seemed grimly determined to play along — probably hoping to get out by cocktail hour—until we were handed a printed list of "guidelines." No. 1: "Do not make unwanted sexual advances."

Someone demanded querulously from the back, "But how do you know they're unwanted until you try?" (OK, it was me.) David seemed oddly flummoxed by the question, and began anxiously jangling the change in his pants pocket. "Do you really want me to answer that?" he asked.

Another person said helpfully, "What about smoldering glances?" Everyone laughed. A theater professor guiltily admitted to complimenting a student on her hairstyle that very afternoon (one of the "Do Nots" on the pretest) — but wondered whether as a gay male, not to have complimented her would be grounds for offense. He started mimicking the female student, tossing her mane around in a "notice my hair" manner. People shouted suggestions for other pretest scenarios for him to perform. Rebellion was in the air. Someone who studies street gangs whispered to me, "They've lost control of the room." David was jangling his change so frantically you had to strain to hear what anyone was saying.

My attention glued to David's pocket, I recalled a long-forgotten pop psychology guide to body language that identified change-jangling as an unconscious masturbation substitute. (And isn't Captain Queeg's habit of toying with a set of steel marbles in his pants pocket diagnosed by the principal mutineer in Herman Wouk's Caine Mutiny as closet masturbation?) If the very leader of our sexual harassment workshop was engaging in potentially offensive public masturbatory-like behavior, what hope for the rest of us!

Let's face it: Other people's sexuality is often just weird and creepy. Sex is leaky and anxiety-ridden; intelligent people can be oblivious about it. Of course the gulf between desire and knowledge has long been a tragicomic staple; these campus codes do seem awfully optimistic about rectifying the condition. For a more pessimistic account, peruse some recent treatments of the student-professor hook-up theme—Coetzee's Disgrace; Francine Prose's Blue Angel; Mamet's Oleanna — in which learning has an inverse relation to self-knowledge, in which professors are emblems of sexual stupidity, and such disasters ensue that it's hard not to read these as cautionary tales, even as they send up the new sexual correctness.

Of course, societies are always reformulating the stories they tell about intergenerational desire and the catastrophes that result, from Oedipus to faculty handbooks. The details vary, also the kinds of catastrophes prophesized — once it was plagues and crop failure, these days it's trauma and injury. Even over the last half-century the narrative has drastically changed. Consider the Freudian account, yesterday's contender as big explanatory story: Children desire their parents, this desire meets up with prohibitions — namely the incest taboo — and is subject to repression. But the desire persists nevertheless, occasionally burbling to the surface in the form of symptoms: that mysterious rash, that obsessional ritual.

Today, intergenerational desire remains the dilemma; what's shifted is the direction of arrows. In the updated version, parents (and parent surrogates) do all the desiring, children are innocent victims. What's excised from the new story is the most controversial part of the previous one: childhood sexuality. Children are returned to innocence, a far less disturbing (if less complex) account of childhood.

Excising student sexuality from campus romance codes just extends the same presumption. But students aren't children. Whether or not it's smart, plenty of professors I know, male and female, have hooked up with students, for shorter and longer durations. (Female professors do it less, and rarely with undergrads.) Some act well, some are assholes, and it would definitely behoove our students to learn the identifying marks of the latter breed early on, because post-collegiate life is full of them too. (Along with all the well-established marriages that started as student-teacher things, of course — another social reality excised from the story.)

Let's imagine that knowledge rather than protectionism (or institutional power-enhancement) was the goal of higher education. Then how about workshops for the students too? Here's an idea: "10 Signs That Your Professor Is Sleeping With You To Assuage Mid-Life Depression and Will Dump You Shortly Afterward." Or, "Will Hooking Up With a Prof Really Make You Feel Smarter: Pros and Cons." No doubt we'd all benefit from more self-knowledge about sex, but until the miracle drug arrives that cures the abyss between desire and intelligence, universities might try being educational instead of regulatory on the subject.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Update... my post about the athletic director at Eastern Illinois University:

'Eastern Illinois University Athletics Director Rich McDuffie was placed on administrative leave Monday, according to an e-mail sent by EIU President William Perry.

In the e-mail, Perry said, “This afternoon at 4 p.m., I relieved Dr. Rich McDuffie of his duties as Director of Athletics, effective immediately.”'

As my correspondent from EIU puts it in his/her latest email: "Someone here has done the right thing."
Romance in the Ivory Tower

Romance in the Ivory Tower: The Rights and Liberty of Conscience will appear this fall; its author, Paul Abramson, should expect it to create a bit of a fuss. People get het up about sex in general, and professor/student sex seems to generate particular anxiety.

Abramson argues that universities, many of which now have explicit rules against these affairs, should let the matter alone. I agree.

Sexual harassment should be taken seriously, but the consequences of consensual relationships have no place in university legal systems. As Abramson says in an interview, "It is basically love gone awry that universities are afraid will turn into civil litigation. Therefore, universities will cut out love completely with these policies in order to protect themselves."

He also points out that people on campus will continue to have sexual affairs, however stringent the language against them might be:

People make foolish sexual choices. ... To me that's testament to the power of love and sex. Sexuality is an enormously powerful motive, and people are going to make foolish choices because of the power, but we don't preclude it. We give freedom of speech despite the rubbish and crap that people air because it's so essential to our survival to protect the freedom of speech. It's essential to our pursuit of happiness and well-being to protect sexual rights, knowing full well people are going to make foolish choices.

As to power differentials:

We allow male or female to join the Army or Marines and fight in Iraq at 18. If that 18 year old can make that decision about giving life for their country, that 18 year old can make a decision about who they're going to have romance with.

Here's a recent newspaper article which acknowledges what everyone knows - faculty/student affairs go on. The scary new language forces them underground.

A popular University of Charleston administrator and teacher, who says he was fired last month for having sex with students, claims student-teacher relationships are common practice and he was singled out because he criticized the school.

... Student-teacher relationships at UC "happened before and will happen again," he said. "It's unfortunate. It shouldn't happen, but it happens all the time."

... A provision in the employee manual "strictly prohibits any type of amorous relationships" between students and staff, he said.

"Under no circumstances does this university tolerate any relationships" between faculty and students, [a spokesperson] said.

Sure, the professor could be exaggerating the degree of faculty/student sexual activity out of self-interest. But I think it's reasonable to assume that there's a respectable amount of it on most campuses. People get offended when you say so, though; they don't like to think about what UD's blogpal Mary Beard once wrote on the subject. In an earlier post, UD described what Beard said, and how people responded:

Feminists the world over are sexually harassing Professor Mary Beard, who waxed nostalgic in her blog "for that, now outlawed, erotic dimension to (adult) pedagogy. ...It is naive to think that the powerful set of power relations in student- tutor relationships can be de-eroticised. You can police it, but you cannot deny history about this.”

Fay Weldon, in a terribly written piece, defends Beard. She shares a memory of her own:

Had I thought I had any hope of seducing [a professor to whom I was attracted], or even known how to set about it, I would have done my damnedest, in the hope of sopping up knowledge, wisdom, understanding and integrity, all the things students were hungry for, in that foreign country, once upon a time, long ago.

She was clearly never attracted to a prose stylist.

Christina Nehring is one of the best writers on the subject:

Teacher-student chemistry is what fires much of the best work that goes on in universities, even today... It need not be reckless. It need not be realized. It need not even be articulated or mutual. … In most cases, it would be counterproductive for it to emerge, itself, into the limelight. That said, it occasionally does. And when it does, it must not be criminalized.

A number of these writers are touching on an aspect of pedagogy that William Deresiewicz considers in greater detail:

The relationship between professors and students can indeed be intensely intimate, as our culture nervously suspects, but its intimacy, when it occurs, is an intimacy of the mind. I would even go so far as to say that in many cases it is an intimacy of the soul. And so the professor-student relationship, at its best, raises two problems for the American imagination: it begins in the intellect, that suspect faculty, and it involves a form of love that is neither erotic nor familial, the only two forms our culture understands. Eros in the true sense is at the heart of the pedagogical relationship, but the professor isn’t the one who falls in love.

Love is a flame, and the good teacher raises in students a burning desire for his or her approval and attention, his or her voice and presence, that is erotic in its urgency and intensity. The professor ignites these feelings just by standing in front of a classroom talking about Shakespeare or anthropology or physics, but the fruits of the mind are that sweet, and intellect has the power to call forth new forces in the soul.

Students will sometimes mistake this earthquake for sexual attraction, and the foolish or inexperienced or cynical instructor will exploit that confusion for his or her own gratification. But the great majority of professors understand that the art of teaching consists not only of arousing desire but of redirecting it toward its proper object, from the teacher to the thing taught. Teaching, Yeats said, is lighting a fire, not filling a bucket, and this is how it gets lit. The professor becomes the student’s muse, the figure to whom the labors of the semester — the studying, the speaking in class, the writing — are consecrated. The alert student understands this. In talking to one of my teaching assistants about these matters, I asked her if she’d ever had a crush on an instructor when she was in college. Yes, she said, a young graduate student. “And did you want to have sex with him?” I asked. “No,” she said, “I wanted to have brain sex with him.”

...Teaching, as Neil Postman says, is a subversive activity — all the more so today, when children are marinated in cultural messages from the moment they’re born. It no longer takes any training to learn to bow to your city’s gods (sex or children, money or nation). But it often takes a teacher to help you question those gods. The teacher’s job, in Keats’s terms, is to point you through the vale of soul-making. We’re born once, into nature and into the culture that quickly becomes a second nature. But then, if we’re granted such grace, we’re born again. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his mortal soul?

This is the kind of sex professors are having with their students behind closed doors: brain sex.

... What attracts professors to students, then, is not their bodies but their souls. Young people are still curious about ideas, still believe in them — in their importance, their redemptive power. Socrates says in the Symposium that the hardest thing about being ignorant is that you’re content with yourself, but for many kids when they get to college, this is not yet true. They recognize themselves as incomplete, and they recognize, if only intuitively, that completion comes through eros. So they seek out professors with whom to have relationships, and we seek them out in turn. Teaching, finally, is about relationships.

All of this is fine; but I'd want to add that some students and professors will want to go beyond brain sex. This may be, as Abramson suggests, very foolish. But not in all cases, as in those long-married couples (John Kenneth and Kitty Galbraith, for instance), who met when one was an instructor and the other his or her student.
Coach Coker: Why Was I Fired? Why? Why?

'Coker still wonders why [Miami fired him]. He wonders about a lot: "This whole thing really makes no sense..."

...Before the season even began, one player was injured in a shooting. Then came one of the ugliest moments in recent memory, when a brawl in the middle of the Florida International game in October sent the program on a downward spiral.

Miami made national headlines, bringing back comparisons to the bad old days of the 1980s and '90s. Thirteen Hurricanes players were suspended. Coker defended his players and took little responsibility for what happened, saying the brawl took the heart out of his players.

"Every day, it was just on and on and on. Don Imus wasn't close to what we experienced," Coker said.

Defensive player Bryan Pata was shot and killed in early November...'

---miami herald---
Deresiewicz's List

Any effort to tally the alcoholic, poetry-spewing professors who appear in the novels and plays and films of our time produces a very long list.

In a much-discussed American Scholar essay, William Deresiewicz compiles the most impressive number of these characters that I've seen, so I've named this list in his honor.

I found one more for the list today. It's a New York Times review of a new play called August: Osage County. Readers are welcome to send in their own entries.

'The play’s opening scene is practically the only gentle one, as the paterfamilias Beverly Weston (Dennis Letts, the playwright’s father), a former poet and professor who has retired into full-time alcoholism, interviews a young American Indian woman, Johnna (Kimberly Guerrero), he hopes to hire to take care of himself and his wife. As he puts it with eloquent clarity: “The facts are: My wife takes pills, and I drink. And these facts have over time made burdensome the maintenance of traditional American routine: paying of bills, purchase of goods, cleaning of clothes or carpets.”

By the next scene this genial, mordantly funny, T. S. Eliot- and John Berryman-quoting gentleman has mysteriously disappeared, leaving his new employee to perform the aforesaid duties for an increasingly crowded household.'


Update. Hm - I'd forgotten about this. First appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. One thing she says resonates with my current post over at my branch campus, Inside Higher Ed:

'Academics can rarely afford expensive addictions or frequent retreats to fashionable detox spas. But like the doctor with access to drugs and the executive with access to an expense account, we have fat caches of time and perks that can be abused. Long periods of isolated writing and research are ripe for binges. We can disappear for days or weeks at a time, during the summer or over semester breaks, ordering library books by e-mail and picking them up at the office late at night. The stretches of isolation are punctuated by carefully orchestrated public appearances (the lecture, the class, the conference presentation) in which style can compensate for content. The more successful we are, the more likely we will be rewarded with our own eccentric hours and class times; our hangovers are manageable by the time we get to the 11 a.m. Introduction to Critical Theory.'

Sunday, August 12, 2007


UD's been spending a lot of time in the car with Mr UD, listening to How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, an effing endless number of educational discs... UD learned a lot of this material long ago from Roger Scruton's book, The Aesthetics of Music, but, okay, she can always learn more...

But there's so much of it! And Mr UD is a fanatic about listening to every single one of the lectures...

It's UD's fault, really. For years she's held it over Mr UD that while he's well-educated and knows many things, he knows (and seems to care) virtually nothing about music. Mr UD's musical ignorance has come in handy as a kind of cudgel to hit him with when he laughs at UD's mathematical ignorance. At least I know what cadence is! But she seems finally to have provoked him into this fit of autodidacticism, in which he's removing her one intellectual weapon against him...

Anyway, this is by way of introducing the following thought: Universities have their own music. Call it quadraphonia. A blogger like UD can never know the on-the-ground reality of more than a few campuses, but she writes relentlessly about them all. In part she can do this because, considered closely enough, each campus has a certain tune all its own, a certain distinctive sensibility, that can be intuited from the sorts of news stories that emanate from it, from the way faculty and administration and students tend to talk and write, from the way the campus looks, whatever.

I suppose this is what the schools themselves would call branding -- at least when it's positive. When it's negative, when a school's leitmotif is pretty much totally dissonant (current top pick here would be Florida A&M), they call it a public relations problem.

UD looks briefly now at two American universities, one of which seems to typify the baroque circularity of the school that never gets anywhere, while the other may prove to have the linearity of the classical symphony...

Eastern Illinois University has an Athletic Director who seems to have a problem with women. He seems to harass some of them. But either because it doesn't want to spend the money buying out his contract, or because he's buddies with important administrators and boosters, or because the university sincerely believes that despite several complaints, he's innocent, the university has absolved him of all charges (it also has, rather confusingly, mandated counseling). The anguished comments at the end of the newspaper article suggest that this is a university whose ground bass lacks an upper part.

SUNY Albany, on the other hand, represents a later stage of quadraphonic development. Here there's clear dynamic potential, largely because of honest critics on the faculty (score one for tenure). The Times Union reports:

...[A] long-term erosion in student quality. Not enough full-time professors. A campus culture that draws students who come to party rather than study.

"We've got to stop this skidding downward in terms of the quality of the university," said historian Sung Bok Kim, a former undergraduate dean and 34-year UAlbany veteran ...

"We should stop defending the mediocre record," said Kim, ranked a "distinguished" professor, the highest academic title in the State University of New York system. "We haven't made the turnaround. We have been stagnant all these years. The fact remains things have not really improved as [administrators] say they did."

