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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)

Sunday, September 30, 2007


The hard numbers at the University of Texas. From a series of articles on sports there at the Austin Statesman newspaper.


The University of Texas athletics department is among the nation's biggest and best. But as it prepares to spend more than $100 million this year, some ask: Are there limits?

$107.6 million

This year, the University of Texas athletics department will for the first time spend more than $100 million. That's double the amount of just six years ago. Since 2000, sports expenses have grown twice as fast as UT spending overall.

The rapid growth is the result of the Longhorns' financial independence. Unlike other departments at the University of Texas, athletics gets to spend virtually everything it earns.

And thanks largely to income generated by the UT football team (and, to a lesser degree, men's basketball) the department earns plenty. The Longhorns' move to the Big 12 conference in 1996 gave the team additional national exposure. That, coupled with the team's on-the-field successes and an explosion in expensive luxury seating (next year the football stadium will boast three premium club seating areas and 111 suites costing between $50,000 and $88,000 a year each) have tripled football revenues over the past ten years, to about $63 million this year.

At the same time, UT has made a deliberate decision to limit the intercollegiate sports it supports. Ohio State University's athletic department also spends about $100 million per year on sports. But the Buckeyes have twice as many teams as the University of Texas, which has one full time athletic department employee for every two student-athletes.

Indeed, following a national trend, the number of Longhorn student-athletes has fallen slightly, so the amount of money the university spends per athlete has soared, from $113,000 in 2003 to $210,000 this year. That's 10 times the average of all Division I and II schools, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It's eight times what the University of Texas spends educating each student.

Administrators say that because the sports program is self-supporting the importance of such numbers is exaggerated. "We eat what we kill," said Ed Goble, the athletic department's chief financial officer.

Critics disagree. "There is no justification for such escalation," said Donna Lopiano, a former UT women's athletics director and recently retired CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation. "It's an embarrassment to spend $100 million on 500 kids."

An athletic department that spends money simply because it can results in "a degree of extravagance that is totally out of whack with what transpires in the rest of the university," said UT accounting professor Michael Granof, who points to sports facilities he terms "beyond opulence." He, along with other reformers, has proposed merging athletics into the university's general fund so its rapidly growing expenditures — four coaches and an administrator now earn more than the university's president — can be reviewed alongside other departments' budgets.

UT's spending also has consequences that reach far beyond Austin, said Dan Fulks, an accounting professor at Transylvania University who studies university sports finances for the NCAA. Programs like UT's, he says, drive up the cost of all college sports — and, in some instances, the price of higher education in general — as schools with less-lucrative teams scramble to maintain a pace of spending that NCAA President Myles Brand has called "not sustainable."

Fewer than 10 out of more than 1,000 college athletic programs nationally make money or break even, according to Brand. (Fulks puts the number slightly higher.) That means 99 out of 100 schools subsidize the cost of intercollegiate sports, often in the form of student fees, which according to the College Board are rising at a rate faster than inflation.

Trying to keep up with athletic superpowers compels competitors to literally mortgage their futures for sports. At Big 12 rival Texas Tech University, four in every 10 dollars of the school's annual debt service goes to repay loans taken out to build or rehab sports facilities.

The loan payments have made Tech's football program one of the most expensive in the country, according to NCAA figures. Last year the athletic department ran a multi-million-dollar deficit, which wiped out its reserve fund.

Big-time sports can cost schools money in other ways, too. This spring, an analysis of Division I-A schools by the Journal of Sports Management found athletic department donations represent a larger and larger share of total university giving. "In some cases, the increase in athletics giving may be coming at the expense of academic gifts," said co-author Jeffrey Stinson, a North Dakota State University marketing professor.

Most schools operate on athletic budgets a fraction the size of UT's. But a review of the Longhorn's expenses by the American-Statesman shows that, in ways big and small, there is a huge difference between athletic programs that buy what they need — and those that spend $100 million.

Longer seasons, chartered jets

UT administrators cite many benefits of the school's athletic department, including rallying school spirit and increasing freshman applications. Locally and nationally, the publicity generated by the Longhorns bathes the entire university in a pleasant burnt orange glow.

"It certainly gets our alumni and community involved in our campus," said President William Powers,Jr., adding that participating in intercollegiate athletics "is a valuable experience for student-athletes."

Lucrative sports programs do allow some students to attend college who might not otherwise get the opportunity. The UT athletic department will pay the university about $7.6 million this year to cover the full or partial cost of tuition and room and board for 412 student-athletes on scholarship. A third of that goes to football players.

The scholarship figure has grown every year as the price of attending UT has risen. But it also reflects the increasingly competitive nature of big-time college sports.

At schools like UT, many athletes stay in school year-round. For football and basketball players, summer sessions are virtually mandatory to get a jump on conditioning and to take summer courses to supplement academic calendars later cramped by practices and games. The extra summer sessions cost $364,000 for football alone.

A winning season adds more to the scholarship bill. Post-season play means athletes are still "in school" when others are home on vacation, so their expenses must be covered then, too. That cost $222,000 last year for football players. When added to the summer costs, one in every four football scholarship dollars is spent on covering expenses incurred when most other students are not in class.

The trend of year-round sports is spreading. Last year the men's swim team's summer scholarship bill tripled; the women's track and field summer costs doubled. In all, $1.27 million will go toward covering athletes' summer and post-season costs this year.

An athlete's education costs more than a regular student's in other ways, too. The athletic department this year will pay $1.79 million—- $450,000 for the football team alone — to tutor and assist Longhorn athletes with their classwork. That's up more than a quarter from two years ago and works out to $3,500 per student-athlete, in addition to the regular $8,000 annual cost of tuition. Academic counselors who travel with the teams add more in travel costs.

UT hires about 200 tutors each year, not all simply to help with classwork. While the Longhorns don't break down tutors' tasks, a review of Texas A&M's athletic budget shows the department paid $30,000 to "class checkers" who make sure athletes attend classes. UT pays $32,000 a year on "quality control" — essentially football dorm supervisors who help the coaches.

The cost of travel rises yearly, and Texas spends more on it than any school except Wisconsin, Ohio State and Florida — all of which boast more student-athletes than UT, according to a database of financial information compiled by the Indianapolis Star.

The Longhorns' success is partly responsible. Arranged at the last minute, post-season travel costs more than regular season trips. The UT baseball team's travel bill doubled between 2005 and 2006, thanks to post-season play.

When the Longhorn football team won the 2005 national championship, it was invited to the White House. The athletic department picked up the tab — $143,000, plus $19,000 for lunch. (A&M spent $16,000 on tickets to Seaworld and the San Diego Zoo during its Holiday Bowl trip last year.)

The Longhorns also travel in higher style than many other schools. Every year the athletic department charters about 20 flights, at approximately $90,000 each, from Continental Airlines.

Sometimes it's to get players back to school more quickly, to get to locations not easily serviced by regular flights or simply to make trips easier on the team. This year's men's basketball travel budget jumped by nearly a third after the team started taking larger commercial charters instead of regional jets so they could avoid refueling stops.

Other times the Longhorns spend the money because they can. By tradition and Mack Brown's preference, the football team charters planes to football games in nearby Houston and Dallas. Each practice, football players board a bus near the football stadium and ride it to the practice field to keep them out of harm's way crossing major intersections on foot. The service costs about $300 per day.

Hydroworx and PlayStations

Big-time schools know that attracting a steady stream of top high school athletes is crucial to their continued success, and the University of Texas spends about $1 million a year recruiting and flying star prospects to Austin. What the teenagers see when they arrive is important, and the school is constantly burnishing its facilities.

Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium is in the midst of a $175 million rehab eight years after a $90 million upgrade; the baseball stadium is getting a $26 million facelift. The golf teams play out of a new $1.5 million clubhouse on a course that just got a $500,000 upgrade.

After the facilities are completed, the meter keeps running. Thanks primarily to the football stadium upgrades, the Longhorn athletic department's yearly debt service will double over the next year, to about $15 million annually. Utilities — air conditioning, heat, water — and maintenance cost the athletic department another $4.75 million a year — $115,000 just to keep the department's grass football, softball and soccer fields soft and green.

Heavily recruited high schoolers expect flashier personal amenities, too, and UT obliges. Following its Rose Bowl victory, the football team was rewarded with a $200,000 renovation of its players lounge, a retreat with four TV projectors (screens drop from the ceiling at the push of a button embedded in a six-foot replica of the UT tower), six flat screen TVs, four X-boxes and three PlayStations.

Two floors down, the football locker room boasts another new lounge area, with five flat-screen TVs and a three-dimensional, lighted 20-foot Longhorn on the ceiling. Men's and women's basketball players can relax in their own private living rooms, each with large TVs, video games and recliners. (New recliners cost $15,020 last year.) The golf teams have a private player lounge at their new clubhouse.

The Longhorns spend about $3 million a year to outfit and staff athletic facilities with trainers, therapists, physicians, chiropractors and masseuses. There are four weight rooms. The football team recently purchased the latest in treatment for sore muscles and recovering bodies: a new hydrotherapy room costing $155,000. This year, it added a rehab pool with an underwater treadmill monitored by video cameras ($43,000) and cold-water pool ($23,000).

Nutritional supplements — Gatorade, Powerbars, etc. — cost $180,000 last year. Medical bills — what the university pays to treat its injured athletes beyond what their personal insurance covers — added just over $600,000, 40 percent of that to treat football players. A high-tech system that monitors an athlete's core body temperature from afar cost $7,000.

The athletic department continues to show its appreciation once recruits become Longhorns. Each year, it gives various rewards to players and personnel — letter jackets and blankets, but also rings, watches, iPods and other swag earned for conference victories and championships. The gifts totalled $537,000 last year.

The department spends about $35,000 annually on the Hall of Fame luncheon for female athletes. By tradition, the football team goes to a movie the night before games: $700.

UT athletes never lack for the best gear, either. Under a sponsorship deal (being renegotiated), Nike provides a $1.6 million annual allowance for equipment purchases, which the Longhorns regularly exceed.

The football team alone bought $408,000 worth of gear in 2006. Upon arriving on campus, each player receives 40 separate pieces of gear and apparel, including multiple shirts, shorts, tights, sweats, gloves, warm-ups, towels, practice shoes, game shoes, running shoes, cross-training shoes and sandals. Everything is replaced when torn, broken or well-worn.

'If the world were different'

The Longhorns' other constituency is those it depends on for revenue — paying fans. Much of the sports program's soaring income is attributable to the explosion in premium seating and well-heeled fans, in particular, are lavished with attention.

Last year, the department spent $380,000 to rehab Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds' suite overlooking the football field, where he hosts donors and dignitaries. (The suite's food and drink bill for last year's Ohio State game: $1,257.) Another $340,000 was spent entertaining the Letterwinners Association, comprised of former athletes.

Money spent wooing and thanking big-spending fans — part of "development" — will come to $3.6 million this year. That includes subsidized parking and parties for big donors on game days in premium seating areas — this year the Goalpost Club was added to the Endzone Club and Centennial Room — and gatherings throughout the year for Longhorn Foundation supporters. The Longhorns employ 14 full-time athletics fundraisers. (The Aggies have 18.)

About $262,000 will be spent in 2007 preparing, cleaning, maintaining and stocking the luxury suites for football, baseball and basketball. (Stocking the football coaches' wives suite costs about $800 a game).

Making money costs money, and last year the athletic department hired two new salesmen to hawk basketball tickets more aggressively. Transforming the department-produced TV show, "Longhorn Sports Center," from a seasonal to a year-round feature added $160,000.

Today's fans demand more than just a game; Longhorn fans demand even more. The football stadium's new high-definition video and sound system that debuted last year cost about $9 million, much of that for the scoreboard. Less known is that UT also paid $3.9 million to buy out the company that owned advertising space on the old board.

Each home football game costs about $400,000 to host, a quarter of that for security, including $3,500 per game for bomb-sniffing dogs, an expense added since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; and $682 a game for the Texas Ranger who shadows Brown. The $50,000-per-game cost of running the football scoreboard doesn't include special programming; last year's new Running of the Horns introduction cost $23,830.

Every game also typically features a theme to entertain and inspire fans. Hence last year's bills for "rental of camo decor package" ($2,030), "wagon props for visual motivation" ($3,200) and "cage with wildcats for visual motivation" ($1,125). A "Just Do What You Do" banner cost $3,900.

Other diversions add up. Paying the Longhorn band to go to the Rose Bowl cost about $500,000. Entertainers who perform at basketball games cost between $500 and $1,000 a game.

When the football team won the national championship, the party the department threw for the campus a week later cost $92,838.67.

In all, the Longhorns expect to spend $107.6 million in the 2007-08 season. UT president Powers says that while such a large tab is "always an issue, to a large extent, it's a business decision."

"If our revenues decreased, if the world were different, we'd have to change," Goble said. "But we're able to maintain our philosophy. Because we have the resources."'
A Brief Commentary on the University of California
System's Most Provincial Campus, UC Davis.

'...[The] flip side of political pressure threatening free expression at universities is political correctness, which also seeks to censor.

Rarely has that been more abusively displayed than when several hundred faculty members from University of California campuses demanded that an invitation to [Lawrence] Summers, 52, to address the board of regents at a dinner in Sacramento be rescinded.