...[A]nother professor with an even longer institutional memory hopes the concerns continue to register beyond the UAlbany campus. His audience: a task force appointed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer that is studying how to elevate SUNY to the top tier of public higher education.

If Spitzer wants UAlbany to compete in the same league as the University of California, Berkeley, professor Warren Roberts thinks the game plan to get there is clear.

One, toughen admissions criteria while keeping funding at a high level. And two, send signals that UAlbany is changing direction.

Brilliant students continue to attend UAlbany, said Roberts, former history department chair and a distinguished professor. But [...] "The pathetic truth is that we confer baccalaureate degrees on semi-literate students at the University at Albany."

"I would like to think it's at a turning point," said Roberts, who came to UAlbany in 1963 and has been cited as the "model" faculty member. "But that depends on what happens under a new president, and more largely what emerges from Gov. Spitzer's task force. That's the key."
"Why the Hell Would You Have a
Football Team When Nobody Goes
to the Games?"

That's the Chancellor of the University of Nevada system talking, and he's talking about fourth-tier University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Why is a school with almost no intellectual merit throwing money down a football hole?

Nice of him to ask, but ... well... hell! Let's interview the team's coach!

Question: Why is the Athletic Department and intercollegiate sports important to the mission of educating students at UNLV?

Answer: I think that athletics and sports teach you things that you can't learn in the classroom. I think there's things about competitive sports that you learn how to work with people. You develop leadership skills. We're in the process of developing leaders on our football team, that's a huge thing. We actually have a leadership committee on our team and we've had a course on our team called Leadership 101 that our coaching staff teaches, and so I think there's a lot of things we're doing to develop our young men to be successful in the world, regardless of what they do.

I think the interdependence that happens in the game of football is important. It's probably the most interdependent game that there is. A lot of games are interdependent. Basketball is interdependent, baseball is interdependent. But football, because of the nature of it — you have 11 guys and if one guy doesn't do his job, it can make all the other guys look stupid, including the coach. I think the interdependence you learn in the game of football is very similar to what you need to know to apply in other areas of life.

... The way I look at education, both in high school and college, is the classroom. It's books, it's taking notes, it's listening to lectures, being tested and all that. But looking back at my high school and college career, and I learned a lot of things outside the classroom that were part of my education, if that makes any sense. So I think being a part of an intercollegiate athletic program on a team, especially a football team because I'm partial, provides a lot of lessons.

[Question:] What will it take to revive fan support for UNLV football?

[Answer:] I think it's a two-way street. I would appreciate it and love it if people would come out and support us because we're the university in Las Vegas. We are the university here, we are the Division I football team here. I would love it if a bunch of people did that. Then, on the other side of it, we need to be successful. We're in the process of turning this program around and making it something people will be proud of. As we do that, as people see what we're doing, I think we will gain a lot of support. So it's definitely a two-way thing.
Coleman is Paid Close to
A Million Dollars a Year.

'...[I]f you're Michigan, and if you believe you educate your football players better than almost every school playing Division I football, why isn't it easy to prove Harbaugh wrong?

Why have we been treated to little more than name-calling in response, instead of [university president] Coleman addressing an issue that's less about football and more about Michigan's reputation?

Why can't Coleman simply ask a small committee of three or four respected faculty members to examine the clustering in general studies, and the 38 percent graduation rate for African-American football players, and issue some conclusions?

Surely she can't be comfortable with Michigan being portrayed as a diploma factory on ESPN?

Intended or not, silence speaks volumes. It will lead the public, including recruits and their families, to conclude that Harbaugh knows what he's talking about.

Is Michigan doing a good job educating its football players?

The truth is, we just don't know.

What we do know, though, is that a lot of people, including the school president, seem to prefer it that way.'

---michigan live---

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Nothing to See Here!

'...[Q]uestioning persist[s] about the third arrest of a Washington football player in 10 months...

... Murchison, a junior-college transfer, spent a night in jail after turning himself to police for missing a court date last month on his assault charge. Murchison was also arrested in June on misdemeanor charges of domestic violence assault and harassment. He has a Sept. 24 date to review his progress fulfilling a stipulated order of continuance - essentially probation - on those charges.

In October, Seattle police arrested running back Michael Houston, a transfer from Texas, for circumstances surrounding the theft of a taxi cab. Willingham immediately suspended Houston and then kicked him off the team. Houston never played in a game for UW.

Are the arrests undermining [the new coach's] rebuilding progress?'

So far so dull. A university's team begins to slip; good reliable players aren't interested; in desperation, the coach recruits the dread transfers, who are often fuckups; they fuck up...

But UD's always interested in the damage control language the athletic staff comes up with... Here's how it sounds at the University of Washington:

'"I don't know that it necessarily undermines [our efforts]," said Todd Turner, Willingham's boss as Huskies athletic director. "It serves as a further reminder that even the best-intended, diligent efforts to avoid these sorts of things are difficult to sustain. [I wouldn't call recruiting criminals a diligent effort to avoid the effects of recruiting criminals... And sure, none of this undermines your efforts... Everything's fine...]

"At the end of the day, you can't control what kids do. What you can control is how you respond." [Apparently you can't control that either, since you continue to recruit criminals.]

The arrests highlight a change in how Willingham has had to do business while at Washington. Years of losses, coaching changes and turmoil have kept blue-chip recruits away from the UW. ...

That's left Willingham to try to transform Washington partly through the crapshoot of signing junior-college transfers.

"Usually athletes in junior colleges who aspire to play at Division 1 have issues," Turner said. "Either academically they weren't prepared, physically they aren't talented enough, or they are there because of a character issue that someone else didn't want to deal with."

"We've created this. But if we had a different situation to start with (not at rock bottom), we might not find ourselves in the situation that we're in now." Murchison - who transferred from City College of San Francisco - would be the sixth of nine such Huskies transfers to fail to contribute as expected during Willingham's tenure. Does that discourage him from seeking more junior-college players?'

Nah! Everything's fine. Students look forward to their yearly athletics fee going toward this new project of ours...
Slate's Bad Poetry Contest

UD's recent post on William McGonagall prompted comments from readers about the need for a Bad Poetry contest, along the lines of the Bulwer-Lytton contest for worst fiction.

magazine has just announced exactly that -- a bad poetry contest.

There are already tons of entries, and I've only looked at a few. Here are three strong candidates among them.

The last poem is head and shoulders above the rest.


Why do you linger in the laundry mat dryer?
Holey and worn with lost devotion
Still warm in my hand
Like a mother’s breath.

Was it a case of abandonment?
Perhaps your chance for escape
From a malodorous foot
And an uncaring owner.

Will I keep you?
I have to
My daughter needs a one-eyed puppet
Who will make you her cotton king.

A mystery no more.



Through the gentle breeze

Wafts soft as silk

A thought.

It is my thought,

mine own.

To live in Buddhist

Temples does not delight me.

It is the idea

Alone, taking shape,

That dawns upon

The dessert like thunder.

You come to me

Now, under a teacup

For two. Under a

A roller coaster named “Fallen World.”

I see the wooden planks

Give way. See Helen

Throw down the flowers

Of Troy for a soda on the midway.

The idea is you, but lives

In me. All I can do is

Gently waft in your

Breeze, behind you in the ticket line forever.


I had a dog, his name was Gus,

Whose lust eventually consigned him to dust.

Whenever he spied some pert lil’ poochie,

He’d drop what ere it was that he be doing,

Cuz he liked nothing as much as he did his coozie,

And nothing could sway him from doing his wooing,

Truth be told, with all good men tried and true,

This tragic flaw befalls not a few.

Whether human, feline, or canine beasties,

Whatever be ye accursed species,

Please be sure to look both ways,

Or you’ll end up like Gus one of these days--

A bus catching old Gus in flagrante delicto!

So heed my tale of grief and woo,

And mind this dreadful dire warning:

Be ye chaste or be ye horny,

Fickle or brave,

Remember ye be male,

So when ye be chasing some tail,

To keep this side of the awful grave,

Stay within your curfew and your bound,

For no quest for money or for mate

Merits the horrendous terrible fate

Of this good and faithful pussy hound.

[The author of In Imitation has clearly studied her McGonagall.]
Yet Another Dissenter
on Charles Simic
"OSU Played Better Basketball
When Only the Coach Drank"

Tulsa World:

'A Perry woman who was injured in a traffic collision in Stillwater last year with former OSU men's basketball coach Eddie Sutton is suing the university for negligently allowing him to drive under the influence of alcohol.

In a lawsuit filed in Payne County District Court, Teresa Jean Barnard, 44, alleges that "OSU's athletic, medical, security and police staff negligently assisted, enabled and allowed" Sutton to operate an Oklahoma State University vehicle "while Sutton was under the influence of alcohol and/or other intoxicating substances."

She is seeking more than $10,000 in damages in the lawsuit...

OSU Director of Communications Gary Shutt said Thursday, "At this point, we're not making any comment regarding the matter."

In addition to the university, Barnard named as individual defendants in the lawsuit: Sutton; OSU police officers Justin Hart and James Battles Jr.; OSU Center for Health Sciences physicians Thomas Allen and Robert Distefano; and former OSU Associate Athletic Director Joe Muller.

Barnard's lawsuit alleges that "OSU was negligent in its hiring, training and supervision of its athletic staff, medical staff, security and police staff that assisted and enabled Sutton into OSU's vehicle on Feb. 10, 2006."

Witnesses told police that about 15 minutes before the collision, Sutton became unsteady on his feet as he was leaving OSU's Gallagher-Iba Arena and struck his head when he fell in the parking lot.

Sutton refused an ambulance and insisted instead on driving himself to the Stillwater airport, a police report said.

As a precursor to the lawsuit, Barnard had filed a tort claim Feb. 5 in which she sought more than $125,000 in damages from the state.

OSU denied that claim by failing to approve it within 90 days, according to Barnard's lawsuit.

In the tort claim, Barnard wrote that she sprained her spine, sprained and tore her right knee, injured her right hip and suffered headaches as well as mental anguish.

Sutton, 71, of Stillwater pleaded no contest to charges of aggravated drunken driving, driving left of center and speeding. Sutton's blood-alcohol level after the accident was nearly three times the legal driving limit of 0.08, court records show.

He was placed on probation for a year as part of a plea bargain that required him to undergo extended inpatient alcohol-abuse treatment.

He paid $1,438 in fines and court costs and attended a victim impact panel in Stillwater, as ordered by the court.

All of the charges were dismissed, and the record of his case was expunged in May when Special District Judge Michael Stano ruled that Sutton had successfully completed his one-year probation. [Nice!]

On May 19, 2006, two weeks after Sutton entered his plea, he retired with 798 career coaching wins, ranking fifth in NCAA history.'


Local comments on the story [UD's fixed their writing errors]:

1. 8/10/2007 7:24:28 AM, Doug, College Station, TX

... Eddie is the Lindsey Lohan of Oklahoma. Look at the current problems of the OSU basketball team -- they are just following their role model. With his history and behavior he should not even be allowed to drive a car without some device on his car that prevents drunks from driving. Every student who gets a DUI in Payne County this school year should get the Eddie Sutton deal. I bet ole Eddie would sue and demand jail time if a drunk driver caused pain to his family. OSU played better basketball when only the coach drank. Way to go OSU -- once again, you have showed coaches and players are above the law.

2. 8/10/2007 1:25:46 PM, David, Moore, OK

Doug, I couldn't agree with you more. This "coach" was on the job and OSU should be punished to the full extent of the law. Double standards all the way around. What a total disgrace to the state and the university. Imagine drinking on the job and then getting in your car to ... meet with your team for a flight to a game. How many times do you think this sorry alcoholic has done that throughout the years? Eddie belongs in the hall of shame.

3. 8/10/2007 2:51:35 PM, CW, Tulsa

I think Eddie Sutton should pay the consequences for his crime, even if that means jail time on top of paying fines and participating in the victim's panel. But instead of slamming Sutton for "getting away" with something because of who he is, throw some blame to the law enforcement agencies and/or the legal system for "letting him get away" with something because of who he is. To me the accountability includes several. Doug, as for references to drinking by OSU players and/or coaching staff members, you need to remember that alcohol consumption is something done by athletes and staff members at other universities across the country as well. It's just that in this case it grabbed media attention and wasn't "swept under the carpet" as is most usually the case. I support the lawsuit as justice must be served; however, I will forever remain an OSU Cowboy fan.
University of Florida Fans:
The Heartbreak of Mental Retardation

'As part of its "Gateway of Champions" campaign to raise money for the expansion of the football offices, Gator room and weight room, Florida is offering fans the chance to be a part of the team.

... A $5-million gift can get fans the ultimate Gator experience, including breakfast and riding to the stadium with the team, participating in the "Gator Walk" and running through the tunnel. For $1-million, you can choose to have an evening of dinner and conversation with coach Urban Meyer and his family, or run through the tunnel. And for a $50,000 donation, you can dine with athletic director Jeremy Foley.

For $5,000, you can get your name in lights at a home game and $25,000 will get you a sideline pass for the annual Orange and Blue Game.'

---st. petersburg times---
What's the Matter With Kansas?
Here's What's the Matter with Kansas.

'...Just about the only thing that captures the attention and interest of most [Lawrence] residents is sports, particularly Kansas University basketball. That’s the one topic people of all ages seem to get involved in, particularly at the end of the KU basketball season when local residents, KU graduates or not, wonder where the Jayhawks will be seeded in the NCAA Tournament and whether they can make it into the Final Four or maybe win a national championship.

This is the only thing that comes close to uniting the city and its residents.

Here in a university town, a large percentage of the population is involved in education in one way or another, but even so, sports apparently are so dominant in the minds of local residents that they don’t say much or seem concerned about the money spent on sports, sports facilities, salaries for coaches and athletic department officials and the millions paid to talented young men who are in the business of professional sports.

KU faculty members, teachers in the Lawrence school system and those teaching at Haskell Indian Nations University have to wince when they read about what college coaches make or what an athletic director takes in.

Teachers may put in 20, 30 and sometimes 40 years as instructors and never come close to the multimillion-dollar contracts that are the norm for coaches and senior athletic department officials.

No one seems to question the wide variance of pay for teachers who are so important for our society versus the millions of dollars spent on sports. Few in Lawrence voice concern about spending more than $30 million for new KU football offices and practice fields when other facets of the university are badly in need of repair or replacement.

Consider how many local residents try to figure out how to squeeze their budgets to make an extra payment to the KU Athletic Department in order to obtain better seating at athletic events rather than spend these same dollars on some higher family or business need. Also, there are those who, because of the added money demanded by KU Athletic Department officials to obtain favorable seating in Allen Fieldhouse or Memorial Stadium, have quit funding other university programs so they could pay for the necessary “points” for priority seating.

This is the power of sports.

There’s not much that can be done about it if a person wants to spend his or her money in this manner or even contribute more money to reward coaches or athletic directors.

Does this say something about what the average resident (whatever that is) thinks about the relative importance of many of today’s major issues versus sports?

Maybe Lawrence will continue to be divided on many issues, but that didn’t used to be the situation. There were strong differences of opinion in past years, but once a decision was reached on a particular issue, residents usually banded together to make the project, cause or policy work.

Today, it seems people are so set in their ways, so mean-spirited, that if they don’t get their way, they will do what they can to damage, weaken or defeat those with opposing views.

Lawrence needs to get more civil, more united, on more things other than KU basketball. Lawrence needs more people with a vision for the future and what needs to be done to help make it a better city, a leader in many fields, rather than settling for the more comfortable position of being a “follower.”

We know the town is going to grow. We hope increasing numbers of individuals will want to make Lawrence their home. We hope KU will become an even finer university and will continue to attract large numbers of bright, highly motivated young men and women. We hope the university conducts itself in a manner to justify the enthusiastic support of state lawmakers, and we hope the city will have the services and friendly people to make the city highly attractive.

We also can hope the KU basketball program continues to be among the nation’s elite, but should this be the most important and most unifying cause in Lawrence? If it is, what does that say about Lawrence and its residents?'

--- lawrence journal-world ---

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Pattern Runs Through It

UD has already marveled at the squalor of Montana State's criminal sports teams, assembled by a fully independent athletics department that doesn't care if you like to kill people as long as you also like to play football.

A law enforcement official who has studied the situation at Montana and at many other universities says there's a "pattern emerging, a growing problem ...schools are not able or willing to address."

Along these lines, Dance, a reader, sends UD a Sports Illustrated article detailing the Montana scandal:

[T]he university's athletic department has been importing crime to an idyllic mountain setting. The website joked that Montana State was bringing Tony Montanas to Montana. Wrote [one citizen], "They're destroying the quality of life and general peace of mind in my hometown."

...The most recent six-year graduation rate, for the freshman class that entered in 1999-2000, was a mere 21% for football and 33% for basketball. Under the new NCAA benchmarks known as the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and the Academic Progress Rate (APR), there is no breakdown based solely on transfers. But in 2003, the last year such figures were available, 2% of Montana State's football transfers and 13% of its basketball transfers graduated. The rate for black transfers in both sports: 0%.

...[The university's president] acknowledges that Montana State could have done more to prevent its athletic department from embarrassing the school and straining relations with the town. Most notably, says Gamble, "we should not have been bringing in recruits who had little or no chance of succeeding academically and socially."

Yet according to a report compiled last February by a panel of independent investigators hired by the school, the Bobcats had been doing just that for years. Investigators found that the football program had almost total autonomy in getting recruits admitted and that it was "prioritizing the team's competitive needs without full consideration of the academic impact" of taking large numbers of transfers. The report scolded the program for its low APR, which under NCAA guidelines caused the loss of three scholarships for the coming season. The basketball program was spared direct criticism, but the entire athletic department was cited for failing to properly review the academic credentials of incoming athletes, among other shortcomings.

When the report came out, Gamble said there was little in it he didn't already know...

It takes a special synergy -- cynical and indifferent presidents, criminally negligent athletic administrators, a whole lot of local yahoos who don't give a shit about what players do off-field -- to turn universities into crime syndicates. Montana State shows you how it's done.
Monty Python Lives

40 Papers in 22 Months

Eric, a reader, forwards to UD this thoughtful article about plagiarism and falsification of data in scientific papers. The central story involves some Turkish graduate students:

'[The] graduate students [had] a prodigious track record of publication: over 40 papers in a 22-month span. Dr. Karasu, who sat on the panel that evaluated their oral exams, became suspicious when their knowledge of physics didn't appear to be consistent with this level of output. Discussions with Dr. Tekin revealed that the students also did not appear to possess the language skills necessary for this level of output in English-language journals (METU conducts its instruction in English).

This caused these faculty members to go back and examine their publications in detail, at which point the plagiarism became clear. "All they had done was literally take big chunks of others' work using the 'copy and paste' technique," Dr. Sarioglu said, "steal from here and there to cook up an Intro which is basically the same stuff in all their manuscripts, carry out some really trivial calculations such as taking derivatives of some simple functions, and write up the results in the format of a paper." The department chair was informed and started an internal investigation; the university's Ethics Committee has since become involved.'

Was it my parents' early travel with their children that made me a traveler? All my life I've had flashbacks of Venice when I was eight. Stepping off of a black boat into a loud city, sunlight pressing on my shoulders.

Plenty of sunlight this morning on the beach at Nusa Dua. That, plus the island wind, the warm ocean, and the curvature of the beach ending in a headland on which the waves crashed, created a sense of the world as surreally perfect. The surreality came from a funeral procession which suddenly appeared on the beach -- a scene out of Fellini. Men and women in yellow robes carried the long narrow banners of Bali, which curve up to a tight curl at the top.

A man chanted sadly as they moved along. Drummers beat a slow pulse. I looked up to see the moon out at midday over the ocean.

Topless Italian floozies on the beach pulled their bras to their chests to gawk. Rich hotel guests gawked at the Balinese and the Balinese gawked at the rich hotel guests.

Yesterday we visited the new Four Seasons Sayan hotel with Michael, who flew up from Melbourne to spend a few days with us. It's the most beautiful hotel I've ever seen. The setting along the Sayan Ridge opens up the river, fields, palms, and sky with more drama and generosity than I've seen anywhere else here. The architect built Monet ponds in midair, long curving light wood decks, and a dark green pool alongside the river that flows the way the river flows.

The place is stepped down a steep ridge, so there's lots of walking to get anywhere. The hotel provides little electric cars to move you from the river to your room, or from the restaurant to the pool.

Last night at the Kokokan's restaurant, Michael, a Polish Jew who moved in the 'fifties to Australia, talked to Ania and me about his history with the Soltan family. Karol's mother and her parents saved Michael's life [details below] during the war.

"I will always feel terrible about having lost touch with the Soltans over the years. I will never forgive myself for this, just as I will always be grateful that Joanna and Karol found me again. But one reason for it was that I always felt I was a very small person, and the Soltans very important people, and I hesitated to approach them."

"Well, Michael, you must know that with my American attitudes, I don't have much time for those feelings."

"But the Soltans were in fact very distinguished, Madzia. At Jerzy's father's funeral there were twelve bishops."


['State of Israel Honors Polish Family for Righteous Acts

Nearly 100 people gathered beside the Boston Holocaust Memorial on November 24 [1999] to join the State of Israel in honoring the late Michal and Zofia Borucinski and their daughter Hanna Soltan as Righteous Among the Nations, for risking their lives to save a Jewish child named Michael Lippman in Warsaw during the Holocaust.

Under a program created by law in 1953, the Righteous Among the Nations award is the "highest honor bestowed by the Jewish people, through the State of Israel, on non-Jews." The Borucinskis and Soltan have been added to the list of close to 15,000 people whose names grace the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial. Cambridge residents Joanna Soltan and her brother Karol Soltan accepted the award posthumously on behalf of their late grandparents; Jerzy Soltan accepted the award on behalf of his late wife, Hanna.

Lippman, 67, a retired mechanical engineer, traveled from his home in Australia to speak and express his gratitude to his second family. Thanks to a chance encounter on a train platform in Warsaw as he searched for his sister in August of 1942, Hanna Soltan nee Borucinska and her family became the instrument of his survival.

"There must have been some superior force that guided me, as a ten-year-old child, to sit next to Hanna on that train platform and reveal myself to her," Lippman said. "To tell her that I was Jewish and needed help."

At the beginning of the war, Lippman's father heard that Jewish men were to be taken, and fled east to Lvov. His sister, also named Hanna, had already been separated from the family. Lippman was living with his mother in the Otwock Ghetto, an hour train ride from Warsaw. In an attempt to survive and find his sister, he escaped the ghetto through the forest in search of homes where he was told he might hide. En route to people and places that would provide at least temporary shelter, Lippman went from house to house, but nothing worked out permanently.

After a few temporary respites from the ubiquitous danger, he believed that if he could only find his sister, everything would be fine. He went into a store and asked how he might go about looking for her, whether or not he should go to the police. The store owner warned against revealing himself to the authorities and recommended he go to the Warsaw Ghetto and inquire about her there. He went to the train station.

Since Lippman had heard horrific stories about the infamous area, he was uncomfortable with the idea of going, and unsure even where in Warsaw the ghetto stood. It was then on the train platform that he saw 31-year-old Hanna Borucinska. She told him to follow her onto the train and then to her family's apartment.

"She took me to her home and told her mother that she had brought home a little boy," Lippman said. "I no longer felt like a hunted animal. She always made me feel safe and protected. There is no doubt that I survived the war because of the courage and love and caring of Mrs. Borucinska."

According to Joanna Soltan, her grandparents' apartment had a number of rooms that made it possible to conceal the Jewish child in their care. But because of their involvement with and prominence in the Warsaw artistic community, they had many visitors from whom Lippman was required to remain hidden. Soltan said that her mother and grandparents did not set out to be heroes, but believed taking Michael in was "the obvious thing to do."

Michal Borucinski, (1885-1976) born in Siedlce, Poland, was a painter and professor at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. ... Zofia Jackimowicz, (1883-1969), was born in Warsaw to a family of artists, scientists and writers and was a graduate of Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. She married Michal in 1910. Their one child, Hanna (1911-1987) was born in Warsaw, graduated from Warsaw Polytechnic and became an architect. She married Jerzy Soltan by proxy in 1944 when he was in a Prisoner of War Camp in Germany.

The Borucinskis were one among many families and groups who chose to help people survive at great personal risk to themselves. But, they recognized that Lippman might not wish to stay, not having found who he was looking for. "At the beginning," Soltan said, "my grandmother asked Michael if he wanted to go and look for his sister in the ghetto. He said 'no'. And that was the end of that conversation."

Seven months after they took him in, in April of 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising began. From their apartment, the family could see the flames from inside the walls. Lippman watched as he remained concealed, still unsure if his sister Hanna was inside. At one point, Lippman said that Mrs. Borucinska expressed to him that "what we are witnessing is a great tragedy and that the people in the ghetto are heroic."

As the situation in the ghetto worsened, the Borucinskis felt that Michael was no longer safe in their home and moved him to a house in the country where he remained hidden until the Soviets defeated the Nazi army over one year later.

According to Soltan, after the war, while inside a Holocaust Survivors Assistance Center in Poland, Lippman heard his family name uttered. Reportedly, when he turned around, he was miraculously reunited with his sister, who had also been hidden during the war. The two stayed in Poland for the next twelve years. Michael studied and earned a degree in engineering, married and had one son; Hanna married and had two children. At Hanna's encouragement, they all emigrated to Australia in 1957, where an uncle had moved before the war.

Lippman said that he and his family have been bound to the Borucinskis and Soltans by the strongest of ties. When asked what the passage "Whoever saves a single life it is as though he has saved the whole world" means to him, through the smiling eyes of a young child, he responded simply that "she saved me. The world is open to me because of her."']



Longtime readers know that UD plays virtually non-stop Scrabble with her older sister (the one who's not a Morrissey freak) whenever her sister's visiting. She and her sister are eerily well-matched and extremely competitive, so I wouldn't call the experience fun. But it's compelling.

Much more intense, I guess, is the just-released Scrabulous, described by a Scrabble-loving writer for the Telegraph:

Cyber-scrabble is on the march. Only two months after the launch on the social networking site Facebook of an application called Scrabulous - which allows you to play with your friends online - 200,000 people are reported to have signed up.

The historian Tom Holland, another Fleet Street regular, says the online game "is to normal Scrabble what an Olympics in which all the athletes openly took steroids would be to clean athletics", and likens its pace to that of a "test match".

Given the already insane intensity of my Scrabble matches with my sister, I'm not sure I'm strong enough for Scrabulous. And the old-fashioned form, as the writer notes, really has its moments:

Sure, you remember the great bingos - when you play all seven letters from your rack, incurring a 50-point bonus and a feeling of what we might call world rulership. I once got "BIRTHDAY" across two triple-word scores, notching up a score so flabbergasting that I'm doing a little dance, right now, in public, five years on.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Feeding the Beast

Rutgers has cut six teams - swimming and diving, tennis, fencing, lightweight and heavyweight crew - and thrown heart and soul into football and basketball. A Wall Street Journal commentator considers what this means.

Rutgers showed its appreciation [for their big recent wins] by increasing the pay of women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer in a package that could yield her $950,000 a year, and boosted the compensation of men's football coach Greg Schiano to a reported $1.5 million a year, both raises of about 50%. Such increases, in light of cutting six teams with a combined operating budget of $798,000, angered [members of a student and alumni coalition that wants to bring back the sports that have been shut down].

"The cutting of these teams has nothing to do with the extra money put into football," [says a campus spokesperson], who says that the university was simply operating more sports than it could with success. Cutting the teams brings Rutgers down to 24, more than most schools in its Big East Conference, which saw another member, Syracuse, cut men's and women's swimming and diving teams in June. "Football is a separate issue -- I look at it differently from the rest of the sports. It raises far more money, and ultimately the success of football can carry the rest of our programs."

Ultimately is the key word. Football does not now pay its own way, but [the spokesman] is betting that it will. He says he was charged when he was appointed in 1998 to "fix football" after years of losing. His model, he says, were the "big, good" programs of the Big 10....

"You look at schools where football has been successful for 30 or 40 years, and it can carry an athletics program," [he said], adding that the last two years of football success head Rutgers in that direction.

Perhaps, but those most familiar with "big, good" programs know this to be dangerous territory.

"When you read accounts about the revenue that football generates, they're really full of holes, ignoring capital expenditures and debt financing," says James Duderstadt, president of the University of Michigan from 1988 to 1996. "I think people close to Michigan, with all of its visibility, regard football at this level as more of a headache than a benefit to the institution." The headache, says Mr. Duderstadt, is getting worse. "We've seen more institutions going heavily into debt to pay coaches over a million dollars, and more programs eliminated in order to feed the beast."

While this is a story about budgets, it is essentially about different visions of intercollegiate athletics. Rutgers emphasizes success in revenue-producing football and basketball. Another view supports a broader range of students' athletic interests.

"Once colleges had athletics as part of the equilibrium of teaching people beyond the classroom, creating well-rounded individuals, physically and intellectually," says Glenn Merry, head of rowing's national governing body. "At some point it became more of a business; sports had to earn their way. It puts any sports at risk that aren't a huge media attraction."

If this is really about today's changing values, Americans' Olympic future is in trouble, along with whatever remains of balance in college athletics.
Meeham Was Himham

'Much of the Aug. 1 Jacksonville News column credited to Jacksonville State University President William Meeham is almost identical to health information on a pharmaceutical firm's web site, The Anniston Star reported.

On Wednesday, The Star said that the column, discussing ways of eliminating everyday stresses, was ghostwritten for Meeham by Al Harris, who retired in January as director of JSU's news bureau but remains a part-time employee.

About two-thirds of the Aug. 1 column under Meeham's byline appeared identical to material on, and Harris told the Star he was to blame.

“It was an article draft that was turned in too early because I forgot to go back and put in my attributions,” Harris said.

“I would think that the purists in English or scholarly writing would call that plagiarism. [Yeah, you'd really have to be a purist to consider this plagiarism.] It was in draft mode. It shouldn't have left my office,” he added.

Harris said that since 2000, he has ghostwritten Meehan's “Town & Gown” columns for The Jacksonville News, owned by Consolidated Publishing Co., which also publishes The Anniston Star.

The Star said it learned of the similarities from a letter sent by a 1995 JSU graduate. Meehan learned about the similarities when he received a call from a Birmingham News reporter Monday afternoon.

“It was our fault, and we want to admit that right up front,” Meehan said.

He said the article will be republished with a citation on JSU's news digest.

The Star said the JSU Handbook defines plagiarism as “the deliberate act of copying, writing, or presenting as one's own the information, ideas, or phrasing of another person without proper acknowledgment of their true source.”