When Summers was president of Harvard, he once indelicately raised the question of why more women didn't excel at math and science. It was an ill-considered and clumsy comment. It's inane, however, to charge, as the anti-Summers petition did, that this makes him the symbol of "gender and racial prejudice in academia."

Yet the California board of regents was cowed, and it canceled the appearance of one of America's most gifted public figures. ...'

Albert Hunt, International Herald Tribune
Gender Role Inversion
in University Sports

When first she entered the enteric ooze of American university sports, UD had no idea she'd entered a laboratory of changing gender roles, in which men are women and women men.

Coaches bursting with girlish dreams have meltdowns in front of reporters and cameras after someone writes something at odds with their fantasies. University presidents, asked about centuries-old losing teams destroying their schools, flounce about like Scarlet O'Hara in her big skirts ... Fiddle-dee-dee... I'll think about that tomorrow... Donors who cain't say no allow themselves to be fucked over by men who don't care about them...

The trend has gotten so embarrassing that the New York Times has decided to cover it. A sports columnist there begins her article with enslaved-and-loving-it Mike Gundy, and then moves on to beat-me-again-master 'Bamans.

'What traits can you inherit from a sugar daddy?

Inside Boone Pickens Stadium, on the Boone Pickens podium, in front of the Boone Pickens mike, under Boone Pickens light bulbs, Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy created a must-see YouTube episode last week in a clip off the old block.

He was the spittin’ image of his platinum donor. In an off-the-rails tirade, Gundy smeared Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman over her column on the Cowboys’ demoted quarterback, Bobby Reid, during a 3-minute-20-second attack on her credibility, reporting skills and lack of Lamaze training. [See how the women, in sports stories, are the men? They're the ones touching base with reality.]

“That article had to be written by a person that doesn’t have a child and never has had a child that’s had their heart broken and come home upset,” Gundy shouted. And then, in need of a cleansing breath, he added: “Come after me! I’m a man! I’m 40.”

His midlife crisis aside, Coach Gundy called Carlson’s story line fiction but refused to point out the errors. He simply created his own truth by reversing reality. Did he swift-boat Carlson? Did he make his cash daddy proud? [I'm a kept woman and I'm loving it.]

Boone Pickens is the turn-around artist of oilman lore who once twisted John Kerry’s character as the lead financier behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign. Pickens has also been linked to the political group Stop Her Now.

Who knew he meant Carlson and not Hillary?

Was Pickens behind Gundy’s outburst? Or did Gundy simply snap as the picked man?

It isn’t a stretch to wonder how deep Pickens’s influence runs inside an athletic department awash in his cash. About 90 percent of the nearly $300 million Pickens has given to O.S.U. has been earmarked for sports. About 100 percent of the Cowboys’ coaching decisions are all but approved by Pickens. [See now, a university president with balls'd be able to keep ol' Boone back. But you got a girl running things at O.S.U.... I mean, not a real girl! A guy who's a girl.]

Gundy is his guy — one of the many. The size of Pickens’s tax-deductible love for his alma mater is historic but in lock step with every tycoon who has mistook [Mistook? Shouldn't that be mistaken?]a focus on education to mean high-def TVs for the team.

The math book doesn’t lie. The Chronicle of Higher Education released a report last week that detailed how gifts to 119 of the largest athletic departments in the country have, in some cases, tripled in recent years, but donations to academics have remained flat.

Devotion to the fight song has devoured disposable income for the booster who charges every purchase of team spirit — from skybox views to seat licenses — on a Visa card with a team logo that puts cash back into the pocket of the program.

Nick Saban, alone, has Alabama donors emptying their houndstooth cookie jars and Roll Tide money clips to pay an eight-year, $32 million deal filled with the C.E.O. perks from a Jack Welch dream. All this after the public university laid out nearly $6 million to sack Mike Shula and his staff last year. [Do me again. Please.]

... Nothing can abate this warped priority spending — not even death. Last spring, Oklahoma State’s athletic department took out life insurance policies on more than two dozen aging boosters. As The Chronicle explained, when a donor passes on to the Cowboy ranch in the sky, the O.S.U. athletic department will inherit $10 million per participant in a plan whipped up by — who else?— Boone Pickens and labeled, The Gift of a Lifetime. [What's zat, honey? You want me to try necrophilia?? Um... okay...]

If not death, the tax man may be the only one to stop this eternal excess. In what constituted an ethics audit last year, the House Ways and Means Committee asked the nonprofit N.C.A.A. to justify its tax-exempt status given its membership in what the author Robert Frank might term “Richistan.”...'

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Atrocious and Benumb

From an interview with a longtime Columbia University English professor as he leaves New York for California:

'...Have you ever failed
a student?

Oh, yes! In fact, after I failed one particular student, her mother gave me a gift certificate for dinner at a fine New York restaurant because she said that I was the only honest person her daughter had ever dealt with.

The most embarrassing moment you’ve had as a professor?

As chairman of the English department I dashed off a letter to Deans Bynum and Yatrakis, hit the spell check and change button to correct any errors, and the letter arrived to Deans Atrocious and Benumb.

...If you could only teach one book to Columbia students?


---columbia spectator---

'Texas A&M football coach Dennis Franchione said Thursday he has discontinued a secret e-mail newsletter sent to select boosters willing to pay $1,200 per year for team information that Franchione routinely has withheld from the public.

"I knew it was probably going to be controversial," Franchione said. "I certainly didn't mean for it to be that. When I knew you guys were starting to ask around a bit, I thought, 'Maybe we shouldn't do this.'"

The Express-News recently began inquiring about the newsletter operation after obtaining a copy through a third-party source. After being told of the newsletter, A&M athletic director Bill Byrne met with Franchione to express his concerns.

Byrne did not ask Franchione to stop the newsletter, A&M sources said, but strongly suggested that it would be the prudent thing to do. An A&M spokesman said Byrne was unavailable for comment.

In the newsletter, called "VIP Connection," Franchione discussed player injuries in detail and offered sometimes-critical assessments of his players.

The newsletter, it was learned, has been distributed the past three years to about a dozen subscribers, each of whom had to sign a letter of confidentiality to receive the newsletter.

Subscription proceeds, Franchione said, were used to underwrite his personal Web site,

Since taking the A&M job after the 2002 season, Franchione has routinely sidestepped media questions about injuries — except those of a season-ending nature — often with the comment that it is not "our policy" to discuss them.

Yet, Franchione — through his personal assistant, Mike McKenzie, who wrote each newsletter — freely offered up personnel information to elite boosters willing to pay for it.

Two days before A&M's opener against Montana State earlier this month, six players were listed in the newsletter as "unavailable for action." The newsletter included each player's name and his injury.

"A seventh player, Roger Holland, is iffy," the newsletter said. "He recovered drastically from a mile (sic) concussion carried over from Sunday, but not fully."

The newsletter also provided a candid assessment of the Aggies' receiving corps.

"Privately, Coach told me last night that Earvin (Taylor) and Pierre (Brown) are very steady but with average speed," McKenzie wrote. "Kerry (Franks) has great speed, but (is) inconsistent in receiving."

McKenzie, who arrived with Franchione in late 2002, is a part-time athletic department employee. His other duties include ghostwriting Byrne's "Wednesday Weekly" column on A&M's athletic department site.

Franchione and McKenzie denied benefiting financially from the newsletter. Because of the confidentiality agreement, Franchione said, he doesn't believe any of the subscribers used the information for gambling.

"We asked them to sign something," Franchione said. "And for them not to do that."

He added: "Most of these people are tremendously loyal Aggies."

Many other major-college coaches, including Texas's Mack Brown, have their own Web site. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, through his Web site, offers a "Coach's Club" membership for $39.95 per year. To members, Beamer's Web site promises "the best, up-to-date, daily practice and injury reports straight from Coach Beamer, right off the practice fields."

Unlike Beamer, Franchione kept his subscriber list small and the newsletter a secret.

"We just had people with an interest and that are close to the program," Franchione said.

McKenzie called the newsletter a "goodwill" gesture.

"The whole point of it was for them to be informed about the program, straight from the head coach," McKenzie said.

A consulting firm in Bryan hosts and operates the Web site, McKenzie said, and also handled subscriptions. Refunds have been offered, McKenzie said. He said he wasn't sure how many subscribers, if any, have asked for their money back.

McKenzie said that because the newsletter no longer was a secret it had to be discontinued.

"The private correspondence between a head coach and the individuals involved had been violated," McKenzie said. "It was compromised."

Franchione has been on the receiving end of heavy fan and media criticism since his team's poor performance in a 34-17 loss to Miami last week. The Aggies host Baylor on Saturday in both teams' Big 12 opener.'

---san antonio express-news---
News for Parrots

University of Northern Iowa:
Tough it Out

'A Scott County woman who was sexually assaulted in her dorm room at the University of Northern Iowa has sued the school, accusing leaders of improper recruitment and supervision of athletes and botching how they handled the incident's aftermath.

The woman, who was an 18-year-old freshman at the time of the November 2004 assault, filed the lawsuit in Scott County District Court after the state denied her claim for $1 million in damages.

The assault and the college's reaction, the lawsuit states, "had a devastating impact on (her) life and education. She has suffered from feelings of violation, humiliation, and a loss of personal security and self-confidence.

"(The woman), who had been a good student in high school, found it increasingly difficult, after Nov. 12, 2004, to continue studying at an institution that had, with the exception of a few supportive individuals, shown little regard for her well-being, but had instead demonstrated great animosity toward her."

She eventually dropped out of school, the lawsuit states. The school sent her tuition bill to a collection agency, she said, and the dean of students told her he was "disappointed in her because she didn't tough it out."

Panther football players Baylen Bernard Laury and Joseph Roy Thomas, both of Texas, were charged in connection with the November 2004 rape of the woman. Laury entered an Alford plea of guilty in October 2005 to an assault with intent to inflict serious injury, an aggravated misdemeanor, after three hung jury trials. Thomas pleaded guilty to third-degree sex assault and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A representative from the University of Northern Iowa declined comment. The woman's attorney could not be reached for comment. The Courier does not name victims of sex abuse unless given permission to do so.

In the lawsuit, the woman alleges:

UNI football officials knew that certain recruits and athletes had criminal backgrounds and other "records of misconduct making it more likely (they) would engage in acts harmful to women."

College officials, she said, failed to take action to prevent them from engaging in such behavior. She also alleges that the football program knew of sexual harassment and assaults by recruits and athletes and continued to recruit athletes with criminal records, including one person with a sex assault charge.

After the assault, the college's sex assault counselor told her she "could not help with the situation" and that the woman should go to the student health service.

Administration did not contact her after the assault, she said. A meeting with UNI's president, requested by the woman's mother and grandfather, resulted in a referral to the dean of students for her accommodation requests, which included academic assistance, counseling and a move to a new dorm.

The result of that referral, the woman says, was that she "was ultimately required to walk around campus and ask various individual faculty members for accommodation, despite the dean of students being aware of the traumatic effects of the rape and (her) ongoing fears."

The woman's grandfather informed the dean that the woman slept with a dresser pushed in front of her door and that "walking around asking individual faculty members for accommodations was not working."

She received harassing phone calls, which she reported. She was told that "football players could not be controlled in their free time" and that she "needed to just tough it out."

The woman did commend the campus police department for being "considerate" and helping her receive a medical evaluation after the assault.'

---wcf courier---
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

From an article in the Fort Bend Herald:


[Should be FEWER, not LESS. When dealing with discrete objects -- specific people, in this case -- use fewer; when dealing with anything else (gasoline, love, time), use less.]

Two of Fort Bend County's top elected officials this week have opted to stop referring to themselves as doctoral recipients, having been informed they may have broken Texas law.

In 2004, County Judge Bob Hebert took credit for earning a Ph.D. from California Coast University [a judge, no less], while County Clerk Dianne Wilson began referring to herself as “Dr. Wilson,” based on a title she earned through Kennedy Western University, now known as Warren National University.

It turns out since at least 2005, however, it is a crime in Texas to promote degrees from either school. The Texas Legislature that year passed a law which let the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board created a list of schools, “whose degrees are illegal to use in Texas.” Both California Coast and Warren National were included on the list.

The law made it a Class B misdemeanor to use “substandard degrees” to apply for jobs in Texas.

Wilson, who has been particularly insistent on calling herself a doctor [This is a common and pathetic feature of diploma mill stories. You can often spot mill users by the insistence they bring to their title.], this week changed her standard telephone greeting, which for years thanked individuals for “calling the office of Dr. Dianne Wilson, Fort Bend County Clerk.”

“I took an oath of office that I would uphold the laws of the state and country, and that's now a law in Texas, so I'm honoring it,” she said on Thursday. [Before it was a law, when it was just immoral, I was fine with it.]

The hubbub, say both officials, began on Monday when a reporter with Houston's Channel 11, KHOU, told them of Texas Penal Code 32.52, which is the law passed by the Legislature in 2005.

“Certainly when I realized there was a law like that, I removed it from my (campaign) Web site and took it off my wall,” said Hebert. [He's a judge. This is like Glenn Poshard, a university president, having to be told that in your scholarly work you put quotation marks around quotations.]

Hebert said he found a reference to his California Coast degree on the county Web site, and had it removed. Otherwise, no changes will need to be made to any county stationery or legal forms, he said.

Wilson, however, said she will alter references to herself in county paperwork as well as in software programs used by the county.