John Alred, managing editor of The Jacksonville News, said Harris has apologized “and as far as I'm concerned, the case is closed.”'

---nbc 13---

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Professor at Duke...

...weighs in on the Spurrier story:

In his tirade, Spurrier said his two recruits met minimum NCAA eligibility standards and thus should have been admitted to the university. But those standards are a sham. In an extreme case, you could in effect flunk the SATs -- scoring as low as 400, the absolute lowest possible combined score -- and still make the team if you had a high-enough GPA in high school.
Outrage at Michigan

The head football coach at the University of Michigan is pissed because Jim Harbaugh, the Stanford coach and himself a storied Michigan student athlete, has been saying out loud that, like Stanford, Michigan should take its football players seriously as students.

As evidence that it doesn't, an ESPN columnist mentions the following:

'Only 30 players have listed majors, and 19 of them are pursuing degrees in something called "general studies." That's 20 percent of the team, and 63 percent of the players who have declared a major.

Yet a university spokesman said this week that less than 1 percent of the undergraduate student body is in the general studies degree program. The spokesman said there are fewer than 200 general studies students out of an undergrad population of nearly 25,000.

And that's not all. The other declared degree programs on the football team are: movement science (three players); sports management and communications (two); economics (two); P.E. (one); psychology (one); English (one); and American culture (one). There appears to be one undeclared player enrolled in the business school and another in the college of engineering.

Only one junior has declared a major, according to the guide (in movement science). In 18 years of covering college athletics, I've never seen virtually an entire junior class without a major.'

Taking a page from diploma mill proprietors, Michigan's outraged coach calls Harbaugh's comments "elitist" and "arrogant."
There's Lying, and Then There's...

'...Kim Ock-rang, head of Dongsoong Art Center, was found to have lied about her academic endeavors.

Kim's is the last in a recent series of diploma forgery cases involving prominent figures in various fields: Art curator Shin Jeong-ah who was dismissed from Dongguk University; English instructor Lee Ji-young who quit her radio program; and renowned architect Lee Chang-ha who also quit teaching at a college.

Kim, 62, [has been] a long-time supporter [of] the nation's theater ... [ever] since she headed a troupe, ``Nangnang,'' in 1984. She is now head of Dongsoong Art Center and Hypertheque Nada, [a center for theater as well as] art films [...] and director general of Ockrang Cultural Foundation.

She has also been giving lectures at Dankook University for the art management department since September 2002... [She] recently resigned from the post for ``personal reasons''...

A university official said Wednesday that the school decided to act on suspicions that the college where Kim had obtained [her] bachelor's degree was, in fact, an unauthorized school that does not offer credible diplomas. He said Kim is also suspected of lying about her middle and high school papers, as well as her college accreditations.

When hired at the university, she told the school that she had graduated from Kyunggi Girls' Middle and High Schools and Pacific Western University in the U.S. and obtained a master's degree at Sungkyunkwan University. But the high school confirmed Kim was not on the list of its graduates. She also said she attended at Ewha Womans University, but that institution likewise reported she had not graduated [from] there.

Pacific Western University is [...] a ``diploma mill,'' and is not authorized by the U.S. educational authority. Yet, the institution continues to dish out diplomas to students.

Kim entered Sungkyunkwan University's graduate school in 1997 with a bachelor's degree from Pacific Western University and obtained her master's degree. In 2004, she completed her doctorate in performing arts.

``When we hired Kim in 2002, she had a master's degree from Sungkyunkwan. We focused on the degree and failed to thoroughly inspect her other school academic records,'' the Dankook official said.

Lee Hye-kyung, director of Women's Film Festival in Seoul, said, ``The morality of her cheating on her academic career deserves criticism. But she has contributed to the cultural industry for long including helping in the depressed theater market, not concentrating on profits. I'm sorry for the society which makes people without decent diplomas feel alienated and bluff their way into jobs.'''

--korea times--
They're Dismantling the University of Oregon's
Academic Units Piece by Piece... prop up their sports program, but it doesn't seem to be working. Apparently you can destroy a university intellectually and still have shitty teams.

In a spectacularly well-written piece, a sports columnist at The Oregonian makes the point.

'The dominant image on the front cover of the 2007 Oregon football media guide is coach Mike Bellotti. Same as the back cover, which has a second dominant photo of Bellotti, and the words "Fearless" and "Leadership" and "Intensity" and "Strength" and "Determination" and "Innovative." [The author knows the importance of understatement, of letting language do the work for you. He just lists the words; he just describes the photos. He doesn't comment. He knows we get the idea.]

Except they forgot one word.


When we last left Bellotti, he was muttering under his breath after the Las Vegas Bowl, having been run off The Strip by a herd of stampeding Cougars. His team had just lost its fourth consecutive game and sixth in nine tries. He was telling anyone who would listen that Brigham Young (11-2) wouldn't have finished in the top half of the Pacific-10 Conference, which wasn't exactly an endorsement of his program if he'd stopped to think about it. [Nice pleasant conversational, somewhat confiding, prose.]

So maybe you weren't surprised last month when Bellotti publicly lambasted Dennis Dixon after his projected starting quarterback hit .188 in 24 at-bats in the minor leagues. Bellotti chided Dixon for signing and going to Florida to give baseball a try, effectively sending a Code Red to any future player who dares to miss a summer workout chasing a dream.

Nevermind [Should be two words.] that a few months before, Bellotti was jockeying for the vacant athletic director job. In Eugene, what's good for the coach isn't necessarily good for the quarterback. [Drop necessarily to make this nice observation about hypocrisy even nicer.]

And so this season begins with people wondering if Dixon will find enough confidence to lead. And with the Ducks picked to finish sixth in the conference in the annual media poll despite big-time resources, deep-pocketed boosters, a pro-athletics administration and blue-chip recruits. [Reminds the reader that the university has given over its identity to rich sports boosters.]

But what about high expectations?

Oregon basketball coach Ernie Kent reached the NCAA's elite eight, but because of a history of underachievement found himself with minimal offseason negotiating leverage. Which is only to say that Kent apparently isn't as good at politicking and schmoozing as Bellotti. If Coach Teflon gives a speech at a coaching clinic, it should be titled, "How Cultivating Key Boosters Can Save Your Tail." [Some of this is sort of hokey. In fact, the whole teflon thing is pretty tired. But it's still a fine piece of writing.]

When Mike Riley underachieves at Oregon State, he's held accountable. So is Kent. And so is OSU basketball coach Jay John.

But Bellotti skates [Knows how to play his teflon metaphor.] unlike any other highly compensated employee of the State of Oregon. And he shares in a percentage of season-ticket sales. And he uses a university automobile and a Eugene Country Club membership, among other perks, that are afforded to him as part of his contract. There's something about the free pass that doesn't feel right. [Excellent nasty detail. And the final sentence has a good understated feel to it. Remember: High emotion is the enemy of argumentation.]

Oregon has lost five or more games in four of the past five seasons. Since the 2002 season, Bellotti's teams have zero bowl victories. The Ducks have lost, in order, a Seattle Bowl, a Sun Bowl, a Holiday Bowl and a Las Vegas Bowl. [Ouch.]

Bellotti has passed around the blame for his shortcomings. He's changed offensive coordinators, season to season to season. He's changed starting quarterbacks, series to series. He's changed team captains, game to game. [Repetition of "He's changed" at beginning of each sentence an example of effective repetition. Careful when you try this. The line between effective and deadly is thin. You know who does this really well? Joan Didion. Take a look at almost any page of The Year of Magical Thinking for brilliant use of initial repetition.] What really has to change, though, are the expectations surrounding the head coach, because without it, I suspect Bellotti is going to underachieve, go winless in bowl games over the next decade and shake hands all the way to the university Hall of Fame as if life were a glorified booster luncheon. [Nice simile. Life as glorified booster luncheon is nice.]

Bellotti hasn't performed poorly enough to lose his job, but the cries for appropriate improvement and focus and results are strangely absent at the start of this season. [Drop appropriate. Way blah word.] His inconsistent body of work merits more public scrutiny. His failure to break through given his resources merits a lower threshold of tolerance on a campus where Kent, and other coaches, are held accountable.

For Ducks fans, the football season turns into the stuff of an 18th-century Alexander Pope poem. You know, "Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed." [HE'S QUOTING ALEXANDER POPE. HOLD ME BACK.]

But Pope only said it that way because nothing rhymes with Teflon.'


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"So giftedly bad he backed
unwittingly into genius..."

A longtime reader, Fred, insists that UD, having featured this year's Bulwer Lytton bad prose winners, should give equal time to bad poetry. Far as I know, there's not a bad poetry contest, but Fred suggests we pay attention along these lines to William McGonagall, especially because there's been a bit of news lately on the McGonagall front.

Arguably the worst poet in English ever, as well as one of the most-read (his works have been in print since 1902), McGonagall enjoys an enthusiastic though currently unhappy following in his native Scotland:

'The Scottish literary establishment has blocked plans for a memorial to him at the Writers Museum in Edinburgh alongside those honoring Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott.

"The decision to turn down a place for McGonagall was just snobbery pure and simple," said Bob Watt, chairman of the Edinburgh Friends of William McGonagall.

"These academics and arts big wigs don't like McGonagall because he's so accessible - he's the peoples' poet. To me he is one of the greats of Scottish literature. ..."

...Scotland's literary and artistic vanguard The Saltire Society confirmed it had vetoed proposals to honor McGonagall with a slab in the courtyard of the Writers Museums in Edinburgh.

"His work appeals to people because it gives them a sense of superiority. This is mockery rather than appreciation. So-called fans are in fact cruel because they make fun of McGonagall's ineptitude," said Paul Scott, vice-convenor of the society.'

The problem with Scott's argument is that there are plenty of way-venerated writers that we like to make fun of and feel superior to, including that object of infinite satire, Sir Walter Scott.... It doesn't seem to me that our feelings about a poet should determine whether we choose to give him or her a slab, but rather how good a poet that poet is. Far better for the Saltire gang simply to declare McGonagall wretched - a national embarrassment - and have done with it.

Should they want help making this argument, SOS will give them some.

Let us look closely at McGonagall's most famous work, The Tay Bridge Disaster.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
[Impressively oracular invocation of the subject via All Capital Letters.]
Alas! I am very sorry to say
[Pointless redundancy as he painstakingly fits his words to his meter.]
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
[The poetry-free line which concludes this stanza will be repeated throughout, a chorus of lament.]

'Twas about seven o'clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
[Note the infantile exact monosyllabic rhymes one after the other.]
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem'd to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem'd to say-
"I'll blow down the Bridge of Tay."

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers' hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
[...for to quail... gotta work the meter...]
And many of the passengers with fear did say-
[Bizarre word inversions throughout in order to score an end-rhyme.]
"I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay."

But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

So the train sped on with all its might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
And the passengers' hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
With their friends at home they lov'd most dear,
And wish them all a happy New Year.
[Mentally challenged redundancy.]

So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
[Exclamation mark!]
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
[Uses bray again because there are so few words ending in the ay sound.]
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o'er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill'd all the peoples hearts with sorrow,
And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav'd to tell the tale
[Oh fuck the meter.]
How the disaster happen'd on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
[McGonagall concludes almost all of his poems by telling the reader firmly and explicitly that he is now ending his poem.]
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.
[Ends with a helpful moral.]

Clearly McGonagall is forever venerated because he creates a rare mix of raw stupidity and total lack of artistry. As the title of this post suggests, few people have this ability. Reading McGonagall is as much fun as it must have been to listen to Monsieur Furex give his little speech each night in the bistro that George Orwell frequented when he lived in Paris. Orwell describes Furex in Down and Out in Paris and London:

[A]bout midnight there was a piercing shout of 'CITOYENS!' and the sound of a chair falling over.

A blond, red-faced workman had risen to his feet and was banging a bottle on the table. Everyone stopped singing; the word went round, 'Sh! Furex is starting!' Furex was a strange creature, a Limousin stonemason who worked steadily all the week and drank himself into a kind of paroxysm on Saturdays. He had lost his memory and could not remember anything before the war, and he would have gone to pieces through drink if Madame F. had not taken care of him. On Saturday evenings at about five o'clock she would say to someone, 'Catch Furex before he spends his wages,' and when he had been caught she would take away his money, leaving him enough for one good drink. One week he escaped, and, rolling blind drunk in the Place Monge, was run over by a car and badly hurt.

The queer thing about Furex was that, though he was a Communist when sober, he turned violently patriotic when drunk. He started the evening with good Communist principles, but after four or five litres he was a rampant Chauvinist, denouncing spies, challenging all foreigners to fight, and, if he was not prevented, throwing bottles. It was at this stage that he made his speech--for he made a patriotic speech every Saturday night. The speech was always the same, word for word. It ran:

'Citizens of the Republic, are there any Frenchmen here? If there are any Frenchmen here, I rise to remind them--to remind them in effect, of the glorious days of the war. When one looks back upon that time of comradeship and heroism--one looks back, in effect, upon that time of comradeship and heroism. When one remembers the heroes who are dead--one remembers, in effect, the heroes who are dead. Citizens of the Republic, I was wounded at Verdun--'

Here he partially undressed and showed the wound he had received at Verdun. There were shouts of applause. We thought nothing in the world could be funnier than this speech of Furex's. He was a well-known spectacle in the quarter; people used to come in from other bistros to watch him when his fit started.

So - fiction, poetry, or just plain rhetoric... We love it when it's truly stupid. But it must be done with verve. As Shaw said, "Style consists in force of assertion."
And a Hard Drive's
Gonna Fall

'A University of Toledo professor who reported his computer stolen, leading to concerns that personal information could be at risk, was charged yesterday by UT police with taking the hard drive.

Thomas Tatchell, 33, an associate professor of health education, was charged in arrest warrants filed yesterday in Toledo Municipal Court with receiving stolen property, tampering with evidence, unauthorized use of property, obstructing official business, and filing a false report.

Mr. Tatchell, who joined UT’s public health and rehabilitative services department in Aug., 2000, reported his university hard drive stolen on July 12.

He told UT police he hadn’t been in his office since May 2, and when he returned last month, he noticed the computer had been stolen as well as his degree plaques from Central Michigan University and the University of Utah, which hung on his office wall.

Mr. Tatchell also reported that the phone on his desk had been moved to another desk but the printer and scanner were still there, according to a UT police report.

Surveillance video from the office reviewed by UT police shows Mr. Tatchell taking the computer about 9 p.m. June 8, UT spokesman Matt Lockwood said.

Some university buildings are equipped with video camera surveillance, depending on what is housed there and if the extra level of level of security is needed, he said.

Mr. Tatchell is in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. No administrative action has been taken, Mr. Lockwood said.

A second computer hard drive also was stolen from the Health and Human Services Building this summer. No arrests have been made in that theft, the spokesman said.

Jeanette Espinosa, a secretary with the public health and rehabilitative services department, reported her university computer stolen June 18.

The theft occurred sometime between 3:30 p.m. on June 15 and 10:40 a.m. on June 18 when someone removed the computer and put the case back where it was to try to conceal the theft, according to a UT police report.

Memory cards for the computer also were taken.

The thefts of the two hard drives led university officials to send a letter to faculty, staff, and students on Wednesday informing them that personal information might have been on the devices.'

---toledo blade---
I Bought My PhD!
You Can Too!

Indiana University's Professor Natalia Rekhter
has rocketed up the academic ladder atop a Ph.D.
so bogus
that the very name of the
pretend school from which she bought
it should have alerted administrators:
World Information Distributed University.