Both California Coast University and Warren National University (then Kennedy Western) in 2004 were named by the U.S. General Accounting Office as “diploma mills.” The GAO, which monitors federal spending, specifically took to task the use of taxpayer money to pay for federal employees' enrollment in the schools.

California Coast University on its Web site does claim accreditation by Distance Education and Training Council, but that agency is not recognized for accreditation by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. [It's common for mills to make up their own accrediting agencies and then accredit themselves by them.]

As for Warren National, it does not bother with any accreditation.

“The true recognition of a Warren National degree comes from its voluntary acceptance by the business, professional and academic communities,” states the school's web site. [Fuck the GAO.]

Hebert said he will consider his Ph.D. a matter of personal history, and contends he did not use it to “apply” for a job, having first been elected as county judge in 2002. He was re-elected in 2006, but did not face an opponent. He also readily points out the MBA he earned through Pepperdine University in California came the “traditional” way.

“I don't think it makes a hill of beans about what people think about my service as county judge,” he said regarding the doctorate controversy. [He's probably right. But people have been known to get upset when they realize that their judges are both ignorant of the law and tend to break it.]

Wilson defends her use of the degree, pointing out her work included writing a dissertation.

“I will say, I'm disappointed because I did the work, I did the study course. I did the test. I wrote the dissertation, but I will honor the statute,” she said. [What a great gal. She'll honor the statute.]...'

Fort Bend Herald, Texas

Friday, September 28, 2007




Surprisingly Blah...

...piece by Andrew Delbanco in the New York Times magazine about American universities. He's usually a strong writer - stylish, polemical - but here he offers bland generalities in a tired voice.

One of many indicators of this weariness -- cliches abounding:

'...[P]ublic concern, if not yet an outcry, is on the rise.

For many parents, the cost of college casts a long shadow before and beyond the time their child actually spends in college. With financial aid lagging behind tuition at private institutions and state subsidies declining at public ones, it gets harder every year for low-income students to pay their way. Like hospitals, colleges have generally got the benefit of the doubt on the question of why they cost so much...

...It’s happening at every rung of the academic ladder. ...[A] review panel sharply criticized the senior administrators at Virginia Tech...

...College presidents, naturally, are armed with answers. ... [U]niversities and faculty members have been raking in royalties from technologies ...

...How are college students treated in this brave new academic world?

... [S]o why, especially in view of the immense explosion of knowledge requisite for a true education, shouldn’t the time allotted for college stretch too?

... But college should be a place that fosters open debate of the ethical issues posed by modern life ... They can be profoundly transformative experiences that bolster the motive — indeed, the need — to live a life of civic engagement.

... As our children go through the arduous process of choosing a college and trying to persuade that college to choose them, it will be a sign of improved social health if we can get to the point of asking not about the school’s ranking but whether it’s a place that helps students confront hard questions in an informed way.'

Note that no particular tossed off expression in itself is fatal -- it's the combination of Delbanco's lazy verbal gestures in a short piece that pretends to be charged up about civiization's highest concerns that does him in.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Louis MacNeice...

...a great, undervalued poet, was born one hundred years ago this month. The Economist magazine, in a brief appreciation of him, quotes MacNeice on why he writes:

"I write poetry because I enjoy it, as one enjoys swimming or swearing, and also because it is my road to freedom and knowledge.”


The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands -
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

There's a pretty bit of poetic knowledge for you, knowledge gotten at not by reading, or by listening to someone wise, but by having a strange and stirring personal experience -- in this case, by standing in a room during a snowstorm and seeing, as one image, interior roses standing in a window, and snow beating outside against the same window.

The soundless interaction between these two incompatible and yet somehow, now, collateral objects, thrills the poet with an expanded sense of how much the world can encompass.

They create, together, spring and winter all at once, two seasons simultaneously collateral and incompatible... And this moment of excitement isn't only about one consciousness unexpectedly seeing that the world can be many mutually exclusive things at once; it's about a poet's consciousness getting the shock of metaphor -- a new poetic metaphor being, like roses and snow, a melding of things that had seemed alien to one another, yet which, in the hands of the poet, create a new kind of coherence, a new way of seeing, and a new form of beauty.

To realize the richness of the world -- actually to witness it generating new forms of life -- is to feel a disorienting sensual intensity, "the drunkenness of things being various," as in the way fire can bubble like water.

There's not much to do with this ecstatic perception other than feel it, on the tongue, eyes, ears, and palms. We can't really understand all that there is besides glass between the snow and the roses, all that exists in the world in the act of our perceiving it, but we can understand, through the senses, that there is a magical fullness latent in our human setting. Poetry like this captures and celebrates this magic. Poetic euphoria excites our own collateral euphoria.
Meltdown Snowballs,

'Gundy's meltdown, captured on video, snowballed into a national controversy, overshadowed other interesting story lines this week (Cal-Oregon matchup, Kentucky's 4-0 start) and was entirely avoidable.'

Whereas San Diego State's President
Suffers from Crippling Jocksniffery...

...members of his faculty have sought a way to relieve his distress. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

By Brent Schrotenboer

September 27, 2007

A longtime San Diego State faculty member is sponsoring a resolution to abolish the Aztecs football program [Whoa! Talk about the shooting the moon.] because of its failure to generate revenue as promised and because of the strain he says that puts on academics.

Leon Rosenstein, emeritus professor of philosophy, said the resolution will be introduced at Tuesday's faculty senate meeting.

He and other faculty don't expect the resolution to succeed, largely because even if it passed a senate vote, the resolution would only serve in an advisory role to SDSU President Stephen Weber, who steadfastly backs football [Steadfastly ain't the half of it. The man's an obsessive. This sort of faculty intervention may be the only thing that can do any good].

But Rosenstein said his intent is to generate discussion about what he calls “lies” about athletics funding through the years. Such a resolution never previously has been introduced, according to Rosenstein, who has logged more than 25 years with the senate.

“We constantly get these statements that (football) will make the alumni contribute and that it's really going to make money,” Rosenstein said. “But then when you ask where the money is, they say it isn't here yet, that it'll be here next year. Then next year comes and it's still deficit after deficit after deficit. You get tired of the lying.” [The faculty gets tired of the lying. Everyone else at SDSU seems happy to be treated year after year as if they're mentally challenged.]

SDSU football has failed to relieve an athletics budget that in recent years has needed about $2.5 million or more from other university sources to make ends meet. Last year, after an eighth straight nonwinning football season, SDSU athletics needed about $2.7 million in “one-time” funding, which came largely from a university broadband contract. This year, one-time funding has been projected at $2.645 million, out of a total budget of about $27 million. That's in addition to about $5 million from the state general fund and about $5 million from student fees.

Rosenstein's resolution states this shortfall of nearly $3 million could be enough to staff “approximately 550 courses with part-time faculty or to establish 35 new tenured full professorships.” Rosenstein, who came to SDSU in 1969, said the philosophy department formerly had 18 tenured members; now it has nine. Other departments have had similar staffing issues, he said, at a time when students in general education courses have increased.

Weber wrote in a statement in May that SDSU expects “investments made in football in the last two years will take time to bring a return.” SDSU spokesman Jack Beresford said yesterday the SDSU administration declined comment on the resolution.

Like a great majority of other Division I-A athletic departments, SDSU operates in the red and needs support from the university general fund, student fees and other university sources. But at SDSU, those university allocations have represented about 42 percent of its athletics budget in recent years. That's roughly double the Division I-A average for university allocations to athletics (21.6 percent), according to NCAA research released in May. [Note that percentage, please.]

“If you look hard enough you're always going to find somebody on campus who wants to get rid of sports,” SDSU head coach Chuck Long said. “But football is such a vital part, as well as athletics, of your university. It's so healthy for your school. It gets your students involved. It's great for a campus. I don't know why you would try to get rid of something like that.” [Beautifully and powerfully expressed.]

Rosenstein said he targeted football because “that's where the real cost is.”

“If football fed itself and supported itself, I've got no problem,” he said.

Football had $7.3 million in expenses in fiscal 2005-06, according to the most recently available audit report. Its revenue, which includes tickets, donations and conference funds, was $4.77 million (not counting $890,353 in university support). Since 2005-06, coaching salaries increased, but ticket sales decreased. [University football programs lavishly reward losing coaches.]

Other faculty members who have spoken up on the issue say they're not football haters.

“I think there are people here who would say, 'Show me the numbers, and if the numbers work, this is great,' ” said Steve Barbone, associate professor of philosophy. “But if the numbers don't work, you've got to fix it.”

Rosenstein said he expects a movement to quash his resolution on technical grounds because this year he is serving as a substitute member of the faculty senate. Faculty Senate Chairwoman Edith Benkov said she's “not sure it's in the bylaws for a substitute senator to introduce a resolution.”

Rosenstein disagrees with that but says even if he's not allowed to introduce it, he has colleagues who will.

“The sad fact is that football has a Halliburton-esque 'cost-plus' contract, whereas dull, boring academics has to get by on the leavings,” English professor Peter Herman stated. “The more people hear about this, both inside and outside SDSU, the better.”' [Well, UD's doing her bit. She heard about it because the newspaper knows a story when it sees one, and now she's writing about it on her blog.]


'Resolution regarding Football at SDSU

To be presented to the SDSU Senate on October 2, 2007

Whereas football at SDSU (commonly known as “The Aztecs”) for the past several years appears to have been running a deficit in the neighborhood of 3 million dollars each year,

Whereas, despite assurances to the contrary, year after year, this deficit has continued, and year after year there has been no reason to believe that this situation will change,

Whereas it has been claimed that football helps to bring money into the university, but there has been no proof to support this claim; indeed, there is only evidence to the contrary,

Whereas it has been stated on this Senate floor that “it takes money to be the best, and the Aztecs just want to be the best” as a way to justify continued deficit spending on athletics while there is evidence that academics is not funded “to be the best, ” ignoring the academic needs of many departments,

Whereas the permanent increase lobbied for by President Weber himself at the May meeting of the IAA for Athletics of $2.7 million (which exceeds by almost ¾ million dollars the permanent budget increase recommended for Academic Affairs), certainly seems to indicate this year’s plan for covering anticipated future deficits,

Whereas the salary of the head coach of the Aztecs and his 12 assistants as reported in the Union Tribune (over $2 million) exceeds the entire budgets of some, if not many, academic departments,

Whereas this apparent annual $3 million deficit would be adequate to staff approximately 550 courses with part-time faculty or to establish 35 new tenured full professorships throughout the university or to add 2 full professors to every department in the CAL or to cover the full cost of the entire faculty salaries of some smaller colleges,

Whereas, San Diego State University’s mission is an academic one, not an entertainment one, and, as an institution of higher learning should dedicate all its resources to teaching, learning, and research,

And Whereas any additional funds (i.e., funds not already dedicated to specified purposes) in possession of the University should be used for that mission and not for extra-curricular activities that carry such a high cost burden,

Therefore Be It Resolved That it is the sense and will of the SDSU Senate that football (“The Aztecs”) be abolished effective with the end of the Fall 2007 semester and that this occur not withstanding any prior contracts or commitments of any kind.'
Snapshots from Home

While writing in her journal on the Metro this morning, UD idly scratches her knee, which starts bleeding.

Blood makes a line down her leg.

The polar opposite of a Girl Scout, UD is never prepared for anything. She travels absurdly lightly, and beyond antihistamines for allergies, carries no first aid.

She rips a page out of her journal and presses it to her knee. Not very effective.

Two women in a nearby seat who've been chatting in Spanish look at her. One holds out hankies. "You want?"

"Yes, thank you! You're very kind," says UD, holding the much more absorbent material against her leg.

"A sterile pad might be even better," says a man two seats over. "I looked for adhesive too, but I can't find any."

UD takes the pad and thanks the man.

"I didn't know this was the hospital car," UD says, smiling at everyone.
Headline of the Day


Stern Heartland

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley helped bring down American University President Benjamin Ladner, and has continued to investigate corruption at that institution. Other universities, and university-related entities like the NCAA, may be hearing from the scarily upright Grassley soon as well.

Grassley explains:

"The taxpayers subsidize university endowments in two ways. One, the taxpayer’s donation to the endowment is tax deductible. Two, the endowment itself isn’t taxed. So big tax breaks make the big endowments possible, and taxpayers at large pay for those tax breaks,” Grassley said in a statement. “Since tax breaks for charitable donations are supposed to contribute to the public good, it’s fair to ask whether the tax breaks that lead to big university endowments are serving the public. That’s especially true when low- and middle-income working families are struggling to pay college tuition."

Inside Higher Ed reports other details of a recent congressional hearing:

...'[T]he issue that garnered the most attention, both from senators and critics in the higher education establishment, was the question of how much universities should dip into their endowments each year to offset rising tuition costs.

“Senators, what would your constituents say if gasoline cost $9.15 a gallon? Or if the price of milk was over $15? That is how much those items would cost if their price had gone up at the same rate that tuition has since 1980,” said Lynne Munson, an adjunct fellow at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, which supports increased transparency at universities.

Munson argued in her testimony that the public is not benefiting enough from “massive” higher education endowments, noting returns that averaged in the double digits (referencing data from the National Association of College and University Business Officers), but “miserly” payouts, averaging 4.2 percent. She outlined the concentration of wealth in a minority of top colleges — both public and private — with 62 institutions boasting endowments of over $1 billion, up from 39 in 2004.