How baroque a name must a diploma mill
boast before universities look twice at it?
Universal Data Compilated College?

Meanwhile, Professor Rekhter continues
to teach seminars in ethics.
The Mess With Texas

Brown Holds Key to Football Program
Handcuffed by Arrests

EDITORIAL BOARD [Austin American-Statesman]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Football practice opened last night for the Texas Longhorns, and, as always, anticipation is high for a team ranked fourth in the nation in one preseason poll.

But befitting one of the rainiest summers on record in Central Texas, Texas football opens under a cloud. One previously suspended player and one newly suspended were in jail on robbery charges as the team arrived for practice, and two others have been suspended for the first three games for alcohol-related misdemeanors.

Texas Coach Mack Brown does not have a reputation for running an outlaw program or for repeated recruiting violations. But his reputation, and that of the university and the football team, have been sullied by the arrests of numerous players since winning the national championship in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

Eight players have been arrested over the past 19 months on charges ranging from drug possession and robbery to driving while intoxicated. The team's problems have fans wondering aloud if the first practice will be in the recreation yard at the county jail. The Longhorn faithful have been embarrassed by this spate of criminal activity. [Have they? The editorial board will seem to deny that in a moment.]

Recruiting top football talent is a high-wire act, and every mistake is quickly known and widely circulated. Coaches have only so much control over their young players, so recruiting, mentoring and monitoring them are vitally important in a high-profile program like UT's. [How high-wire is it? I mean, how many of these guys present at admissions time with major criminal records? And then how much time and money has, predictably, to be spent monitoring them?]

Texas fans will argue that UT's program is no worse than those at other top football schools and better than most. [Now they don't sound embarrassed.] That may be true, but something is missing at UT when a top recruit is hanging out with a player already kicked off the team after a burglary arrest. Brown clearly has work to do to improve the situation and restore his, and the school's, image. [It's encouraging to see a local booster paper acknowledge that rancid sports teams damage the reputation of the universities that house them, not merely the sports programs that cynically take them on.]

Brown is among the highest-paid coaches in the country, making more than $2 million a year. His contract includes financial incentives for winning the Big 12 Conference, going to a prestigious bowl game or finishing in the top 10. Most head coaches at universities with powerhouse football teams have similar contracts that reward victory handsomely.

It is one of the problems in big-time college football that coaches don't have the same financial incentives for running a clean program, keeping players on the straight and narrow and seeing that they graduate. Brown can earn a $20,000 bonus if half his players graduate. He wins a $75,000 bonus if his team finishes among the top three in the country. [20 thou. That's how much it takes to light up the stadium's Adzillatron screen for ten minutes.]

Brown and the Longhorns have been great ambassadors for Austin and Texas. They have demonstrated pride, excellence, commitment and execution in winning conference titles and a national championship. We have confidence that Brown will restore class and integrity to his program, get his players under control and have UT back in the national spotlight for all the right reasons and none of the wrong ones. [Blah blah.]

But the coach knows better than anyone that the problems he's faced this summer cannot continue. [Um, look again at the coach's incentives. They can and will continue. They're simply the cost of doing business.]
Daughter of NYU Professors
Found Murdered


Update: Boyfriend suspected.


"I tried to kill myself because I killed my girlfriend."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Prompted by Dance, A Reader,

...UD has begun labeling various categories of posts, like SOS, so that when you click on the word SOS at the bottom of those posts, you're taken to a page that contains all SOS posts over the course of this blog's venerable history. She's now doing the same with her Balinesia series of posts. She thanks Dance for the prompt.
Majorly Weird Story
Out of Australia

So weird that, while reading, I kept checking the date to see whether I hadn't wandered onto an old April Fool's piece. But it seems legit. Here goes.

'The University of Sydney has ordered an independent review into allegations that the dean of the Conservatorium of Music hired a horse whisperer to conduct management workshops. [Are you, like UD, a bit vague on exactly what a horse whisperer is? And are you having trouble figuring out what a horse whisperer would have to offer a management workshop? But then, what exactly is a management workshop? Read on.]

Kim Walker was stood aside [I think "stood aside" is Australian for "suspended"] last month and has not been charged with any misconduct, but it is understood that Anthony Britt, an industrial lawyer who also teaches at the university, is conducting a review into whether she cut and pasted internal documents, including advice to staff, from a US university. [Horse whispering workshops plus plagiarism. And we're only at paragraph two.]

Professor Walker, an American, has been told not to speak to the media by the university, which has also declined to comment.

The Herald has learned of allegations that Professor Walker spent $55,000 on a motivational speaker, Joe Williams, who teaches personal communication skills to his students, among other things, by showing them how to talk to horses. [See what I mean about the April Fool's feel of this? ... Anyway, management workshop means, here, motivational speaker. Who motivates audiences by showing them how to talk to horses.] At least some of that money was allegedly drawn from funds raised via a community program, the Open Academy, which offers classes to children and adults not enrolled through the university. [And... so... the implication is that she took tuition funds and used them for her horse guy?...]

Mr Williams held workshops for the Conservatorium's senior administrators last month, despite concerns over whether Professor Walker had followed appropriate procedures.

Professor Walker, a bassoonist [It adds to the absurdity of this story, for UD, that she's a bassoonist. I don't know why. Some instruments are intrinsically amusing, I guess. For UD, a bassoon is like a bassett hound... comical, odd, clumsy ... ], reordered the conservatorium according to feng shui principles when she took up her post in 2004 [God, isn't there already enough crap in this story?]. She described the workshops in a brochure to staff as "a gift" that she had experienced in the Arizona desert several years ago. They had changed the way she thought.

"I'd like to offer that gift to you, therefore I am bringing the workshop to Sydney so you can experience it for yourself," she wrote. [Feng shui a semi-colon, woman!] "You'll leave with greater focus, clarity and tools to help you move to the next level in both your work and in your life." [I've been Googling Joe Williams, horse whisperer, motivational speaker, and shit like that desperately. Is he this guy?]

The workshops were also offered to staff at the faculty of economics and business, who had found them useful, the dean, Peter Wolnizer, said. "When I was approached about this … it looked like a wonderful professional development opportunity for our senior administrative managers," Professor Wolnizer said. "There was a component of (talking to horses) and people found that extremely interesting."

But he said he was not aware of any suggestion that the university had told Professor Walker not to proceed with the workshops.

The university and staff at the Conservatorium staff have also been gagged from speaking about the events surrounding Professor Walker's suspension, but one senior academic said the plagiarism allegations were embarrassing for the university when it takes a hard line on such conduct when it involves students.

At least some of the allegedly plagiarised material was meant to have originated from Professor Walker's former employer, Indiana University, but the executive associate dean of the Jacobs School of Music, Eugene O'Brien, said he had no knowledge of the matter. [Keep me the hell out of it.]

Professor Walker's supporters say she is a victim of jealous enemies within the university, and Rowena Danziger, a board member of Opera Australia, said the audience was overflowing with her supporters when she emerged from her exile to perform with her bassoon at the Conservatorium on Sunday [emerged from exile to perform with her bassoon... I still can't help wondering if this is a joke...].

"Everybody in the music and arts community, not just in Sydney but wider than Sydney, thinks she's an outstanding educator and leader and has brought the Conservatorium to a level of international eminence that other departments of the university would die for," Mrs Danziger said.

But Professor Walker has battled dissent over her changes to the Conservatorium.

She faced angry students last year protesting over cuts to the chamber music program, solo performances and individual lessons, and aggression by Condoleezza Rice's security guards when the US Secretary of State spoke at the conservatorium in April. [This needs explanation. Students were protesting the visit? What?] About 300 students later signed a petition calling for changes and staged what they claim was the first walk-out in the conservatorium's rocky history.

One student who has campaigned against the dean, Sophie Serafino, said the suspension had done nothing to quell student disquiet. "It's really bad vibes and it's difficult to focus on music at the moment," she said. "Everyone's talking about it."'

UD customarily appends words of wisdom at this point, but she's speechless.
April 16

Although she understands why the idea's controversial, UD thinks it's a good thing for the students at Virginia Tech who covered the attack while it was going on to publish what they wrote:

'When the shooting began at Virginia Tech — which was to become the scene of the worst massacre in modern U.S. history — a handful of students in one locked-down media writing class hurried to their computers.

The students in professor Roland Lazenby's class grabbed their phones and began reporting from their desks on the shootings April in nearby Norris Hall for, the student-run news Web site.

Lazenby and seven student journalists eventually decided to publish the results of their reporting, and their book, "April 16th: Virginia Tech Remembers," is to be released Aug. 28.

... Their book does not investigate the events leading up to that day, nor does it assign blame. Instead, in a series of narratives submitted by students, faculty and community members, it tells the story of April 16 and its aftermath through the eyes of those who experienced it first-hand.'

UD wrote, in her Liberal Education essay, "The Online Amplification Effect," about a wired world at universities in which whoever happens to be near a computer will report major events, and this is the example of what she has in mind (UC Santa Cruz students instantly reporting their responses to the suicide of their chancellor is another). This is authentic, and we should be grateful for it.

UD's thrilled to wake up this morning to an immense compliment directed at herself from the fun Rate Your Students website.

Readers were asked to list their favorite academic blogs, among which UD was already happy to see University Diaries. But the site featured a comment from "one of our favorite correspondents" which made UD even happier.

'Except for University Diaries, most academic blogs are tedious. Consider the source. These are the people you purposely avoid in the hallway.

I know, let's burn five minutes catching up on how you sipped boxed wine and tweaked your PowerPoint presentation over the weekend or how the proles in duplicating reversed pages three and four on your course syllabus.

"Oh, lookie here! I found my favorite pen, maybe I can get back to work on that darn dissertation ... maybe I'll just post another picture of my 18-year-old cat, Mr. Scabies."'
The Seven Sorry Sisters
and Their Porn

From an opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed by Alan Contreras, by far the strongest voice in the country on diploma mills:

'Many states don't require that colleges earn accreditation. In California, for instance, you do not even need to have attended an accredited institution to be licensed as a lawyer or psychologist. As of 2006, California had 179 unaccredited secular institutions that granted degrees; the estimated 250 religious colleges in the state are on top of that. Florida, as another example, had 35 unaccredited, secular degree-granting institutions in 2007.

The worst are the so-called Seven Sorry Sisters, the states with such awful oversight of college quality that they are considered havens for diploma mills. The actual number in the group varies, depending on which states have the worst standards or oversight at a given time; the current Sisters are Alabama, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, New Mexico, and either Missouri or Wyoming, depending on which way the political winds blow at the moment. Indeed, in several of those states, operators of substandard colleges are major political players whose goal is to make sure that the states never have genuine, enforceable standards.

... Americans sometimes speak of the market as though we were speaking of the Bible, or perhaps the New York Yankees — something that, although imperfect, is by its nature an object of veneration. In fact, the presence of a thriving industry that sells fake and substandard college degrees to thousands of Americans every year points out the problem: Just because something can be sold to many willing buyers does not make it a good thing. Diploma-mill degrees are the pornography of higher education, and like pornography will always have a market...'
What Happens When A Sports School
Tells its Two Million Dollar a Year Coach
That He Can't Set His Own Admissions Policy

'An embarrassed and angry Steve Spurrier blasted South Carolina's admissions process Sunday, apologizing to two recruits who signed with the Gamecocks last winter and were denied academic entry this summer.

"In my opinion, I still believe we made a mistake in doing this," Spurrier said Sunday.

Spurrier had spoken with university president Andrew Sorensen and the two agreed, the coach said, that things needed to change.

Spurrier was angered that receiver Michael Bowman of Wadesboro, N.C., and Arkee Smith of Jacksonville, Fla., were cleared by the NCAA to enroll, yet were turned down by the university. The rest of the Gamecocks football team officially reported Friday for preseason camp.

"Hopefully, I truly believe this is the last year this is going to happen, because I can't operate like that," Spurrier said. "I can't operate misleading young men."

Spurrier signed a contract extension, which included a raise of nearly a half-million dollars, that ties him to South Carolina through 2012. However, he said if things didn't change on admissions "then I have to go somewhere else, because I can't tell the young man that he's coming to school here," then not have him admitted.

University spokesman Russ McKinney said Spurrier has been involved in talks with Sorensen and other administrators about refining the process of athletic admissions.

"I think the university administration understands his frustration," McKinney said.

McKinney said the goal would be to let all South Carolina coaches know as early as possible whether a prospect would meet the university's admission standards.

It's not the first time athletic admissions has [been] a chief topic for Palmetto State football fans.

In February, Clemson's football program lost prospects in receiver Dwight Jones and runner Jo Jo Cox when they were turned down by the school's Athletic Advisory Review Committee.

About a week later, Clemson president James Barker pledged a review of the entrance process for athletes. Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden said then he thought academic administrators there understood the importance of recruiting "on a level playing field" with other schools.

And it's also not the first time that Spurrier has had influence on university policy. Before his first season, South Carolina's athletic department changed its drug testing stance from "two strikes and you're out" to where it would take a fourth positive test for dismissal from school.

At the time, Spurrier said the revamped guidelines were more in keeping with South Carolina's rivals. "It should be close to Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, very much in line with the state universities in the SEC," he said in August 2005.

This time, Spurrier pressed his case at the school's media day.

He felt he still had the support of South Carolina administrators in going forward with changes. He did not discuss specifics of what the new admissions process should be, only that it had to change.

He said his credibility took a hit with coaches, players and families who knew Bowman and Smith, two members of a recruiting class that most analysts had ranked among the 10 best in the country.

"For our credibility, mine and the coaching staff, I just want the high school coaches, the parents of players and all of them to know that's not going to happen here if I continue to be the coach," Spurrier said.'

Fuck the school's credibility.
They've Got a Hungry President to Feed

From an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about fourth-tier Georgia State:

'Joshua Saunders, a third year student at Georgia State University's College of Law, wants to know who raised his tuition 33 percent over last fall.

He's having trouble getting answers.

Saunders, who serves as president of the Student Bar Association at GSU, said he was surprised when he logged into his student account last week and saw his tuition bill would jump from $3,163 to $4,214 this fall.

Saunders said he expected a 15 percent increase to fund a new law school building, a special fee that law school administrators had told students they were requesting from the Board of Regents in October.

But Saunders said he and other students were unprepared for another 18 percent jump in tuition – an increase the Board of Regents approved in May at a meeting that set undergraduate and graduate tuitions system wide.

"It was, quite frankly, a shock," he said.

In an e-mail to students, Kelly Cahill Timmons, the law school's associate dean for student affairs, said the Board of Regents "imposed an across-the-board tuition hike system wide for all graduate students," which resulted in the additional increase.

But John Millsaps, the spokesman for the Board of Regents, said that is not correct.

"The Regents did not approve an across the board system wide tuition hikes for graduate and professional programs. Tuition increases were approved on an institution specific and sometimes program specific basis so that their rates varied among programs," he said.

Graduate school programs at several public colleges jumped in price this year. Instate grad students in UGA's Pharmacy School will be paying 19.7 percent more than they were last year, and master's students in accounting will be paying another 39.2 percent.

Institutions that offer professional programs submit proposals to the university system for tuition increases based on how they stand in the competitive market, said Bill Bowes, the Vice Chancellor for Fiscal Affairs for the 35-institution university system.

"They propose the rates," he said.

Georgia State law student Brian Basinger said graduate students deserve fixed tuition rates, just like their undergraduate counterparts.