But private foundations — which tend to have smaller endowments — still pay out more, she said, averaging 7 percent in 2005, 2 percent above the legal requirement.

Munson’s solution is twofold: to mandate that colleges make available statistics about their endowments and, if that does not produce results, to mandate a minimum payout, similar to that currently required of nonprofit organizations. “Possibly the most significant challenge for policy makers will be to make sure that any newly directed monies actually go toward aid or tuition reduction and don’t become part of a shell game,” she concluded.

... Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) asked explicitly why, given high compounded growth over two decades, “are we allowing our endowments to remain tax-free?”

The other panelist who spoke on the issue, Jane G. Gravelle, a senior specialist in economic policy at the Congressional Research Service, noted that educational endowments totaled at least $340 billion last year, with an overall return of 15.3 percent, or $52 billion — “earnings that are generally tax-exempt.”'...
Online Courses:
A Boon to University Sports

Sure, you can go to the major news outlets for the barebones narrative of the nation's latest large-scale athletic cheating scandal, but why not come to UD, where you will be provided, free of charge, what anthropologists call a thick description?

Begin with this editorial last year in a Florida newspaper:

'...Florida State dropped from 110th on the overall [US News and World Report] list to 112th. USF stayed in the third tier - which includes schools ranked below 125th - which is disappointing considering the university's potential and its location in a dynamic, growing region.

Surely we're better than 125th - aren't we?

University of Central Florida joined USF in the third tier, which showed progress since it had been in the fourth tier.

But with all due respect to UCF's efforts, the state's showing in U.S. News' rankings was pathetic. Florida, after all, is the fourth largest state in the nation.'

Yes, there's Florida State, barely making it out of the third tier... a really bad university, though somewhat lost in the tropical welter of bad Florida universities... Still, FSU has sports galore, and that's what Floridians care about. And not just the citizens of the state, but the very faculty and staff of the school, some of whom have discovered the advantages of online learning:

'...Two athletic department academic assistance employees have resigned and 23 Florida State University athletes were implicated in cheating on tests given over the Internet, school officials said Wednesday.

Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell [a veteran jock-sniffer] said athletes "across the board, in every sport" were involved on varying levels.

Wetherell ordered an investigation by the university's Office of Audit Services in May after receiving information that the learning specialist had directed one athlete to take an online quiz for another and then provided the answers.

The student who took the test was not enrolled in the class and reported what happened to his athletics academic adviser. Neither he nor the other athlete, who had been unaware someone else took the test for him, was disciplined, the report said.

The investigation then found the learning specialist also typed papers for five students and a tutor provided answers or other unethical assistance for online tests.

Both the learning specialist and the tutor have resigned, Wetherell said.

According to FSU's report, David P. Coury, the university's chief audit officer, conducted an investigation for which 129 FSU students and 14 employees were interviewed. It found "no conclusive evidence of a more widespread problem of similar behavior among employees in [Athletic Academic Support Services]."

Hart said Wednesday that he didn't feel it was "the appropriate time to comment" on how he thought the NCAA might discipline FSU, and added that he's hopes the university's "due diligence" counts for something.

"[It's] just one of those learning experiences," Wetherell told the university faculty and community members at the meeting. "It certainly will put a damper on things for a while."' [Strong words! Strong words!]

Another article notes that 'The testing involved a single [online] course, which was not identified. Some students from the 2007 semester indicated that it was common knowledge among the student athletes that the tutor would help with the exams in the class.'

Looks like someone at FSU has been studying the methods of the famed Thomas Petee at unaccredited Auburn University (UD removed its accreditation a few months back).... Although the details of the FSU case are somewhat baffling in their idiocy...

'[I]t was a student-athlete who came forward in March with concerns of possible misconduct.

The investigation revealed that, without the knowledge of one student-athlete, the learning specialist provided answers to an online quiz to a second student-athlete and told him to submit those answers on behalf of the first.

The second student-athlete told investigators he wouldn't have felt comfortable refusing the learning specialist because of "who she was," his "great relationship" with her and his trust in her. Five days after the incident, on March 28, he reported to his academic adviser what had happened. In short order, Wetherell was told and he ordered an investigation.

...While the report doesn't name the learning specialist, who was placed on administrative leave on April3 and resigned her position effective July5, school personnel records show that Brenda H. Monk, Ph.D., sent a one-sentence note to director of academic support Mark Meleney that she was "leaving my position" on that date.'

Weird M.O. here: You tell an athlete -- an honest person -- to cheat for another athlete.

Not just weird. I mean, how degenerate can you get? You trade on your "great relationship" with an athlete to make him cheat for you...

The genius of the piece, though, is online education:

'Each of the student-athletes was enrolled in the same online course.

"These are the facts and they are undisputed at this time," Wetherell said. "You could make a pretty good case that the faculty did not do a very good job of protecting the integrity of the test."' [More strong words from the president. UD'd be really surprised if the professor running the course didn't know about the cheating. UD assumes the course was created for purposes of cheating.]

'A consulting firm that has its roots in NCAA enforcement will help FSU deliver [its] message [to the NCAA].' [What message? The message that FSU shouldn't really be penalized because after all someone came forward, and the school investigated right away, etc. The consulting firm will charge FSU, which has its ass in a sling and isn't in a position to complain, a whole lot for this work, but I doubt there's anyone in Florida who minds this use being made of their tuition and tax dollars. It's sports, after all.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


'Thanks in part to bloggers,
this time the outside world is acutely aware of
what is happening on the streets of Rangoon,
Mandalay and Pakokku and is hungry for more information.

...Burmese-born blogger Ko Htike,
based in London, has transformed
his once-literary blog into a virtual
news agency and watched page views
rise almost tenfold.

He publishes pictures, video and information sent to him by a network of underground contacts within the country.

"I have about 10 people inside, in different locations. They send me their material from internet cafes, via free hosting pages or sometimes by e-mail," he told the BBC News website.

"All my people are among the Buddhists, they are walking along with the march and as soon as they get any images or news they pop into internet cafes and send it to me," he said.

Ko Htike is one of a number of Burmese online activists, almost all based beyond the country's borders.

Reporters without Borders describe how a guide for cyber-dissidents provided to young Burmese was seized upon, copied and feverishly disseminated among a growing group of the young, politically active and computer-literate.

Bloggers are teaching others to use foreign-hosted proxy sites - such as and - to view blocked sites and tip-toe virtually unseen through cyberspace, swapping tricks and links on their pages.'
Intro English Professor

A piece on William C. Dowling, a Rutgers University English professor who reviles big-time university sports, appears in today's New York Times. Background on Dowling here.

'On the morning this week when the Rutgers football team reached No. 10 in the national rankings, Prof. William C. Dowling retreated four centuries to a favorite poem. It was John Donne’s “Valediction Forbidding Mourning,” the day’s topic in English 219, an introductory course in lyric literature. Dr. Dowling had set aside all 80 minutes for plumbing Donne’s 36 lines.

Coaxing, chiding, prodding, provoking, he led two dozen students through the thicket of archaic language and elusive imagery on the search for meaning...

...Dr. Dowling has stood as an idealistic absolutist, an intellectual convinced that the thunder of big-time athletics [is] crumbling the ivory tower of academe.

...[In] the bread-and-circuses department, the number of undergraduate applications has risen along with Rutgers’s sporting fortunes, as have annual donations to the university. Of course, some of the recent crop of students distinguished themselves recently by shouting obscenities at the Navy football team as it was being trounced by Rutgers a few weeks ago. [Bit sloppy for the NYT -- repetition of recent/recently in same sentence...]

Such an episode is a vivid reminder that given the tawdry history of corruption and compromise at Division I-A schools, something will happen soon enough either at Rutgers or somewhere else to make the critique in “Confessions of a Spoilsport,” [Dowling's just-released attack on major university sports] into prophecy.

...A self-proclaimed “academic traditionalist” who doesn’t drive and still thinks Bob Dylan betrayed folk music by going electric..."'

This guy doesn't drive? Does close readings of old poems? Loves early Dylan? Hates Division I-A sports?

Where do they find these people?
Senator Grassley Continues to Wonder
How Flying on the Team Plane,
Or Hoarding 35 Billion Dollars in Endowments,
Serves the Public Good.

'The senior Republican on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee plans to expand an investigation into the tax-exempt status of college sports, reopening a debate about whether donors should receive a tax deduction for contributing to athletics departments.

In an interview on Tuesday, an aide to Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said the senator plans to question the Internal Revenue Service about the tax status of booster clubs and athletics programs and "what gives the IRS comfort that they have met the requirements of being a charity."

The fresh concerns came in response to a Chronicle article suggesting that contributions to sports programs are eating up an ever-larger share of donations to colleges, and that some athletics programs entice donors with perquisites like free seats on charter flights ...

"When I hear stories about top donors to college athletic programs getting a free seat on the team plane," Mr. Grassley said in a written statement, "I wonder what the public gets out of that. We need to make sure that taxpayer subsidies for college athletic-program donations benefit the public at large."

... Today the Finance Committee will turn its attention to another concern it has on college campuses: whether university endowments deserve tax breaks. Mr. Grassley has his reservations on that matter, too.

"Since tax breaks for charitable donations are supposed to contribute to the public good," he said, "it's fair to ask whether the tax breaks that lead to big university endowments are serving the public."'


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Andrew Sullivan on Lee Bollinger:

"Uplifting - to me, at least.
Rude - but bang-on."

Though virtually all of the commenters on an earlier post of mine about Bollinger's speech disagree, UD agrees.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

Background here.

'Beer Not A Civil Right

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Our reaction to Thursday night’s rally, for which over 100 students strode into Red Square to bravely raise up their voices against the terrible iniquity of stricter alcohol policies, can be summed up in three words:

Only at Georgetown. [Pretty good opening. Laying it on a bit thick, though -- drop either bravely or terrible, for instance.... Actually, let's try dropping them both and see how things go: raise up their voices against the iniquity of stricter alcohol policies... Yes - that's snappier, and the sarcasm remains intact. And you avoid the split infinitive. Only at Georgetown's great.]

Only at Georgetown, where an abnormally high thirst for political activism complements a robust college social environment, could such an event occur. There is no other school with the personalities, or the pomposity, or the sheer gall to pull off a spectacle as extravagantly preposterous as the one that took place in Red Square on Thursday. [Again, fine, but note that tightening up a bit on the adverbs and adjectives will make it even better. Only at Georgetown, where a high thirst for political activism complements a robust social environment, could such an event occur. No other school has the personalities (There is, with its prominent to be verb, is a dull way to start the sentence.), the pomposity, and the gall to pull off a spectacle as preposterous as the one that took place in Red Square on Thursday.]

We have on several occasions condemned the new alcohol policies enforced this year by the university and the Metropolitan Police Department as a misguided, unfair and exaggerated response to a problem that has never truly been pervasive on our campus. [On several occasions is a bit pompous, and you've just complained about pomposity. Drop "new," since "enforced this year" does the trick there. Drop "that has... been" and just write a problem never truly pervasive...] But there are right and wrong ways to oppose those policies.

Last fall, during consideration of a proposed keg ban in campus housing [Drop proposed.], student leaders actively lobbied the university and held a forum for students [Say campus leaders to avoid the repetition of student.] to present their concerns to administrators. Their efforts clearly paid off; the university ultimately chose not to implement a ban. [Loading up a bit on adverbs -- actively, clearly, ultimately. Drop some of this.] And most of the tactics by which students have opposed the new policies this year have also been reasonable — more than 2,000 students signed a petition against the new policies that was sent to university administrators.

As the movement against the new policies grows more and more hysterical, however, it will grow harder for anyone on campus to take it seriously. [Let this sentence stand alone; it makes the introduction of wonderful detail in the next section come out more strongly.] At the rally, organizers demanded that administrators meet their demands of [Say organizers insisted, to avoid repetition of demand.]— we’re not making these up — “amnesty” for all Category A violations related to the new policies this year, and for age-neutral party registration, a condition that would require Georgetown to blatantly disregard local alcohol laws. [Drop blatantly.] Some students want to boycott this year’s senior gift. And a recent thread on the protest group’s Facebook page seriously discusses the possibility of a sit-in.

What’s next? A hunger strike? Or better yet, maybe a “sober strike!” [Exclamation mark cutesy. Drop it.] We won’t drink until we can do it on our terms! [Exclamation mark here okay.. How about rewriting the sentence like this: Or better yet, a sober strike: "We won't drink until we can do it on our terms!"] (See how many kids sign up for that.)

Or maybe — just maybe — there are better ways to use Red Square.

A considerably smaller group of students met there earlier on Thursday. They were protesting what they considered racial injustice in the prosecution of six black students in Jena, La.

In 2005, students and faculty gathered there, lit candles and prayed for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest natural disasters in American history. [Drop final clause in this sentence. Just end on Katrina.]

STAND used to hold rallies in Red Square, but they’ve been struggling lately to maintain student interest. [Drop lately.] They’re a Georgetown-founded group trying to bring an end to genocide in Darfur.

Mom and Dad held rallies, protests and sit-ins of their own. Theirs were to advocate civil rights and to oppose a war in Vietnam. If the only thing that can unify Georgetown students outside of basketball season is the desire for a more convenient game of beer pong, well then, that’s so depressing that we may decide to just quit drinking altogether. [Nice, amusing, final line. UD'd do it like this, though: Ours advocate a more convenient game of beer pong. How depressing. We might just swear off drinking altogether.]'

---the hoya, georgetown university student newspaper---



From an interview with Seymour Hersh in the Jewish Journal:

'JJ: New York magazine has a profile this week of Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, and they call him "America's Most Influential Journalist." What have bloggers like Drudge done to journalism, and how do you think it compares to the muckrakers that you came of age with?

SH: There is an enormous change taking place in this country in journalism. And it is online. We are eventually -- and I hate to tell this to The New York Times or the Washington Post -- we are going to have online newspapers, and they are going to be spectacular. And they are really going to cut into daily journalism.

I've been working for The New Yorker ... since '93. In the beginning, not that long ago, when I had a big story you made a good effort to get the Associated Press and UPI and The New York Times to write little stories about what you are writing about. Couldn't care less now. It doesn't matter, because I'll write a story, and The New Yorker will get hundreds of thousands, if not many more, of hits in the next day. Once it's online, we just get flooded.

So, we have a vibrant, new way of communicating in America. We haven't come to terms with it. I don't think much of a lot of the stuff that is out there. But there are a lot of people doing very, very good stuff.'

This is as good a time as any for UD to admit that she's not been reading the print New York Times, which she and Mr. UD get delivered, for a number of months now. She isn't even doing the Sunday crossword puzzle! She fiddled with the puzzle a bit on the car trip home from Rehoboth, but even there, as soon as the spectacular views from the Bay Bridge opened up, she put it aside.... Of course, as a blogeuse, UD spends a lot of time online, and the NYT is fully available to her there, and she can be much more selective, and it isn't awkward to hold...

Speaking of which, a sort of self-defeating thing seems to be going on with the print NYT. It keeps proliferating new sections. And certain established sections -- like the Sunday Arts thing -- have gotten insanely thick. The result is a newspaper whose physical bulk and dizzying number of stories discourages UD from the outset. There's a twenty-first century elegance to online reading, and an unwieldy twentieth century feel to paper, made worse in this case by what I take to be the Times' desperate effort to keep me reading by throwing more goodies at me.

--- hersh interview via andrew sullivan ---
Bread and Circuses

The evolution of America's universities away from study and toward spectacle proceeds.

...'Among the surveyed institutions [in a recent study of a group of institutions], athletics departments brought in an increasing share of the colleges' overall donations. In 1998 athletics gifts accounted for 14.7 percent of overall gifts. By 2003 sports donations had reached 26 percent.

The shift has frayed relations among fund raisers soliciting the same donors and has led to broader concerns about the growing importance of sports as overall funding for colleges has stagnated.

"There's a fear among faculty members that there is a discrete amount of money that alums and non-alums are willing to commit," says Dennis R. Howard, a professor of business at the University of Oregon and co-author of the article in the sports-management journal. "And the more the athletic program gets, the less there is to support the academic programs."

...Seat-license fees, which have climbed to as much as $2,500 with the demand for tickets, have led some donors to cut back their contributions to other parts of the college, says Jeffrey L. Stinson, an assistant professor of marketing at North Dakota State University, who has studied the effect of athletics fund raising on total giving to colleges.

"We don't necessarily see a decrease on a dollar-for-dollar basis," he says. "But you do see donors cut back a little on that academic gift because they just don't have the capacity." ...'

Monday, September 24, 2007

More Special Pleading
for the UT Football Team

'No one doubts the headaches that go with keeping tabs on 85 testosterone-charged young men, making sure they go to class, study and pass — and seeing that they stay out of trouble. There is no way a coaching staff can stand guard over an entire team 24 hours a day.'

---austin american-statesman---

Imagine this argument in female terms:

'No one doubts the headaches that go with policing the emotional stability of an estrogen-charged university president, making sure she can lead, generate alumni support, and oversee a school's educational mission - and seeing that she stays on an even keel. There is no way an administrative staff can stand guard over a woman president 24 hours a day.'
Speaking Truth to Power

Anyone who thinks academic administrators lack balls should listen to what Columbia University President Lee Bollinger just said to Ahmadinejad.

I don't think the speech is online yet; I just listened to it on a live broadcast. Go get hold of it. An absolutely uncompromising, insulting thing of beauty. I'm proud to be an American. Proud to be an academic.


Andrew Sullivan must be having a blast! Ahmadinejad just said "We don't have homosexuality in Iran. We do not have that phenomenon in our country."

The entire auditorium erupted in loud, derisive laughter.


From the blog The Full Circle:

Must watch, must read

Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, slammed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before Ahmadinejad delivered his address to Columbia. Find it, read it, watch it. Now.

Bollinger calmly and intellectually attacked the Iranian leader, addressing every grievance, verbally assaulting him on every issue, and he did it all right in front of his face. He exemplified the greatest element of the First Amendment -- that you can say whatever you want, as long as I can say whatever I want.


Video here.
SOS Utopia:
Houston Chronicle

'LEGAL WOES BEGIN TO TARNISH UT's REPUTATION [Begin? Tarnish? The reporter needs to get out of Texas.]

There have been dark days for coach Mack Brown at Texas, but rarely have they coincided with a 4-0 start and top-10 national ranking. [Again, big ol' Texas hankies come out right away for the person who did the recruiting.]

These days, it's not the close calls against Arkansas State or Central Florida that trouble Brown. [Wasn't anyone troubled by Brown's attraction to criminals when he was forming his team?]

It's the seemingly never-ending wave of off-field legal problems that has brought more pressure than an Oklahoma pass rush the past few months. A string of arrests and suspensions has made the Longhorns a national punch line befitting an opening dialogue for Jay Leno and David Letterman.

What do you call a drug ring in Austin? A huddle.

The Longhorns have adopted a new "honor system." Yes, your honor. No, your honor.

Four UT football players are riding in a car, who's driving? The police.

Mack Brown should not have hired a new defensive coordinator this offseason. He should have hired a defense attorney.

Even the familiar Hook 'Em Horns slogan has been replaced by Book 'Em Horns from rival schools.

Texas officials are not amused.

"We need to fix it and keep it fixed," UT men's athletic director DeLoss Dodds said. "We will survive and come through this." [Tough guy.... Or Blanche Dubois? You make the call.]

Since June, six UT football players have been arrested on charges ranging from driving while intoxicated to drug possession to aggravated robbery to tampering with evidence.

Brown, in his 10th season at Texas, has acted swiftly and sternly. [Blatant damage control for local consumption. Reporter has no shame.] One player (safety Robert Joseph) has been kicked off the team and three others are suspended indefinitely pending the legal process.

"I've dealt with more in six months than I've dealt with really in about 23 years," Brown said. "Especially more than in the 10 (years) here." [Sob. Why me?]

The latest arrest came last Monday when James Henry, a freshman running back, was arrested on third-degree felony charges of beating up a victim and tampering with physical evidence in connection with a July 27 robbery allegedly involving two other football players — Joseph and defensive tackle Andre Jones. [Teamwork.]

A Hard Town and State

Henry's arrest came on the same day Brown chided coverage of the school's legal run-ins, saying "Austin is as hard on people and this state's as hard on kids as I've ever seen." [Not sure what these two sentences are trying to say.]

Brown, who led the Longhorns to a national title during the 2005 season, has taken a tough stance with a zero tolerance policy.

Sophomore linebacker Sergio Kindle and junior defensive end Henry Melton were suspended for the first three games of the season for their DWI arrests, the harshest penalties handed down by Brown since arriving in 1998.

Last season, Brown suspended starting cornerback Tarell Brown for the Longhorns' showdown with top-ranked Ohio State after he was charged with misdemeanor drug possession and unlawful gun possession. The drug charge against Brown was dropped.

Another player, running back Ramonce Taylor, was charged with possession of marijuana prior to last season and sentenced to 60 days in jail. He transferred to Texas College, where he was academically ineligible. He was not selected in April's NFL draft.

"Young people who do not obey the law, university or team rules will continue to be disciplined with a stern hand and we will move forward," Brown said. "We continue to have a zero tolerance policy in that regard." [If I were a Texas student, I'd wonder whether the best use of my athletic fee is the recruitment of criminals and then the suspension of same. How about not recruiting them?... The university's playing a high-stakes, cynical game: It knows it's recruiting bad guys, but figures maybe it can control most of them long enough to get a championship out of them. Probabilities being what they are, the university is losing this game. The rush of events reveals UT as a university that doesn't know its ass from a hole in the ground.]

The UT administration has solidly supported Brown, who received a two-year contract extension and sizable raise in late August that makes him among the nation's five highest-paid football coaches. Dodds repeatedly has praised Brown for his handling of the program, and UT president William Powers Jr. offered a show of support last week. [Guys. Guys are pretty bizarre. A coach whose mismanagement of his job has been so flagrant as to make his university a national laughingstock gets the total adoring backing of his university. UD awaits UT's announcement of his million dollar bonus.]

Coach is Devastated [Hankies now sopping wet at the thought of this fine man dragged through the mud because of the way he recruits football players.]

Those close to Brown said he has been "devastated" by the off-field problems and how it has stained the program's reputation. [When all else fails, get girly.] After the latest arrest, Brown took full responsibility and said "it's all on me."

"What I've got to do is just go back and look at me, and not point fingers, not make excuses but put it solely on my shoulders," Brown said. "I am responsible for everything we do, and I want to make sure the University of Texas is getting what they're paying for and right now I've got to do a better job."

In 20 years as coach from 1957-76, legendary UT coach Darrell Royal said he dealt with his share of problems, but nothing compared to the current Longhorns. Although it was a different era and different kids, Royal said the message remains the same.

"I eliminated some of them, just told them to move out of the dorm and their scholarship wasn't any good anymore. That makes it damn serious to the rest of them that are there," he said. "I could do things they can't do now. They'd like to, but they can't. It's against the rules." [Well, but what they can still do is refuse to recruit shits.]

What can the Longhorns do to prevent such incidents? Presently, freshmen and sophomores are required to live in on-campus dormitories. Those upperclassmen requesting to live off campus must receive permission from everyone from the coaching staff to the athletic department's academic advisers.

There are no plans to implement a curfew or centralized housing for the team, Dodds said. All but one of the arrests occurred during the summer, when the NCAA prohibits contact between the coaching staff and players. [Curfew. See how pretty your campus gets when you only care about whether someone can carry the ball?]

Where the Longhorns can avoid issues is during the recruiting process [Ah, oui. Finally shows up.], leaning heavily on Brown's close ties to the state's high school coaches. [It's their fault, not mine!] None of the 19 players for the 2008 recruiting class have backed out of their commitments, including several from the Houston area, a school official said.

Joseph, who remains in Travis County Jail facing two felonies, was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and evading arrests less than nine months after committing to the Longhorns in August 2005, according to the Port Arthur News. Brown had no knowledge of Joseph's previous arrest, a school spokesman said.

"Where we need to start is recruiting," Dodds said. "We are careful who we recruit to the University of Texas." [Official Orwellian Statement.]

Texas isn't alone in dealing with off-field legal problems. No fewer than seven Florida football players have been in trouble with the law since the Jan. 8 national championship victory over Ohio State. [This intends to make the paper's readers feel better. Hell, we only have six. Florida has seven!]

Oklahoma State linebacker Chris Collins, a former UT commitment, continues to play despite remaining under indictment for sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl in 2004. [See how naughty OSU is? We're not that bad.]

Nebraska suspended Maurice Purify, the team's leading receiver last season, for one game after he pleaded no contest to assault this summer.

With an influx of high school players leaving school a semester early to enroll in college, schools need to invest more in a support staff to tackle early problems arising from immaturity and being away from home for the first time, said sports psychologist Dr. John Murray. [Wheeling out the psychologist here... Another consoling move... These kids just need help adjusting... ]

Reputation at Stake

"Money should not be an issue when talking about the reputation and the success of the program," Murray said. "The administrators, alumni and power people at every particular campus across the country need to wake up, smell the coffee and get real." [More Dr. Phil poopoo.]

Despite the arrests, Brown said the problems are not indicative of his program.

"I will put our long-term record of character up against anybody," he said. [Mack's the one who needs a shrink. Pronto.]

• • •

A recap of recent arrests involving UT players.

Robert Joseph
Class/hometown:Sophomore/Port Arthur

Position:: Safety

Arrest dates: June 9 and July 29

Charges: Two charges of burglary of a vehicle (misdemeanor); aggravated robbery (first-degree felony) and tampering or fabricating physical evidence (third-degree felony).

Status: Transferred from the team (remains in Travis County Jail)

• • •

Henry Melton
Class/hometown: Junior/Grapevine

Position:: Defensive end

Arrest date: June 1

Charge: Driving while intoxicated

Status: Reinstated Sept. 17 after serving three-game suspension.

• • •

Sergio Kindle
Class/hometown: Sophomore/Dallas

Position:: Linebacker

Arrest date: July 28

Charge: Driving while intoxicated

Status: Reinstated Sept. 17 after serving three-game suspension.

• • •

Andre Jones
Class/hometown: Freshman/El Paso

Position:: Defensive tackle

Arrest date: Aug. 2

Charge: Aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, a first-degree felony.

Status: Suspended indefinitely from team

• • •

Tyrell Gatewood
Class/hometown: Senior/Tyler

Position:: Safety

Arrest date: Sept. 12

Charges: Two misdemeanor counts for drug possession.