Saunders said he and other students want to know where the 33 percent figure came from — their institution or the Regents.

"I don't know which way is up, here," he said.'

UD says cherchez le prez. He's among the very highest paid public university presidents in the country. Although here again there's some confusion about numbers.

In 2005, he was the second highest-paid public university president, at $722,350. He's currently fourth best-paid at $688,406. Did he take a pay cut? Did they calculate things differently because they were embarrassed he came in second?

Anyway, somebody's got to pay the president's salary, and it looks as though this year it's the law school's turn.
Keeping the Kiddies Dumb:
Arkansas Shows How.

'The cost of athletic programs at Arkansas' public colleges and universities has increased about 7.1% over last year and six universities plan to tap their education and general budgets to help pay for athletics.

State higher education figures show that Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff each will transfer $1.078 million from their education and general budgets to help pay for athletics.

The University of Central Arkansas in Conway will transfer $1.075 million, Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia will transfer $1.05 million and Henderson State University in Arkadelphia will transfer $1.04 million.

Education and general budgets cover everything from professor salaries to building maintenance.

In all, the athletic budgets at the public colleges and universities are expected to grow to $89.23 million in the fiscal year that began July 1.'

---associated press---
Harvard: Forthcoming as Always

From an article in the Harvard Crimson:

'University spokesman John D. Longbrake declined to comment specifically on Sowood’s collapse [and Harvard's "staggering loss," writes the Crimson reporter, "of at least a quarter of a billion dollars"], but said that hedge funds are just one of the methods by which Harvard protects against investment losses.

“We manage our risk using several instruments, including direct hedges, market hedges, and diversification,” he said.'

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Scathing Online Schoolmarm

The bellicose Joseph E. Bellacosa shows you how not to argue a case.

His way-angry opinion piece in Newsday insists that Duke University students boycott all classes taught by the 88 faculty members there who, when the lacrosse story raged, put their names to a letter which rushed to judgment against the players.

It was a stupid letter -- badly written, too, though who but SOS cares about such things... -- and I don't have anything in particular against boycotts... But Bellacosa's writing makes me want to boycott him.

Accountability finally came to Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong last month, when he was disbarred as an attorney and forced to resign as a disgraced public officer. Last week he issued an apology and a full retraction of the rape accusations against three Duke University lacrosse players. [So far so good.]

Now, with students heading to Duke in just a few short weeks [Instead of the sort of dumb cliche just a few short, write the actual number of weeks.] for the beginning of the fall term, the time is at hand to demand some accountability for Nifong's academic enablers. [Already we're in trouble with demand. Angry insistency is not the way to go, especially at the beginning of your essay. Work up to a bit of rage if you must, but don't start in on demands in your second paragraph. The reader responds by assuming that you've got a personal agenda that's making you nuts.]

Eighty-eight members of the Duke faculty publicly promulgated a dreadful letter, enflaming a premature and prejudicial atmosphere against their own students. [You absolutely have to quote a sentence or two from the letter at this point. Or you could link to it. The reader can't be expected to remember it, and you need to demonstrate how dreadful it is. ] Yet, their conduct is largely shielded from accountability. Equally troublesome, their ironically and suddenly protective university masters executed a confidential settlement to further immunize the Duke cabal from civil liability exposure. [Notice how bizarre the combination of constipating adverbs (largely, ironically, suddenly) plus Harry-Potter-speak (cabal, masters) is here. The writer does not have control of his tone.]

The 88 are thus granted a kind of institutional immunity, a corruption of process all by itself because it sidesteps a day of public reckoning.

But although the group can't technically be charged with crimes - though abandoning your young and endangering youth sure do come close to real definable crimes - there are ways these professors can be held accountable. [The writer overstates the magnitude of the offense.] The identities of the 88 professors should be posted in significant ways and places, including in the media and on the Internet, so that they may be known for what they have done.

The likely howls of protest [howls of protest is a cliche] from the tenure police, university guild apologists and free-speech absolutists [Beginning to sputter here. You don't want to sputter.] notwithstanding, the professoriat should not be shielded from appropriate public condemnation for their misconduct. Their dormant consciences and sensibilities should be reawakened to the abhorrent nature of the actions they inflicted on their own students. [Read this sentence aloud. While there's nothing grammatically objectionable about it, it's just weird. Awkward. Stilted. You want your writing - especially opinion piece writing for newspapers - to be as close to conversational speech as possible. No one talks like this.]

But even belatedly squirming consciences are not enough to compensate for the betrayal of fundamental principles involved here. [Ecoute. You don't have to be a poet, okay? You don't. But... belatedly squirming conscience?]

Because the identities of this "Group of 88," as they have been dubbed, are blurred by their group anonymity, they should not be allowed to get away with their prejudgment - a brazen violation of the presumption of innocence, despite later protestations to the contrary. [What we need here is precision about the content of the letter, not sputtering redundancy.]

Their roles as teachers should have included special protection of their pupils from mob hysteria and media hype, not collaboration in the spectacle. These 88 and the rest of the Duke "family" [You guessed it.] stood in loco parentis - in the place of the parents who entrusted their youngsters to Duke's professionals, with substantial tuition payments. The parents' trust was painfully misplaced, and their children suffered irreparable reputation injury and a fundamental breach of duty.

The courses and classrooms of these 88 professors should be emptied. The university's academic leaders should consider assigning them to teach only elective courses. [Someone needs to tell Mr. Bellacosa that university professors pray to teach only elective courses. Only elective courses is not a punishment. It is a reward.] No students should be forced to sit through mandatory courses with professors who evidently believe more in their ideologies than in their human charges.

Next, when students select among their electives, they should shun these professors and their courses - a good, old-fashioned revived remedy of accountability. Shunning is, under these circumstances, a proportionate penalty for the sin of heedlessly injuring young people placed in one's care and charge.

These 88 would thus be professionally disenfranchised, and as they look out at empty rooms and seats, that lesson would be felt and take hold. [ {Cough.} When they're done praying for a straight roster of electives, professors turn to the Give me the Smallest Possible Number of Students in My Class prayer.]

The university's powers that be are unlikely to have the backbone to employ this measure, based on their lack of spine throughout this debacle. But, it's an idea - and aren't universities supposed to be all about openly and courageously exploring ideas?

Duke and especially its 88 should-have-known-better professors were responsible for aiding and abetting Nifong's "crimes" [Second violation.] against his Duke student targets. The DA has had his day of reckoning for what he perpetrated; the 88 should, too. They flunked with a capital "F" the course in Principles of Justice 101, whose first lesson is the presumption of innocence and protection of innocents.

Everyone should be held ultimately accountable for their actions, even the hostile unintended consequences thereof, lest, in the future, hubristic ideologues, invested with power and fiduciary responsibilities, think that they, too, can act irresponsibly, with impunity and immunity. [So there! I mean, thereof! Lest!]


Holocaust Historian Raul Hilberg...

... a combative character mixing it up in the Jewish culture wars until the very end (he was, for instance, a defender of Norman Finkelstein), has died.

People were particularly pissed off with Hilberg's unswerving "accommodationist" views:

'Despite years of controversy, Mr. Hilberg remains steadfast in his views on Jewish resistance. He still maintains that the Jews reacted to the Nazi assault with an ''almost complete lack of resistance.'' Instead of violence, they persisted in the long-ingrained defense pattern of the Diaspora Jews, a combination of appeals and compliance with the oppressors' demands. ''They avoided 'provocations' and complied instantly with decrees and orders,'' he says. ''In exile the Jews had always been a minority, always in danger, but they had learned that they could avert or survive destruction by placating and appeasing their enemies. . . . Armed resistance in the face of overwhelming force could end only in disaster.'' Over the centuries, despite many casualties, the Jewish community had always survived the terrible assaults by refraining from resistance. In the 1940's, when the Jewish leadership finally perceived that the Nazi threat was of a different nature, the ''2,000-year-old lesson could not be unlearned; the Jews could not make the switch. They were helpless . . . caught in the straitjacket of their history."'

UD will never know enough to know whether Hilberg was right about this. On another matter, though, she's happy to agree with him:

'I have come to the conclusion, not once but several times, that, as far as I am concerned, I do not agree with legislation [in some European countries] that makes it illegal to utter pronouncements claiming that there was no Holocaust. I do not want to muzzle any of this because it is a sign of weakness not of strength when you try to shut somebody up. Yes, there is always a risk. Nothing in life is without risk, but you have to make rational decisions about everything.'
Southern Illinois University's Stupid and Insulting...

... Saluki Way project drags its ass along, failing to get the funding it said it would for buildings that will enhance the lives of athletes and administrators and do nothing for students:

'Southern Illinois University Carbondale has not yet raised $1 million for Saluki Way, but the university's chief fundraiser says he is optimistic about finding the necessary funds to make the project a reality.

...Saluki Way is a $76 million project proposed to center the Carbondale campus around new athletic and academic facilities. [The 'academic facilities' referred to are not classrooms or language labs or anything. They're new offices for administrators. In other words, they're not academic.] University officials need to raise between $15 and $20 million in private funds, McCurry said.

A portion of the project will be funded with student fees. Students will face a $54 increase in athletics fees next year, $44 of which will go toward the Saluki Way projects. The hike will bring the athletics fee to $221 per semester based on 12 credit hours.' [Fees will eventually rise to above $250 per semester. And if soaking the citizens of Carbondale doesn't do the trick, watch fees rise yet more.]
This is One to Watch.

I've already noted this story, in which a dean of students, among other administrators, has been indicted for an alcohol overdose death that happened on his campus. The charge is aggravated hazing, and if found guilty, the dean and other administrators at Rider College could go to prison for a year.

As with the Elizabeth Shin case at MIT, and the Jordan Nott case at UD's university, George Washington, this case revolves around the complex question of how much responsibility campus officials can be expected to bear for the destructive behavior of students.

It's true that there are some American campuses -- Chico, for instance -- with very high levels of craziness... Are administrators there now vulnerable to criminal negligence charges for the next bit of craziness?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Letter to the Wall Street Journal

Multiple offenses italicized by UD.

'I applaud Hank Brown ("Why I Fired Professor Churchill," Opinion, July 26) for his resolve to restore a semblance of honesty and integrity to an academic world riddled with self-inflated egos who behave as though the First Amendment and archaic tenure policies offer a cloaking device for culpable behavior.

Although I occupy a very small corner of academia, the "self-sought controversy" of faculty members like Ward Churchill and, from my own alma mater, Sami Al-Arian causes a ripple effect across the professoriate. Clearly, the insular, elitist traditions that Mr. Brown challenges have created a breeding ground for such arrogant, antisocial behavior.

I can only hope the firing of Prof. Churchill serves as a wake-up call to accountability and decency to all of us entrusted with the noble responsibility of educating young minds.'

This sort of prose, which packs cliches and mixed metaphors into very few lines, prompts thoughts in SOS which do often lie too deep for tears...


Friday, August 03, 2007

Another No-Vote
on Our New Laureate.

The author of the blog Creek Running North fails, like UD, to find the poetry in Charles Simic.

'Five people were indicted on charges of aggravated hazing in connection to the death of a Rider University freshman last March, and additional details were released about the fraternity’s "Family Drink" tradition, in which the freshman consumed a lethal amount of alcohol, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Ada Badgley, 31, of Lawrenceville, N.J., and director of Greek life; Dr. Anthony Campbell, 51, of Lawrenceville, N.J., and dean of students; Adriano DiDonato, 22, of Princeton, N.J., and director-house master of Phi Kappa Tau; Dominic Olsen, 21, of Kenilworth, N.J., and a fraternity pledge master; and Michael Tourney, 21, of Randolph, N.J., president of Phi Kappa Tau, were indicted Friday for their connection to the alcohol-poisoning death of a Long Beach, Calif., freshman.

The indictment alleges that on or about March 28 to 29, the defendants knowingly or recklessly organized, promoted, facilitated or engaged in conduct that resulted in serious bodily injury to Gary DeVercelly and William Williams.

DeVercelly, 18, died on March 30.

Through an investigation, police and prosecutors learned that in addition to other events for theme weeks, 28 students – 27 of whom were underage – participated in the "Family Drink" tradition on the night of March 28, when the pledges drank several shots, or in some cases full bottles, of hard alcohol in less than an hour.

Prosecutors said "Family Drink" was one of the events completed by the Spring 2007 Phi Kapp Tai pledge class as part of a process to become full-fledged members of the fraternity.

Pledges DeVercelly and William Williams were taken to a local hospital after taking part in "Family Drink." DeVercelly did not survive.

Fifteen people were charged with providing alcoholic beverages to an underage person, a disorderly persons offense, and 23 others were issued Lawrence Township ordinance violations for underage drinking. Three students were charged with drug-related offenses in relation to the search of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house.

Aggravated hazing, a fourth-degree charge, carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.'
UD Has Always Been Intrigued... skilled propagandists, people who know how to use language in order to frighten people into agreeing with them. The last piece of writing she looked at in detail along these lines was about Patrick Henry College, fascist Christian robot manufacturer. Here's another good one, by Tom Hayden in The Nation. My commentary's included.

Should a human rights center at the nation's most prestigious university be collaborating with the top US general in Iraq in designing the counter-insurgency doctrine behind the current military surge? [The genius of this opening sentence lies in the word "collaborating." The subject is the military, and the relationship between the military and the university. There's a well-known history, on which the writer is depending, involving CIA/university collaboration, as well as other forms of collaboration. Our other association with the word "collaborating," on which the writer equally depends, is the disgusting history of European collaboration with the Nazis. An excellent opening gambit.]

Led by Gen. David Petraeus, the so-called surge--an escalation of over 25,000 American troops--is resulting in hundreds of killings, mass roundups, door-to-door break-ins, and military offensives in Baghdad, Al-Anbar and Diyala provinces, on the side of a deeply-sectarian Baghdad regime which, according to the White House benchmarks report, still compiles official lists of Sunni Arabs targeted for detention or death. The counter-insurgency campaign is explained as a military way to create "space" for Iraqis to reach a political solution without violent interference. [No problem here, although the writer's already implicitly suggesting collaborative support of this policy on the part of a still-unnamed university.]

The new doctrine was jointly developed with academics at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard. The Carr Center's Sarah Sewell, a former Pentagon official, co-sponsored with Petraeus the official "doctrine revision workshop" that produced the new Army-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual...

This is not an academic text but, in the Marine Corps' title, a "warfighting doctrine," complete with hundreds of recommendations ranging from how to "clear, hold and build," how to use secret agents in calling in air strikes, even advice on public speaking ("avoid pacing, writing on the blackboard, teetering on the lectern, drinking beverages, or doing any other distracting activity while the interpreter is translating.").

The new counter-insurgency approach purports to be more civilized and humane than conventional kinetic war. It seeks to save the population ("winning hearts and minds") from the insurgents. It attempts to minimize civilian casualties and avoid torture of detainees. It promotes social programs. These no doubt were the attractions of the collaboration for Harvard's "humanitarian hawks." The introduction to the manual is thoughtful and balanced, even raising questions whether the effort can work at all. Sewall tastefully avoids any references to the brutal though targeted suppression necessary for the mission to succeed, but states in Ivy League language why she stands in coalition with the Marines: [The word "tastefully" is terrific. It plays on the sexism of the audience -- women do things tastefully -- and suggests that -- again, just like a woman -- Sewell is able to collaborate with brutality because she's in a Martha Stewart state of denial about what's really going on. This plays beautifully into the history of collaborationist dupes.]