Status: Suspended indefinitely from team

• • •

James Henry
Class/hometown: Redshirt freshman/Schertz

Position:: Running back

Arrest date: Sept. 17

Charges: Obstruction and tampering with evidence, third-degree felonies, in connection with July 27 robbery involving Joseph and Jones.

Status: Suspended indefinitely from team'


Automatic Bob.

Via Andrew Sullivan.
Ah yes... And ... remember when he
bashed his wife's head in? ... Memories...

'A memorial service was held Thursday night in honor of Claude Vandeloise, the University French studies professor convicted of involuntary manslaughter and obstruction of justice in the death of his wife.

Vandeloise, 62, died Aug. 22 from complications due to cancer. David Bourland, Vandeloise's attorney, said his client was scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 1.

Prosecutor Aaron Brooks said Vandeloise could have served up to 40 years for his crime. Vandeloise would then have been deported to Belgium, his home country.

"With the death of Mr. Vandeloise, the case is officially closed," Brooks said.

Vandeloise was rushed to the hospital in late July, said Garrett McCutchan, Italian professor and close friend. Tumors were found in his abdomen and on his liver.

McCutchan said Vandeloise developed a blood clot in his right leg soon after. He caught pneumonia and never recovered.

McCutchan said Vandeloise wanted to go home but could not walk without assistance.

"Eventually things just multiplied and caused his death," McCutchan said.

Vandeloise struck his wife Monique Beckers on Oct. 7, 2004, after she made an error in booking his flight to a conference he was scheduled to speak at in Quebec. The blow to Beckers' head caused her brain to detach from the spinal cord and bounce against the back of her skull.

Because Beckers suffered from cirrhosis of the liver, her brain had shrunk to a size smaller than average. This caused a blot clot, which ultimately caused Beckers' death a week later, Bourland said.

Vandeloise pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and obstruction of justice April 11.

Brooks said the obstruction charge was the result of Vandeloise placing Beckers' body on the bathroom floor to look as though she had fallen.

"He did ultimately confess to hitting her," Brooks said.

Lucie Brindabour, the executrix of Vandeloise's estate, organized the memorial service, McCutchan said. Several of his colleagues in the French studies department came together and exchanged anecdotes about their time with Vandeloise. McCutchan said Vandeloise's favorite songs were played on his old-fashioned turntable.

Vandeloise and Beckers were very close and relied on each other in adapting to the American culture, McCutchan said.

"He tried to wrestle with the reality of the situation, but sometimes he just threw up his hands and said 'C'est la vie,'" McCutchan said.'

---the daily reveille, louisiana state university---
With a Name Like That...

...maybe they'll let UD play there.

'One of the three main buildings that make up Sonoma State University's new performing arts center may be named for Schroeder, the Beethoven- loving pianist of Peanuts fame.

Campus officials proposed naming the 250-seat recital hall for the cartoon character because the widow of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz donated $5 million to the project, which will be part of the Donald and Maureen Green Music Center, Sonoma State spokeswoman Susan Kashack said.

"I know Sparky would have enjoyed thinking about Schroeder's connection to such a grand hall and stage," Jean Schulz said, referring to her late husband by one of his nicknames.

Jean Schulz graduated from Sonoma State, and Charles Schulz lived in Sonoma County for 42 years before he died in 2000.

California State University System trustees must approve the building's name, which they are expected to do this week, Kashack says.

The facility is scheduled to open in the fall of 2009.'
Amid All the Academic Freedom Stories Lately...

...there's also simple academic incompetence.

UD's covered, on this blog, a number of stories involving irresponsible or whacked out professors.

Sometimes the line between between brilliantly provocative and baseline gaga is difficult to determine.

Even if you can determine it, these stories tend to be sad, as in this one from Boise State, about a woman who seems to have deteriorated over the years into a brittle, belligerent, narcissist.

From the student newspaper at Boise State:

Boise State fired professor Linda Emery, Thursday Sept. 13 due to her teaching methods and lack of professionalism. Nampa Police physically removed her from a classroom at the West Campus, moments before she was to teach a class. [Yikes. Had to call in the cops. Because she wouldn't go quietly?]

[The note to her from] Dean Martin Schimpf, reads, “This notice is to inform you that Boise State University is terminating your employment as an adjunct faculty member. While State Board of Education policy, Boise State University policy and State of Idaho law provide that you are an at-will employee of the University and may be dismissed at any time, with or without cause, below you will find the basis and reasons for this action.” [Yes. Adjuncts are pretty much powerless in this regard. Much harder to get rid of tenured faculty.]

These reasons are: profane language used in the classroom (on one occasion calling a student “fucking stupid,” which she admitted, but said it was in jest), failure to prepare a proper syllabus, failure to teach the course material, student complaints, unprofessional behavior, not taking attendance, dismissing classes early, prior infractions and finally for confronting students to discover the source of a complaint filed against her Sept. 11, 2007.

Emery was fired two days later.

Students in her class denied many of these claims.

The students seemed to admire Emery for her teaching style.

“This is wrong. She has been here for 15 years and for her to get fired this way is wrong,” student Tonya Harris said.

She was teaching at least two courses in the English Department this fall.

“I would understand if this was happening after a year or two, but after 15 years and my methods have not changed? Come on,” Emery said.

The English Department felt differently.

“The University has received several complaints about your unprofessional conduct in your classes this semester,” the dismissal letter read. “Dr. [Michelle] Payne called you to address these issues with you and you admitted to some, but not all, of the complaints about conduct. While you attempted to characterize the activity in an academic context, the reality is that you have been engaging in unprofessional conduct, much of which you have admitted.”

Emery’s syllabi were a cause of concern.

Following is an excerpt from her ENGL 268 course syllabus.

“Please be aware that I like to argue, that I am sometimes abrasive and possibly offensive, that my favorite topics are God, sex, and Death and that if any of this really bothers you, you probably should take this course from another instructor.” [ Ick. Whatever else we are able to conclude about this woman, we know she's a rank egotist.]

Emery later changed the number of the syllabus to ENGL 258 (which is Western World Literature, not British Literature) and used the same document for that course as well.

“You have failed to prepare a proper syllabus with proper course material,” the dismissal notice read. “In fact, you made a hand-written change to a course number on the syllabus from your [ENGL] 268 British Literature class and gave that out as a syllabus for your 258 class. The syllabus makes several references to British Literature. You were hired for the 258 class to teach Western World Literature. It is not your prerogative to simply ignore the course material in favor of subject matter you would prefer to teach. Student complaints have noted that students were looking forward to the study of Western World Literature and were disappointed that you made it clear (verbally and in writing) that you did not intend to teach the subject.” [Pretty amusing. But the university's on firm ground here.]

The syllabus is hard to read, randomly organized and includes the final section with her rant on her teaching style.

“That syllabus is a mess, but I was sick and was going to go home and work on it this weekend,” Emery said. “Students told me it wasn’t a big deal because other professors have made a mistake before.” [Fucking stupid comment.]

The mistake, Emery said, was that she simply brought the wrong syllabus. The dismissal letter brought up a large number of other issues, a few of which are unsubstantiated.

“Students have complained that you regularly dismiss a 3-hour class after only one-half hour, that because you do not take attendance, students can choose not to attend, and that the only assignment they will be graded on is a two-page paper due at the end of the semester. [A lot of responsible professors don't take attendance. No one responsible lets a 3-hour class go after a half hour.] One-half hour classes do not meet the 3-credit class requisites, and having no other graded work falls below the expectations of college-level course work.”

“That is not true,” Emery’s western world literature student Angie Wood said.

The syllabus states that the course will be graded on a 3-10 page paper on an aspect of one or more works that were read in class and whoever presents it to the class can receive extra credit.

The syllabus requires a creative project to be presented to the class integrating the literary works read in class with student life. [These sorts of assignments are usually really bogus.] Random impromptu responses on discussions were also required. The class midterm and final essays were to be based on a personal question. [What's personal question mean?]

Despite all these allegations and the firing of Emery, many of her students stand by her side. Some have decided to drop the course. Others are filing a petition to have her re-instated and distributing the dismissal letter around campus.

“I’m a fan of Linda’s,” Emery’s British literature student Pamela (Sue) Sykes said. “I took every class she taught. I’m 59 and I’ve learned more in her four classes than any other class on campus, she made me love English.” [Spread the love to the newspaper reporter and teach her how to use a semi-colon.]

“I signed up for Linda and will only take it from her because she makes English fun, and this new guy is boring,” Harris said.

“She made me feel comfortable, able to speak my mind, and I didn’t like talking in groups,” British literature student Victoria Lee said. [Comfortable. Fun. These aren't what serious classrooms are about. ]

One of the lynchpins for Emery’s dismissal was her repeated

The dismissal letter focused on this topic.

“Student complaints also noted that you regularly use foul language in class. While profane language can be appropriate in the proper context, its use should not simply be a part of the classroom when it is not connected to the instructional goals of the course.”

Emery had previously been reprimanded for her language.
Most of her students did not care.

“It’s bullshit,” student Tori Shockey said.

“When you are old enough to rent a fuckin’ porno it shouldn’t be a big deal to have profane language in the classroom,” student Crystal Gedney said. “We are all adults here.” [The irony here is that Emery is not an adult.]

BSU does not rent out pornography.

Despite the support from some students, others (at least one) complained to the chair of the English Department.

“Students feel you are rude to them in class and display a lack of respect for them,” the letter said. “Challenging students to think, encouraging them to broaden their minds and forcing them to reevaluate long held beliefs is, of course, a fine goal for college level courses. However, belittling students, being rude to students, and discussing topics wholly unrelated to the course are not acceptable methods of achieving those goals.”

This comment from Rate My Professors sounds about right:

'What a complete waste of my time - we never even read out of the book. I called this class my group therapy class because all the mentally screwed weirdos out there gravitate here and want to talk about how they cut themselves to feel alive. I am very liberal and easy going but the overall vibe of this class was just too hard to take.'

Some professors, especially in the humanities, decide that, having discovered The True Path, they must share it with their students. Doesn't matter what the syllabus says they're supposed to be teaching, because their subject matter never changes: The World According to Me.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

This Little Article...

...evokes UD's immediate setting pretty well:

'A double shooting at Delaware State University on Friday morning will not affect this weekend's on-track activities at the Dover International Speedway.

Despite the Universities' [Er, that ought to be university's.] close proximity to the one-mile Dover oval, site of this Sunday's Dodge Dealers 400 Nextel Cup event, local officials believe the shooting is isolated and poses no threat to patrons or activities at the track nicknamed ‘the Monster Mile.'

All events at the Speedway are on schedule for this weekend and are currently operating according to plan.

The Delaware State University police department continues to investigate this incident.'

Hotels in Rehoboth are almost fully booked with NASCAR enthusiasts from the US and Canada who want a race/beach vacation (the mille monstrueux is about an hour from here). How'd it be if Mr. UD and the little lady were to go slumming and drop in on the race?

"Oh, you wouldn't want to do that," said the woman behind the desk at our hotel. "The drive from here to Dover on Sunday will be a nightmare. This is a major, major race... a NASCAR race..."'
As Goes the Daily Forty-Niner... will go a good deal of the rest of the print newspaper world as online publication eats it up.

More immediately, though, this is a story about deanly incompetence and academic freedom.

'The chairman of the Cal State Long Beach journalism department on Friday was removed from that post a week after criticizing an idea broached by a college dean to eliminate print editions of the campus newspaper.

Although Professor William Babcock no longer is department chairman, he remains employed by the university as a tenured journalism faculty member.

Gerry Riposa, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, announced at a meeting of journalism faculty Friday that Babcock was removed as chairman because of "ineffective" leadership, according to Babcock.

Riposa could not be reached for comment Friday.

University spokeswoman Toni Beron said Babcock's removal had been under consideration for some time and was due to the lack of accreditation for the department and the inability to meet budget.

Babcock defended his record, saying that student enrollment is up, more faculty members have Ph.D.s and faculty scholarship has increased during his tenure.

"At no time has Gerry Riposa ever indicated to me that my leadership has in any way been ineffective," Babcock said after Friday's faculty meeting.

Riposa has sought a feasibility study of a proposal to eliminate most printed editions of the Daily Forty-Niner newspaper and focus on its electronic edition as a cost-saving measure for the paper.

The paper in recent years has been in the red, with the cost overruns being paid by the College of Liberal Arts, Riposa has said.

"What it really comes down to is the student paper and its finances are a symptom of the problems the department has had," Beron said.

Babcock in a news article published in the Press-Telegram on Sept. 15 criticized the idea of eliminating the print edition, saying it would hurt advertising revenue needed to keep the publication alive.

Babcock's removal also comes a week after a Sept. 14 faculty meeting with Riposa that had as an agenda item a discussion of the feasibility study.

The discussion did not take place because Riposa left the meeting early after learning that several student journalists and one professional journalist were in attendance.

Riposa last week told the Press-Telegram that he had wanted a faculty-only meeting and that he had not been told in advance that students or journalists would be present. Otherwise, he would have come more prepared with materials to share, he added.

Babcock said he had no knowledge that the students would be present and did not invite them. But all faculty meetings are open to students, he said.

"The appearance to me is that Gerry was simply annoyed that student journalists showed up at a faculty meeting last Friday where he was going to talk about launching a study that could lead to the elimination of the daily campus newspaper," Babcock said.