"Humanitarians often avoid wading into the conduct of war for fear of becoming complicit in its purpose. The field manual requires engagement precisely from those who fear that its words will lack meaning..."

She goes on make an ambiguous comment about the dirty war supported by US Special Forces in El Salvador, now known as the "El Salvador option":

"Military annals today tally that effort as a success, but others cannot get past the shame of America's indirect role in fostering death squads."

The only sense in which the fostering of those Salvadoran death squads was "indirect" is that US forces went to great extremes to hide their role as advisers and trainers, the very role be carried out today by US advisers embedded in Baghdad's Interior Ministry, which is dominated by sectarian Shi'a Badr Brigade personnel.

The manual is explicitly based on the traditions of the British in Malaysia and Kenya, the French in Algeria, and the American forces in the "strategic hamlet" and Phoenix operations. Called "gated communities" in Iraq, these population control areas are surrounded by concertina wire and watchtowers as Iraqis are identified, fingerprinted, and eye-scanned in a system of total surveillance and coercion. Outside the concertina wire, Iraqis who the Americans officially call the Kit Carson Scouts are armed for divide-and-conquer missions against other Iraqis in a plan devised by Harvard-trained academic Stephen Biddle, now a Baghdad adviser to Gen. Petraeus. [The writer works the conspiracy angle: Another Harvard person!] Biddle's concept, described in Foreign Affairs, is to manipulate both Shi'as and Sunnis into depending on the US occupation for self-protection. Sewall of the Carr Center writes more generally that the US "strategic challenge is stabilization", meaning the rescue of multiple failed states like Iraq from their own internal insurgencies. The Carr Center hosts a series called "The Long War", in which generals like John Abizaid hold forth on the threat of "Shi'a revolutionary thought" and the looming World War Three.

It's not that counter-insurgency Harvard-style has been effective, as proven by the continued suicide bombings, sniper activity and increasing casualties among US forces since the "surge" began. It is an academic formulation to buttress and justify a permanent engagement in counter-terrorism wars.

But counter-insurgency, being based on deception, shadow warfare and propaganda, runs counter to the historic freedom of university life. [Note what Hayden's saying here. No university professor, or university unit, by his reckoning, could ever be involved in tactical or ethical advice, or thought about, any form of warfare involving deception, since university life is free. It'd take quite some time to clarify the muddiness inside this assertion. The propagandist rightly assumes you don't have the time.] Why then should Harvard collaborate? Is it now a violation of academic freedom to demand there be protocols limiting professors providing support and legitimacy for inherently secretive, classified and deliberately deceptive programs designed ultimately to kill people? [Now the propagandist shows his hand. He's not about university freedom. He wants protocols, baby.]

Perhaps it is the attraction of some intellectuals to the Devil's Game (the phrase originated with Robert Dreyfuss). These are not the "effete intellectuals" so often scorned by the right. These are intellectuals who presumably can "get past the shame" of those death squads, and this time do it right. They believe that the exposure of the generals to a civilian academic atmosphere may humanize the process of war-making, not worrying that the actual danger may be the militarizing of the university. [Yes, actually, they do seem to believe that rather than ignoring the military, academics should pay attention to it in responsible ways. Since Hayden's pretty much defined any form of military activity as demonic, there's no way academics can get involved here. In fact, protocols forbidding involvement must be formulated. Otherwise -- and here's the way scary thing!! -- it's 'the militarizing of the university.']

The Carr Center does not officially favor the war in Iraq [Good of Hayden to point that out. Now for a little character assassination.], though one of its former directors, Michael Ignatieff, is famed for endorsing the US as a "21st century imperium", an "empire lite", and publicly calling for "acceptable degrees of coercive interrogation." On the other hand, there is the formidable Samantha Power, an Irish-born humanitarian who strongly supported the US-NATO Balkans war and campaigned for Gen. Wesley Clark in 2004 [Campaigning for a retired general is proof of collaborationist evil...]. Power is a close adviser to Sen. Barack Obama, who supports a withdrawal of US combat troops by next year with exceptions for "advisers" and special units to battle al-Qaeda. Power, who worked last year in Obama's Washington, DC office, writes that even the proposed combat troop withdrawal can be reversed if Iraq's condition continues to worsen. Intentionally or not, the cautious, complicated Obama proposal as described by Power leaves open the likelihood of thousands of American troops remaining in counter-insurgency roles for years ahead.

If that is the limit of legitimate debate at Harvard [See how good he is? Whoever said 'limit of legitimate debate'? Who's keeping anyone at Harvard from taking up the question of whether advising the military in any capacity is the devil's work? Hayden would have us believe that Harvard's a police state.], the Pentagon occupation of the academic mind [Nice. The Pentagon occupation of the academic mind. It's insidious, evil, and going on all around us. Joe McCarthy, come on down....] may last much longer than its occupation of Iraq, and may require an intellectual insurgency in response.

The Center's response is here.


Jewels, Hats, and Swords Allowed!

For their last full day in Rehoboth, les UD's will view, from their balcony and at sandlevel, the 29th annual Sandcastle Contest on the beach in front of their apartment:

'More than 800 people are expected to compete on 100 teams during the 29th annual Sandcastle Contest on Saturday at the north end of the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk.
Sculptures can be started after registration, which begins at 8:30 a.m., and must be completed for judging at 3 p.m.
The adult and children's divisions have three categories: sandcastle, animal and free form. The top three entries will receive a prize package.
New this year is "Pirates of Rehoboth Beach," in which props, such as jewels, hats and swords, are allowed.'

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Charles Simic...

... a poet who ain't never done nothin' for UD, is the new poet laureate.

I never see any poetry in a Simic poem, any language that's beautiful or surprising or odd. His work seems to me short declarative sentences, propositional statements that toss domestic ordinariness in with suggestive surreality and hope for the best.

Sadder still, I never believe his poems. I mean, Simic doesn't seem to believe them. They seem exercises.

And tired ones. Lookee here:

Late September

The mail truck goes down the coast
Carrying a single letter.
At the end of a long pier
The bored seagull lifts a leg now and then
And forgets to put it down.
There is a menace in the air
Of tragedies in the making.

Last night you thought you heard television
In the house next door.
You were sure it was some new
Horror they were reporting.

So you went out to find out.
Barefoot, wearing just shorts.
It was only the sea sounding weary
After so many lifetimes
Of pretending to be rushing off somewhere
And never getting anywhere.

This morning, it felt like Sunday.
The heavens did their part
By casting no shadow along the boardwalk
Or the row of vacant cottages,
Among them a small church
With a dozen gray tombstones huddled close
As if they, too, had the shivers.

Look at that first stanza. The guy goes from a one-legged seagull to the grandiosity of tragedies in the making in a menacing world... So... I'm laughing at this point. Don't throw tragedy at me until you create the mood, buster. Foreplay matters. It's lazy to toss me two images -- a lonely mail truck toddling down the coast, and a forgetful bird -- and then shove that shit about tragedy in my face. I'm not ready.

The "Last night you heard" stanza is what I mean by poetry-free poetry. Take the lines out of poetic abbreviation and make them the straightforward prose that they are. There's no suspense in them, no haunted connotation. They're just blah.

"So you went out to find out." Why repeat out? Is it of verbal interest to do so? No. It's the same lazy redundancy Scathing Online Schoolmarm finds in so many of the prose pieces she analyzes... And then the weary sea, "rushing off somewhere/ And never getting anywhere." Same sense of laziness rather than intriguing echo in where and where in the last two lines.

Oh, and now we wind up, and we reach for something really big: religion. But nothing's been earned here - the solemnity of faith, the terror at the ominous vacuity of existence - these are among the grandest themes of the greatest art. Here, they're sketched in a gesture so superficial as to be a form of contempt:

...a small church
With a dozen gray tombstones huddled close
As if they, too, had the shivers.

Huddled. Hard to think of a more predictable word.

You want creepy? Here.

Friday Night at the Royal Station Hotel

Light spreads darkly downwards from the high
Clusters of lights over empty chairs
That face each other, coloured differently.
Through open doors, the dining-room declares
A larger loneliness of knives and glass
And silence laid like carpet. A porter reads
An unsold evening paper. Hours pass,
And all the salesmen have gone back to Leeds,
Leaving full ashtrays in the Conference Room.

In shoeless corridors, the lights burn. How
Isolated, like a fort, it is -
The headed paper, made for writing home
(If home existed) letters of exile: Now
Night comes on. Waves fold behind villages.



'Across America today the scope and scale of private donations are growing—what Stanley N. Katz calls "the new philanthropic math." Foundations have been responsible for much good. They encourage innovation, promote knowledge that may be unpopular, and protect minority viewpoints. But the Jeffersonian tradition reminds us that concentrated wealth often translates into political power. Nowhere is this more clear than in public universities. Jefferson considered the University of Virginia to be one of his crowning achievements because it was a public institution controlled by and serving the people. Today many public universities are becoming more reliant upon private donors and are, in turn, freeing themselves from dependence on state funds. With this financial shift has come a political shift, as these institutions are less and less beholden to state legislatures and government oversight boards. The scales seem to be tipping away from Jefferson and towards Tocqueville.

We need not question Gates's or Buffett's altruism to worry about the growing influence of private philanthropy in higher education and elsewhere. Instead we must constantly keep the scales balanced between Jefferson and Tocqueville in order to benefit from private philanthropy while limiting its dangers. If the new philanthropic math has enhanced foundations' power to levels we find alarming, we can erect clearer legal parameters around their activities. But there is a better solution. Public institutions, especially in higher education, have turned to private donations to compensate for declining public spending. There is growing pressure for private money even at the K-12 level. Reasserting public control over our institutions may therefore require a renewed public commitment to supporting them. Private philanthropy relies on untaxed wealth, but we might tax more of it in order to gain control over how it is spent. By enhancing the common wealth, Americans can reinvigorate the public element of their public institutions. Doing so would ensure that citizens, not a few wealthy individuals or foundations, determine their future.'

Presiding Absences

A just-graduated Brown University student, in today's Inside Higher Ed:

...[S]ix years into her term
, an eloquent, almost irrationally popular university president has made precious few sallies into the public sphere. I regret that my memories of [Ruth] Simmons will mainly consist of the easy platitudes she delivered each year at “meet the president” receptions. It’s doubly regrettable that my disappointment probably would have been the same at any top American university.

...She might have weighed in on any one of the pressing political questions of the day. (Conventional wisdom has it that she is liberal-minded, but I’m not so sure — there’s no record to judge by.) She might have offered a fresh insight gained from decades spent in the highest academic offices. Finding time to serve on the boards of Pfizer, Texas Instruments, and Goldman Sachs, she might have pushed for corporate reform, or merely turned our attention to some aspect of capitalism in the 21st century. Above all, by words or actions, Simmons might have challenged us to stray, even a little, from the comfortable, preordained road to an Ivy League diploma. She did not.

...[P]residents are caught in a cycle which will sound familiar to anyone in academia: draft blueprints for the next big project; develop a pitch; glad-hand the right parents and alums; eschew serious public engagement for fear of controversy; cut the ribbon or accept the oversized check; discover a new “need”; repeat until retirement.

...A student favorite who made a point of teaching philosophy classes himself (he excelled as a seminar leader), Meiklejohn’s tenure was marked by innovation and controversy. He angered alumni by urging amateur, not professional, coaching in college athletics....

John Merrow, a few years ago, in the Christian Science Monitor:

Here's a quiz for you. Name the presidents of any three of America's 4,000-plus colleges and universities.

Odds are most readers flunked that quiz, but it wouldn't be fair to take points off anyone's grade. How could the public know the names of higher education leaders, who are largely silent on the great issues of the day? Today's presidents only get noticed if they say something outrageous (Harvard's Lawrence Summers's comments about women and science), live too lavishly (former American University President Benjamin Ladner), or make millions (Lynn University's Donald Ross).

It hasn't always been this way. Father Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame, who led that institution for 35 years, declared, "Anyone who refuses to speak out off campus does not deserve to be listened to on campus." Many 20th-century university presidents also served as ambassadors and heads of major national commissions. Think Clark Kerr of the University of California, Jill Kerr Conway of Smith, Kingman Brewster of Yale, and Robert Hutchins and Edward Levi of the University of Chicago. Reporters knew to call them for opinions on the burning issues of the day.

I spent much of the past three years reporting about higher education and didn't find their modern-day equivalents. Presidents I met said they devoted much of their time to fundraising, often to build dormitories with wi-fi, athletic facilities with climbing walls, and stadiums with luxury boxes. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released its own survey of university presidents, and its results confirm that observation. Five of the six most pressing issues have to do with money, and the sixth - retaining students - is only marginally related to teaching and learning.

...Greater leadership in public debate on critical issues is what's needed to stop academia's declining prestige, not a fixation on the bottom dollar.

A recently retired university president, in the New York Times:

...As for the way Laudable [the name of an imaginary college, conjured for this opinion piece] spends its money, I can assure you that your professors aren’t overpaid. But I am. I take home more money at Laudable than anyone else (save some of the clinical physicians over at our hospital and several coaches). My pay is about five times greater than an average faculty member’s. That’s because I’m thought of as the chief executive of the university and chief executives get paid a lot in America.

But I know I’m not really a chief executive because I don’t hold that kind of executive power. The professors here are Laudable’s most important asset, and they, not I, are the ones who run the show (just ask Larry Summers). Laudable could save some money by paying me less.
One of the Authors...

...of Athens & Jerusalem, an intriguing new blog, writes that Tim Burke and UD going back and forth on university endowments today has "sparked some thoughts" of his own on the subject. I like this idea of his in particular:

[A]s for the Harvards with their $30 billion endowments — have them donate ... $1 billion to spin off a new college, a Harvard franchise. Multiply the number of colleges, in preference to goldplating the existing ones.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

UD Has Always Preferred Henry Miller...

...for this sort of thing, but maybe she's been wrong to neglect Jack Kerouac. It's On the Road's fiftieth anniversary, and lots of attention is being paid to the novel.

's got the Norton Anthology of American Literature: Literature Since 1945 with her here in Rehoboth Beach (she's putting together a syllabus for a fall course in Contemporary American Literature), and she's impressed and moved by the Kerouac in it.