Riposa "blamed me for the embarrassment this caused him," he added.

Beron disputed the meeting as a factor.

"It had nothing to do with that meeting at all," Beron said.

Babcock has served as chairman since 2001. In an election last summer, faculty members recommended him for another three-year term in the post.

Bradley Zint, editor-in-chief of the Daily Forty-Niner, said that Babcock was a strong advocate for the paper and for students.

"I think it's a loss," said Zint, a former Press-Telegram intern. "I've worked with him, and I appreciated his contributions."

He declined to comment on the merits of the dean's decision, saying that he wanted to avoid a situation in which students would get involved in internal faculty politics.

Zint criticized Riposa for his decision to leave the faculty meeting Sept. 14.

"It seemed like he was avoiding talking to the paper," he said.

Journalism professor William Mulligan, who has been critical of Babcock, said that Riposa told faculty members at Friday's meeting that he no longer had confidence in Babcock's leadership.

Mulligan, a former department chairman, said it's unclear what direction Riposa wants to take the department, but it would be a mistake to make the Forty-Niner online-only.

"The dean hasn't outlined, really, what his vision of journalism is," said Mulligan, who has voted against recommending Babcock for chairman.

Associate Professor Raul Reis assumed the position of department chairman at Riposa's invitation, Reis said. He declined to comment further.

Beron said she expected Reis would remain in the position until spring when an election for a new chairman would be held.'

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Flat Fields of Delaware...

...make for a very big sky,
and it was raining off and on
as we approached Rehoboth.
So we got these gray and blue
and white mixes, with black
curtains off at the storm centers.

Insect-like irrigators (I'm
sure there's a word for them.
They look like this.)

lay idle along the fields.

Rain's just over. Sun's out.
UD now scans the big sky
over the ocean for rainbows.
Ever hopeful.
Rehoboth Beach...

...again calls. On Sunday evening, UD will be back in DC for a gathering of bloggers in Chevy Chase. She will of course attempt to blog through all of this excitement.
Writers On Screen

Excerpts from a thoughtful take, in the Telegraph, on filming writers.

'...Creative writing courses are another way of introducing drama. The interaction between a sardonic has-been and his uninterested students has inspired three of the better films about writers. In Danny DeVito's Throw Momma from the Train (1987), Billy Crystal played a blocked novelist who could get no further in his novel than "The night was..." and had to explain to one of his students why "100 Girls I'd Like to Pork" was a bad idea for a coffee-table book (in a throwaway joke, the published book could later be glimpsed on Crystal's desk).

In Wonder Boys (2000), adapted from Michael Chabon's novel, Michael Douglas was an award-winning procrastinator, seven years late delivering his latest novel. From the editor who showed up to the university's literary event with a transvestite to the pretentious novelist (the brilliant Rip Torn) who got a round of applause from a festival audience merely for announcing "I... am an author" with great solemnity, this film had the painful ring of truth.

But the most disturbing creative-writing-course movie is Todd Solondz's Storytelling (2001), the first 26 minutes of which showed the worst that can happen within a dysfunctional writing group. The Pulitzer-prize winning Mr Scott (played by Robert Wisdom) destroys his students' egos with brutal criticism and indulges in aggressive sex with the liberal white female students he believes are attracted to him because he's black. And every bad creative writing group has someone like Catherine who'll say in a gentle voice, "Maybe I'm wrong, it's just my opinion, but..." before launching into a volley of the most vitriolic criticism.

...Jack Nicholson has portrayed several writers, including the real-life Eugene O'Neill in Warren Beatty's Reds (1981), a fictional Washington Post journalist in Heartburn (1986) and two author-monsters: Melvin in As Good as It Gets (1997) and Jack in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).

Melvin and Jack are collections of tics, madness and memorable lines. Melvin's best quip, spoken to a mohair-sweatered blonde receptionist who wants to know how he writes women so well, is: "I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability." [Sounds like a university football coach.]'
Sporting News:
University of Texas
Reigns in Bad Publicity


It was a rough summer for Mack Brown. [Starts, as all of these sorts of articles do, with sympathy for a coach experiencing the outcome of his own cynical recruitment strategies.]

Six of his Texas players were arrested -- the most recent on Monday -- and close wins against teams most considered big underdogs have left many wondering if his team is overrated.

Still, the No. 7 Longhorns are 3-0 heading into Saturday night's game against Rice (0-3). A comfortable win there could ease a lot of the anxiety around campus.

The talk of Texas right now is not about football. It's about a rash of felony and misdemeanor arrests, suspensions and what Brown can do to minimize the damage to the reputations of coach and school.

Fans are complaining, national sports columnists are taking pot shots and "Book'em Horns!" jokes are zipping around the Internet, leaving Brown trying to reign in a wave of bad publicity. [This is an AP story. You'd think the AP would know how to spell rein.]

"I've spent 33 years of my life coaching young people and trying to be a great role model for young people and prepare them for life after football," Brown said. "It has been very, very important in my life that we have a team with character and that they act responsibly. When someone is accused of trouble or has trouble, it's devastating to me personally." [As the criminals I recruit become more brazen, my cliches become more threadbare.]

University President William Powers went public this week with his support of Brown and the program.

"I strongly endorse the penalties he has imposed on this player and others who have been arrested for various offenses. [SOS likes "arrested for various offenses." It's a neat catch-all term.] I know Coach Brown feels accountable for the conduct of his team and that these players must be held accountable for their own behavior on and off the field," Powers said. [As the criminals we've recruited become more brazen, my cliches become more threadbare.]

Brown this week reinstated sophomore linebacker Sergio Kindle and junior defensive end Henry Melton, both suspended three games for drunken driving arrests over the summer.

"It's going to be good for us to have those guys back," linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy said.

Anything that allows Texas to concentrate on the playbook rather than the police blotter is welcome right now. Senior defensive tackle Derek Lokey said playing Rice helps the team put the arrests in the past.

"Instead of dividing the team, it's going to unite the team," Lokey said. [Win this one for the probation officer!] '

---associated press---


Fort Lewis College:
A Real Zero.
And a Whore.

Anyone still wondering about the benefits of America's bigtime university football system need only look at the blessings it's brought Colorado's Fort Lewis College.

'A Fort Lewis College trustee criticized the athletics director Friday for "pigskin prostitution" in sending the football team to get walloped by a Division I university.

Peter Decker, one of seven members of the Board of Trustees, said the NCAA Division II Skyhawks' 49-0 loss at Montana two weeks ago was "humiliating."

"Why do we do this?" Decker said, noting the 17-hour bus ride players endured en route to Missoula, Mont.

Athletics Director Kent Stanley said the game was essential to keep the football program afloat.

"We play these games out of necessity, not because we want to," Stanley said. "It's really a matter of economics."

Stanley said Fort Lewis received $50,000 for the game. The average contract for such "guarantee games" in the Big Sky conference, of which Montana is a member, is $15,000 to $25,000, Stanley said.

Stanley said the football program needs such high-paying, early-season games to stay afloat. Without them, he said, "our football program wouldn't have the funds to play our conference schedule."

Schools throughout the NCAA play guarantee games, usually early in the season. Major programs use the early games as warm-ups before they face conference opponents..

..."Our budget has traditionally been built on including those kinds of games," Stanley said. "I think that most institutions on our level would probably prefer not to play guarantee games, but it's both an economic necessity and a unique experience for the young men unlike anything you'd get in Division II."

Stanley noted that Fort Lewis players endured nearly as long a bus ride to lose 61-0 on Sept. 15 at University of Nebraska-Kearney, a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opponent. Stanley said that loss was more worrisome.

The exchange between Decker and Stanley came during a presentation by the athletic director about the athletic department's progress....'

Friday, September 21, 2007

You Can't Make This Shit Up

'An MIT student wearing a device on her chest that included lights and wires was arrested at gunpoint at Logan International Airport this morning after authorities thought the contraption was a bomb strapped to her body.

The woman, identified as Star Simpson, 19, was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and approached an airport employee in Terminal C at 8 a.m. to inquire about an incoming flight from Oakland. She was holding a lump of what looked like putty in her hands, authorities said. The employee asked about the plastic circuit board on her chest, and Simpson walked away without responding, according to Major Scott Pare of the State Police.

Outside the terminal, Simpson was surrounded by police holding machine guns.

"She was immediately told to stop, to raise her hands, and not make any movement so we could observe all her movements to see if she was trying to trip any type of device," Pare said at a press conference at Logan. "There was obviously a concern that had she not followed the protocol ... we may have used deadly force."

Simpson was arrested, and it was quickly determined that the device was harmless.

"She said it was a piece of art and she wanted to stand out on career day," Pare said. "She was holding what was later found to be playdough."

Affixed to the front of her black sweatshirt was a pale beige circuit board with green LED lights and wires running to a 9-volt battery. Written on the back of the sweatshirt in what appeared to be gold magic marker was the phrase "socket to me" and below that was written "Course VI," which refers to the electrical engineering and computer science program at MIT....'

'“It used to be much easier to start out as a young writer because you could be sure that a book would get review space all over the place.” These days, [Salman] Rushdie [said to a New York literary gathering]..., it’s only the established ones who get any coverage. “The problem is: how do you draw attention to books by new writers who are not well known, who don’t have name recognition – who, you know, don’t look beautiful on the cover of a magazine? That’s 99 percent of all writers! That’s the reason why this is important.”

Then Mr. Rushdie went off-message: “I think it’s rather unfortunate that some of the coverage tries to pitch print reviewing against the new media. I think they complement each other very well.” To those familiar with the ongoing debate in the book world about whether lit blogs are destroying western culture--as Rushdie's listeners were--his meaning could hardly have been clearer: Blogs aren't the enemy.

As Mr. Rushdie finished, the room erupted in applause.'

---via aldaily---
Notes From the Boondocks

Eric Rauchway says what needs to be said about the University of California Regents capitulating to pressure from provincial UC Davis professors and banning Harvard's ex-president from speaking there:

'By succumbing to a demand that they reject a controversial, though--as a former treasury secretary, university administrator, and respected economist--obviously relevant speaker, the Regents have suddenly made life much more difficult for those of us in the business of presenting controversial, if relevant, ideas and guest speakers on UC campuses. Casting someone as utterly outside the university's conversation is the severest penalty we as scholars can impose--appropriate perhaps to Holocaust deniers and such ilk as exhibit a chronic impenetrability to reason. Lawrence Summers, though he said some things well worth objecting to, falls well short of that standard. By applying this ban to him, the Regents suggest an impossibly low tolerance for controversy at the University of California.'

--- via Ralph Luker ---
UD Interviewed by
Chicago Sun-Times.

Here's the article, by Dave Newbart.

UD's evil twin, SOS, peeks in.

'Alumni wonder if their degrees have been tarnished. Faculty question the intellectual commitment of campus leaders. The student newspaper calls the circumstances "ludicrous.'' A well-read higher education blog [ahem!] calls the school a "laughingstock.'' [Blush. Guilty as charged.] [And does the writer mean well-read? Or does he mean much-read?] These are among reactions to allegations that Southern Illinois University president Glenn Poshard plagiarized some portions of the doctoral dissertation he wrote while a student at the school 23 years ago.

That comes after other top officials on campus were also accused of plagiarism.

Will three years of accusations of plagiarism have a long-term impact on the school's reputation? Can Poshard effectively lead the university if the allegations hold up?

The school has undoubtedly been harmed, said experts [UD and Mr. UD often have the 'experts' conversation....

Are you an expert? he'll ask....

Me? In what?... No!... UD will respond. Are you an expert? she'll ask Mr. UD.

No! he'll shout.

But you know more about the Iraqi constitution than almost anyone... Doesn't that make you an... expert?

No! I might know more than almost anyone about that, yes, but that doesn't make me an expert...

Thank God. If I'd known I were marrying an expert, I'd have never gone through with it...

What does this conversation mean? Why do UD and Mr. UD think it's funny? ... I don't know...]
interviewed recently. The atmosphere could make it harder for the school to be considered among the top 75 research institutions in the nation, the school's stated goal by the time it celebrates its 150th birthday in 2019.

What's more, Poshard could have a difficult time restoring his credibility at an institution where the very premise is doing your own work, they said.

"This is very damaging to his status as a person on campus who all the students can look up to as an example of integrity in academic and personal life,'' said Charles Lipson, a University of Chicago political science professor and author of Doing Honest Work in College, a guidebook used at hundreds of schools nationwide. "I don't see how he can survive this as a leader of a university.''

Margaret Soltan, an English professor at George Washington University who earned her Ph.D. at the U. of C. [Not quite sure how this is relevant -- like Lipson, another local? -- but UD never minds having her name linked with the University of Chicago.], called SIU a "laughingstock'' on her University Diaries blog.

"Things were looking up for that university, but now, with the Poshard case and all the others, I think they've suffered a serious setback,'' she said in an interview.

Terry Clark, a member of the executive council of the faculty senate and chairman of the marketing department, admits the school has to "address some image issues. It's not good.''

The school's response hasn't helped, some said. The SIU board of trustees has known about the allegations for months; chair Roger Tedrick has publicly defended Poshard. Although the chancellors at the school's Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses were accused of using previously published work without proper attribution, neither faced significant repercussions. A school committee said former Carbondale chancellor Walter Wendler committed "intellectual dishonesty,'' but Poshard specifically said the findings were not the reason Wendler was asked to later step down.