Here are a couple of excerpts from his novel Big Sur:

...I sat crosslegged in soft meadow sand, heard that awful stillness at the heart of life, but felt strangely low, as tho premonition of the next day--- When I went to the sea in the afternoon and suddenly took a huge deep Yogic breath to get all that good sea air in me but somehow just got an overdose of iodine, or of evil, maybe the sea caves, maybe the seaweed cities, something, my heart suddenly beating --- Thinking I'm gonna get the local vibrations instead here I am almost fainting only it isnt an ecstatic swoon by St. Francis, it comes over me in the form of horror of an eternal condition of sick mortality in me --- In me and in everyone -- I felt completely nude of all poor protective devices like thoughts about life or meditations under trees and the 'ultimate' and all that shit, in fact the other pitiful devices of making supper or saying 'What do I do now next? chop wood?' --- I see myself as just doomed, pitiful -- An awful realization that I have been fooling myself all my life thinking there was a next thing to do to keep the show going and actually I'm just a sick clown and so is everybody else --- All all of it, pitiful as it is, not even really any kind of commonsense animate effort to ease the soul in this horrible sinister condition (of mortal hopelessness) so I'm left sitting there in the sand after having almost fainted and stare at the waves which suddenly are not waves at all, with I guess what must have been the goopiest downtrodden expression God if He exists must've ever seen in His movie career --- Eh vache, I hate to write --

'---Hundreds of millions of hungry mouths raving for more more more --- And the sadness of it all is that the world hasnt any chance to produce say a writer whose life could really actually touch all this life in every detail like you always say, some writer who could bring you sobbing thru the bed fuckin bedcribs of the moon to see it all even unto the goddamned last gory detail of some dismal robbery of the heart at dawn when no one cares like Sinatra sings... I mean the incredible helplessness I felt Jack when Celine ended his Journey to the End of the Night by pissing in the Seine River at dawn there I am thinkin my God there's probably somebody pissing in the Trenton River at dawn right now, the Danube, the Ganges, the frozen Obi, the Yellow, the Parana, the Willamette, the Merrimac in Missouri too, the Missouri itself, the Yuma, the Amazon, the Thames, the Po, the so and so, it's so friggin endless it's like poems endless everywhere and no one knows any bettern old Buddha you know where he says it's like "There are immeasurable star misty aeons of universes more numerous than the sand in all the galaxies, multiplied by a billion lightyears of multiplication, in fact if I were to go on you'd be scared and couldnt comprehend and you'd despair so much you'd drop dead," that's what he just about said in one of those sutras -- Macrocosms and microcosms and chillicosms and microbes and finally you got all these marvelous books a man aint even got time to read em all, what you gonna do in this already piled up multiple world when you have to think of the Book of Songs, Faulkner, Cesar Birotteau, Shakespeare, Satyricons, Dantes...'
Criminals Downfield

A strong-minded and not too badly written opinion column in Oklahoma State University's newspaper. It's about the Oklahoma University football team. UD admires the writer's toughness. SOS has a few suggestions.

The honorable tradition of college football is tarnished by the University of Oklahoma football team. [Take this out of passive voice for more force in your first sentence: The University of Oklahoma football team tarnishes...] The history and tradition [Don't repeat tradition so soon.] of OU football is richly filled [richly filled is a bit awkward. Just go with filled -- or find a better word.] with National Championships, hall of famers and uncontrollable players [Very nice conclusion of the sentence... sort of unexpected... "uncontrollable players."].

The school’s history of putting criminals on the field is not ending [won't end? continues? Try to avoid the to be verb formulation here.] with Bob Stoops. Barry Switzer’s gang of hooligans is not so different from Stoops’ band of heathens.

They have been involved in controversy after controversy regarding numerous NCAA violations. The most notorious OU coach to be involved with NCAA infractions was Switzer. [Note the short sentences and the reliance, again, on dull to be verbs. Punch it up!]

His history with the school includes winning three national championships, multiple Big Eight Conference championships and producing 54 All-Americans.

Switzer was also accused spying on Darrell Royal’s 1976 University of Texas team and bailing out on OU after the team was placed on probation in 1989.

For six months in 1988, players from Switzer’s team were involved with a shooting, a rape in the athletic dorms, a robbery and arrests for drug dealing.

The Stoops era seems to be steamrolling down an eerily similar path. [eerily seems to clash with steamrolling.] Since being named Oklahoma’s football coach in 1999, Stoops’ team has been involved with numerous scandals. [An awkward word order here makes it look as though the team was named coach.]

The decision to remove quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman JD Quinn were [should be was] not enough to evade an investigation by the NCAA. The NCAA charged OU with “failure to monitor players” and has forced the team to forfeit the winnings from the 2005-06 season as well as being placed on probation until the 2010 season.

The team has also been involved with a number of secondary violations including providing two banned substances to players, calling recruits multiple times and showing three prospects lockers with their high school number on an OU jersey.

All these violations lead me to believe that OU is showing poor leadership and giving college football a bad name. [Understatement. And poor leadership is a cliche. Speak more directly, with more force, here.] The reputation and tradition of OU has been tarnished and is only getting worse with the increased monitoring of the school by the NCAA. [Repetition of tarnished makes this short piece feel sluggish, as if it isn't going anywhere. Find another word.]

It is the responsibility of the coaching staff to control and supervise the players they recruit. If players could understand that they are being given a great opportunity by receiving many free educational services, I don’t think they would break the rules as often. [Content problem here. Many players don't give a shit about educational services, considering them an impediment.]

It sickens me to see talent like Bomar’s wasted because of greediness and failure to appreciate the rules. [sickens is very good. The piece would have been better altogether if the writer had used variations on the I almost plotzed metaphor throughout.] The NCAA has made these rules to preserve the tradition and reputation of college football. [Drop this sentence.]

Hopefully [hopefully is incorrectly used here] the recent punishments will turn a light on in Stoops’ head [turn a light on is awkward] that OU football is corrupt and needs to be changed.


Newmark's Door Agrees...

...with UD. We must help Harvard spend its endowment.
Classic Exchange on
University Sports

These exchanges are happening all the time, and all the time both sides make precisely the same moves. The side that wants hundreds of millions of dollars spent on stadiums and practice fields always comes out with the same woeful bullshit. The other side always makes the same obvious point.

If you need reminding, here's some stuff from a recent pro/con, at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

Miss Pro's upset because the governor vetoed a new sports complex. Athletics could be a "shining example" (of what?) for their community; and, speaking of community, how can you have one when the university is forced to hold some athletic events off-campus?

[Such things cause a] disconnect between students and athletics. These are UAA events that are not taking place on the UAA campus. They take place miles away, in a setting that is not conducive to creating true UAA pride...

Connectedness and pride are delicate, complex things; you can't expect to conduce them when students have to travel a few miles from campus to experience them... Miss P also insists that fancy athletic digs will keep Alaska students in-state. She forgets that there are quite a few reasons for getting your ass out of the tundra.

Pro comes in for the kill in her next to last paragraph:

Coming from the governor that appointed a hockey coach to the UAA board of regents, spearheaded the efforts to build the Wasilla Sports Complex and even named her own son Track, it seems strange that her administration would have vetoed UAA's future athletic facility.

Appointments to the regents? Sure you want to go there? The hockey coach can only remind your readers of other misconceived appointments to regencies in Alaska, like the amazing Reverend Jim Hayes... And naming her kid Track? Everything here depends on whether she named him Track because of her outsize track and field enthusiasm, or if there was in fact another reason... And even if his name is about track and field enthusiasm, it doesn't necessarily follow that she'll fund every track in the state... I named my kid Anna Livia after the character in Finnegans Wake, but I don't buy every copy of the book I see...

While Pro's stuff is all about intangibles like pride and shiningness, Con just talks numbers. The thing'll run about one hundred million, and meanwhile there's a billion dollars in deferred maintenance. Then, you know, there's still other stuff you might do with the money, like expand classes and make things more affordable for students... not to mention the walkways:

Parking lots and sidewalks are covered in ice and snow in below-freezing temperatures for the bulk of both semesters, but even the new ISB includes a long walk to the main entrance from any parking space.

Plus the university is shittily run:

In the end, UAA doesn't need a government grant as much as it needs a trimmed-down bureaucracy and better money-management skills.

I'm sure this sort of dissing is not conducive to creating true UAA pride, but it has the great merit of being true.
Tenth Anniversary Blogoscopy:
"No One Reads the Average Blog."

UD has noted the phallic anxieties blogs prompt.

These tenth anniversary reflections, which appear both in OxBlog, and as an opinion piece in the Toronto Star, will not help matters.

Although hard to believe, this month marks the 10th anniversary of blogging, a method for regularly publishing content online.

And what a milestone it is. A recent census of "the blogosphere" counted more than 70 million blogs covering an unimaginable array of topics.

Moreover, every day an astounding 120,000 new blogs are created and 1.5 million new posts are published (about 17 posts per second). Never before have so many contributed so much to our media landscape.

Despite this exponential growth, blogging continues to be misunderstood by both technophiles and technophobes. For the past decade the former have maintained that blogs will replace traditional journalism, ushering in an era of citizen-run media. Conversely, the latter have argued that a wave of amateurs threatens the quality and integrity of journalism – and possibly even democracy.

Both are wrong.

Blogging is not a substitute for journalism. If anything, this past decade shows that blogging and journalism are symbiotic – to the benefit of everyone.

To its many ardent advocates, blogging is displacing traditional journalism. But journalism – unlike blogging – is a practice with a particular set of norms and structures that guide the creation of content. Blogging, despite its unique properties (virtually anyone can reach a potentially enormous audience at little cost), has few, if any norms.

Consider another, more established medium. Books enable various practices, such as fiction, poetry, science and sometimes journalism, to be disseminated. Do books pose a threat to journalism? Of course not. They do the opposite. Journalistic books, like blogs, increase interest in the subjects they tackle and so promote further media consumption. [This is all a bit sunnier than UD would be about things. The book-- at least the serious book -- is certainly threatened. By television, mainly; but also by journalism...]

The same market forces that apply to books and newspapers apply to blogs.

Readers will judge and elect to read based on the same standard: Does it inform, is it well researched and does it add value?

Because blogs are cheaper to maintain they will always be numerous, but this makes them neither unique nor more likely to be read regularly.

Ultimately blogs, like books, don't replace journalism; they simply provide another medium for its dissemination and consumption.

If technophiles mistakenly claim that blogging competes with – and will ultimately replace – traditional journalism, then technophobes' fear of being swept away by a tsunami of irrelevant and amateurish blogs is equally misplaced.

Traditionalists' concern with blogging is rooted in the fact that the average blog is of questionable quality. Ask anyone who has looked, and cringed, at a friend's blog.

But this conclusion is based on a flawed understanding of how people use the Internet. The Internet's most powerful property is its capacity to connect users quickly to exactly what they are looking for, including high-quality writing on any subject.

This accounts for the tremendous amount of traffic high-quality blogs receive and explains why these bloggers are print journalists' true competition. As technology expert Paul Graham argues: "Those in the print media who dismiss online writing because of its low average quality miss the point. No one reads the average blog."

Once this capability of the Internet is taken into account, the significance of blogging shifts. Imagine that only 5 per cent – or 75,000 – of daily posts are journalistic in content, and that only 1 per cent of these are of high quality. That still leaves 750 high-quality posts published every day.

Even by this conservative assessment, the blogosphere still yields a quantity of content that can challenge the world's best newspapers.

In addition, as a wider range of writers and citizens try blogging, the diversity and quantity of high-quality blogs will continue to increase. Currently, the number of blogs doubles every 300 days. Consequently, the situation is going to get much worse, or depending on your perspective, much better.

As bloggers continue to gain tangible influence in public debates, our understanding of this phenomenon will mature.

And this past decade should serve as a good guide. Contrary to the predictions of both champions and skeptics, blogging has neither displaced nor debased the practice of journalism. If anything, it has made journalism more accurate, democratic and widely read.
Another Reason to Feel Great
About the $500 a Year You're
Giving to Harvard University

From the Wall Street Journal:


Harvard University's endowment fund has graduated some of the most sought-after money managers in the hedge-fund world.

Now one of those stars is teaching Harvard a lesson of its own.

In the past month, the university lost about $350 million through an investment in Sowood Capital Management, a hedge-fund firm founded by Jeffrey Larson. [Hm. That's a big number.] Mr. Larson managed Harvard's foreign-stock holdings until 2004, when he left to set up Sowood, which recently lost more than 50% of its value amid bad bond investments.

Mr. Larson isn't the only high-profile former Harvard-endowment manager with a mixed record since leaving the ivory tower. Jack Meyer, Harvard's former top investment manager, last year raised a $6 billion hedge fund, Convexity Capital, including an initial $500 million investment from Harvard. While Convexity's returns were subpar early on, its performance has improved lately, according to people familiar with the figures.

University spokesman John Longbrake said the school doesn't discuss individual endowment investments. [Or non-individual endowment investments. Or anything.] Mr. Meyer, and a representative from Sowood, declined to comment.

While $350 million is a relatively small hit for the $29 billion Harvard endowment [Oh right. It's not a big number.], the nation's largest, it highlights the risks as colleges nationwide embrace nontraditional investments such as hedge funds and private equity. Investments like these are less regulated than more traditional options, and often engage in the risky practice of investing borrowed money in hopes of amplifying their returns.

Along with Yale University -- where the roughly $18 billion endowment has achieved annual returns of about 17% in the past decade -- Harvard was among the first universities to embrace such alternative investments. The goal is to seek good returns that don't move in tandem with stock and bond markets, thereby giving diversity to the overall portfolio.

The strategy worked particularly well in the 2000-2002 period, when hedge funds generally did a much better job than other investments in protecting their clients' money from losses in the aftermath of the dot-com stock bust. That subsequently helped to spark new interest from institutional investors.

Sowood chalked up three years of gains for Harvard. But recently, it ran into difficulties navigating troubles in the bond market, suffering losses last month that cut the firm's assets in half, to $1.5 billon. This week, big Chicago hedge fund Citadel Investment Group agreed to buy much of Sowood's investment portfolio.

Harvard Management Co., which manages the endowment, has long been viewed as one of the nation's more successful and trailblazing investment-management firms. It boasts an annualized return of 15.2% in the past 10 years through June 2006. That compares with an 8.9% median return for endowments and foundations over that time period, according to Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service.

As Harvard's returns grew, so did its money managers' paychecks, which soared into the millions of dollars a year. That sparked controversy among alumni and others associated with the university, who argued that investment managers shouldn't be paid better than the school's Nobel Laureate professors, or its deans.

Mr. Larson's $17.3 million in payments in 2003 from Harvard were among the large salaries that drew complaints from alumni several years ago. [This is where your $500 went.]

In 2005, Mr. Meyer and some of his top staff left the university amid complaints about their pay. Harvard hired Mohamed El-Erian from giant bond house Pacific Investment Management Co., an Allianz AG unit better known as Pimco, to run the university's investments.

Mr. El-Erian received compensation of $2.3 million for the fiscal year ended June 2006, and a portion of his pay is tied to investment performance. Mr. El-Erian couldn't be reached to comment yesterday. [Why should any of these people or institutions be forthcoming? After all, it's only the hard-earned money of their students that's in question.]

For some detractors, Harvard's Sowood losses serve as proof that the money managers didn't merit their compensation. "We felt it was inappropriate then, and we don't feel it's appropriate now," says William Strauss, an author and Harvard graduate who is an outspoken critic of the salaries at Harvard Management.

"This is not a mutual fund," says Mr. Strauss. "Harvard needs to set limits on what it pays fund managers."

Nationwide, university endowments continue to show a greater risk appetite than pension funds and other large institutional investors. The top 53 university endowments, with nearly $217 billion in assets, have invested about 18% of their money in hedge funds, according to data provider HedgeFund Intelligence. The average public pension fund has only about 5% in hedge funds.

Kevin Lynch, a managing director at consulting firm RogersCasey, says there are at least two good reasons why universities have more readily welcomed hedge funds and private equity. Unlike public or corporate pension plans, which make annual payouts to beneficiaries, endowments have longer-term investment horizons, and therefore are more comfortable with the fact that alternative investments generally require investors to stay in for years.

Universities are also less worried about so-called headline risk, where news of a bad investment may be splashed across the front page, Mr. Lynch says. "The larger endowments often have hedge-fund people on their boards or committees," he says. "They are not as taken aback by a blowout." [Yup. As Harvard's entire institutional reality looks more and more mercenary - as its trustees all look and think like hedge-fund people - nobody's going to be taken aback by what's happening.]