Further, even some SIU faculty have questioned whether an internal committee -- appointed to investigate the plagiarism claims -- can objectively judge Poshard.

"Their judgment will be colored by their thoughts on the future of the school,'' said Ron Robin, a New York University associate dean and author of Scandals and Scoundrels, about wrongdoing in academia.

But SIU Carbondale interim Provost Don Rice said the school is conducting an internal review because it is crucial the school follow its student procedures.

Plus, he says the school has faculty with expertise in the area.

The ongoing issues could affect the school's ability to attract top faculty or researchers, said Stephen Satris, director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University. "At least part of the identity of SIU or any university is constituted by intangible things,'' he said, ". . . things like values'' and integrity. [Tell it to your football team, Satris.]

Lipson -- who is using Poshard's case as an example to his freshman students -- believes Poshard needs to step down.

"While SIU's reputation may have strong foundations, this would be a body blow to it if nothing were done about what appears to be a serious violation of the rules of academic integrity,'' he said.

Still, not everyone agrees the situation is insurmountable for the university as a whole.

Rice believes the school can maintain its reputation. He said the school's myriad faculty will continue to earn grants, publish research and attract top students.

"We will overcome this,'' he said. "The university is just too good.'''

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Coach Rock Sinister

When it's seven jailed players, I guess that triggers the Presidential Statement. I guess seven players is a high enough number for someone to call out the chief executive and tell him to, you know, say something.

Here's the pathetic thing the president of the University of Texas just said:

'University of Texas president William Powers threw his support behind Longhorns coach Mack Brown after James Henry became the seventh player to have a brush with the law in the last four months.

Henry, a redshirt freshman running back, was charged Tuesday with felony counts of retaliation and tampering with physical evidence in connection with an alleged armed robbery in July involving former Texas football player Robert Joseph.

“These incidents are something we take very seriously,” Powers said. “They involve conduct that is unacceptable by citizens at our university and certainly members of our athletic program and football team. I applaud Coach Brown. He took swift action in disciplining these members in each case. I think we do need to hold the players accountable for their conduct off the field.” [As with Donna Shalala, the rhetoric here is bizarre. Obviously Texas hasn't taken, and doesn't take, criminal players seriously. It recruits them. It's a real dirty program. The president sees it as his job to say precisely the opposite of the truth. Instead of saying, the way Montana State now says, that something's very wrong with their program, the president pats the coach on the back for all his good work.]

According to the Austin Police Department, Henry admitted in taped, jailhouse phone calls from Joseph that he assaulted a victim from the alleged robbery and also disposed of a backpack containing items stolen in the alleged incident.

Henry was booked into the Travis County Jail with bond set at $30,000. It wasn’t immediately clear if Henry had yet hired an attorney.

Powers said he, athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Brown “are on the same page.” Powers said the school is taking measures to prevent such behavior and needs to do more.

“Recruiting players with character is a very high priority for the coach,” Powers said. [Again, exactly the opposite of the coach's recruitment strategy.] “We do have programs while the students are here to emphasize that when they are away from home, they need to behave and conduct themselves appropriately. [The language of appropriate behavior. How appropriate.]

“We do drug testing. We have programs on alcohol for the players. So I do think that taking preventative action is extremely important. We can always have more robust efforts.”' [The Texas president is a tool of his sports program. He should be replaced by someone both ethical and able to lead.]

A Brand New Book...

...about university football recruiting (says on Amazon it was released day before yesterday), sounds intriguing. Mike Davidson at Profane told me about it (he hasn't read it yet). Here's Mike:

'...Meat Market, a new book by Bruce Feldman on the sausage factory of NCAA football recruiting has received a great deal of attention in the sports press recently. Feldman was granted access to the inner workings of the recruiting machine run by Coach Ed Ogeron of Mississippi during the 2006-2007 recruiting season. ...

[T]he following comments [on the book] by Barry Temkin are instructive:

His 2005 recruiting class, assembled hastily after he took his job in December 2004, has been an attrition-heavy disaster, thanks to too many academic and character risks. As he pursued the 2007 class under Feldman's watchful eye, Orgeron raised the bar in those areas but still showed a willingness to roll the dice on academics if a player was promising enough and to fight to get such prospects through the admissions door.

That made one Mississippi staff member particularly valuable because of his expertise in finding ways prospects could satisfy NCAA initial-eligibility requirements late in the game. And that in turn helped lead to the saga of five-star defensive lineman Jerrell Powe, who first signed with Mississippi in 2005 but has yet to play a down despite repeated attempts to become eligible, which included taking a slew of online courses.

The tension between academics and athletics is just one thing that made you wonder what institutions of higher learning are doing in this mass entertainment business in the first place.

Yep, THAT Jerrell Powe, who, after being declared ineligible twice before, learned from the NCAA earlier this month that, at least in his case, correspondence course shenanigans over the space of four months could not erase years of academic failure:

NCAA staff and the appellate bodies expressed concern that Mr. Powe had completed a significant amount of coursework in an unusually limited amount of time – much shorter than the average time it takes students to complete similar courses. In order to grant the waiver and appeal, the staff and membership committees were asked to accept that an individual who previously completed just 7 core courses out of a required 14 in his first five years of high school had subsequently completed 14.5 core courses at three different schools concurrently over a four-month period.

Occasionally, even the NCAA gets things right.'

This morning's Chronicle of Higher Ed offers a bootless bit about the nation's crime-tossed university football teams.

It's September writing -- writing that appears in September, as classes start. Other examples are pieces about our soulless universities, and about their illiterate students...

UD now cynicals through the piece. (Cynical is not a verb. UD likes the way it looks being one.):

'...Five University of Florida players have been arrested since the team won the national championship in January. Six players at the University of Texas, the 2005 national champ, have been arrested in the past four months. [Starts with some reminders, updates, stats. Probably consulted the Fulmer Rankings.]

...[T]he National Collegiate Athletic Association could limit coaches' recruiting or impose restrictions on teams' postseason play when players repeatedly violate the law. [Ain't gonna happen.] By doing that, [one university official] said, coaches might take fewer chances on players with a history of problems. [This is the basic issue. When an established criminal is recruited to play football and pretend to go to college, he's probably going to commit crimes. No coach of whom UD is aware hesitates to embrace guys like this. Most coaches don't give a shit about the player's morality, and they certainly don't care about his education. Coaches don't see their location as that of a college. People who work for colleges don't earn two million more than the president of the college. Coaches work for communities of boosters and alumni, and they work for tv. Their location is that of a playing field.]

..."The NCAA could start to hold people accountable ... to prevent programs from bringing the entire enterprise into disrepute," [one observer] said. [And monkeys might fly out of my butt. The entire enterprise is in disrepute and no one of any significance cares. Look at the professional sports scene. People care about the games.]

...Another way to hold coaches accountable, some experts suggested: Tie their pay raises or bonuses to players' off-field behavior, paying coaches more for running a clean program. [Ain't gonna happen. And coaches are already paid obscenely.]

...Sharon K. Stoll, a professor of physical education at the University of Idaho and the director of its Center for Ethical Theory and Honor in Competition and Sport [Yikes. Get a load of that name. I'm gonna have to Google it. Hold on... Oh. It spells out ETHICS... The page looks Halloweenish, with its black background and lurid yellow/green lettering. The writing features misspelled words (its research interns clammer to study there), inability to use a comma, and vast fields of jargon.], said behavior clauses won't do any good unless players learn the difference between right and wrong.

Ms. Stoll [Who says she's written eight books, but hasn't. That's not moral.] runs workshops that aim to teach college athletes moral values. In the past year, she said, two college football teams have dropped her program, leaving just two that participate.

"More schools need to be in the active process of education about moral character," she said. "Until that happens, these problems are going to continue." [Yeah, and MBA programs have courses in How to Be Moral for their students. Please. The only good sign in all of this is that teams have dropped her program.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bad Writing Award

The reasons bad writing is bad are seldom mysterious and often the same, from bad writer to bad writer.

Here, Andrew Sullivan explains why he ignores the unreadably dull New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert.

Note how similar Sullivan's list of bad stuff is to the things Scathing Online Schoolmarm's always saying:

[O]nce I know the topic of a Herbert column, I can predict every single self-satisfied, self-righteous platitude that is about to come. He's also a terrible writer - there's no character to his prose, never a felicitous turn of phrase. He's the kind of columnist who gets journalism awards. Even when he's right he's so insufferably self-righteous and humorless it's a pain to read him. So I don't.
A Young Carnegie Mellon Professor...

... dying of cancer gives a final lecture to a large, cheering crowd. UD was fine with this upbeat speech full of good advice until the professor's wife got up to embrace him. UD lost it at that point.
Talk - and Walk -
Like a Pirate

Today and tomorrow are very big, pirate-wise. Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, and tomorrow is Walk Like a Pirate Day.

'Actually, there are more nuances to talking like a pirate than you might imagine. For instance, some say “Arrrrr!,” commonly attributed to Long John Silver (the one from the restaurant), while others might prefer “Yarghhhh!,” considered more reflective of the pirate who sings the theme to “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Idiomatic subtlety is the hallmark of a good pirate.

More importantly, though, this year marks the debut on Sept. 20 of “Walk Like a Pirate Day.”'
Can You Love Two Men
at the Same Time?

'A Wall Street stock broker has been charged with assault after he became enraged during a cycling class at a posh health club and slammed a fellow member and his bike against a wall, according to a complaint.

Christopher Carter, 44, a broker at Maxim Investments Group, was at Equinox gym taking a spin class, a high-impact workout using stationary bikes. He apparently became so fed up by member Stuart Sugarman's hooting and grunting during the workout that he picked up Sugarman and his bike and hurled them into a wall.

"This is spin rage," said Samuel L. Davis, Sugarman's attorney.

Sugarman, 48, a Manhattan hedge-fund manager, suffered a back injury that required surgery to correct a herniated disc pressing on his spinal cord, Davis said.

Carter was charged with a misdemeanor assault and was released on his own recognizance Monday, according to the Manhattan prosecutor's office. A criminal complaint charges that Carter caused a back injury to Sugarman.

Carter's attorney Michael Farkas denied the claim.

"We intend to vigorously fight this charge," Farkas said. "We await the truth to come out, which will be a vastly different story than Mr. Sugarman's."

The incident took place last month at the Upper East Side gym, which is frequented by celebrities and wealthy business executives, Davis said. Sugarman, who weighs about 200 pounds, was enjoying the "euphoric experience" of cycling and was making noises to increase his high, according to Davis.

"Carter yelled over to him to shut up," Davis said. "My client yells back: 'This is spin class. If you don't like it, leave. Stop being such a baby,'" he said.

With that, Carter walked over to the bike, lifted it into the air and flipped it over, Davis said.

Sugarman got back on the bike and continued the class but stopped when he began to feel pain, Davis said. He called 911 from his cell phone and was taken to a hospital.'

---associated press---




This story turns out to be a feast for language lovers.

'Mr Sugarman, 48, admits he whooped, groaned and shouted, "You go, girl!" during the class last month.

[Sugarman's lawyer] said: "Carter yelled over to him to shut up. My client yells back, 'This is spin class. If you don't like it, leave. Stop being such a baby'."

According to Mr Sugarman, Mr Carter repeatedly shouted at him to "Shut the **** up!" and charged over to him.

Mr Carter allegedly tilted the front wheel of the other man's bike a yard off the floor and flipped it into a wall.

Mr Sugarman continued the class but stopped when he began to feel pain, his lawyer said. He claims he needed surgery to correct a herniated disc and that a surgeon told him he was "one click away from a wheelchair".

However, the criminal complaint lodged against Mr Carter only accuses him of causing "sustained lower back pain".

Much to Mr Sugarman's annoyance, prosecutors are treating the assault as a misdemeanour rather than a felony. He said: "This wasn't just a playground fall where Stewy fell down and went boo hoo."'

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If FAU doesn't have enough money
for education, how does FAU have
enough money for big-time football?

An editorial in the Palm Beach Post:

'The sale of naming rights alone won't finance the $62 million football stadium complex that Florida Atlantic University seeks to build on its Boca Raton campus. It is another reason why university trustees today must focus on financial realities as they consider initial authorization of the 30,000-seat facility.

The trustees have properly kept that focus through the project's iterations. The original proposal two years ago was a privately financed "athletic village," with retail services and restaurants around a 40,000-seat, domed football/basketball/convocation center. The idea was driven as much by FAU's ill-advised push to host top-level football as by the longtime commuter school's move to establish a more traditional campus.

The trustees, however, correctly noted that the revenue-sharing deal for private financing, construction and operation was too vague. In addition, the student housing that was the project's cornerstone was overshadowed. Current real-estate trends shows how off-mission FAU might have headed with the proposed condominiums to be sold to non-students. Also on the table at one point were hotels, a cancer research center and a museum for the campus' former Army airfield.

Separately financed residence halls for 1,545 students and leasing of retail space make up the new approach. FAU administrators claim that donations, marketing deals such as the naming rights and operating revenues could have the first-phase stadium pay for itself.

Since the university just cut $7 million and might have to cut more, trustees should be skeptical of any plan that leaves too many questions about money. Before the trustees for approval today is a request to spend six months and $100,000 to secure financing and proposals for the downsized facility's design and construction. The trustees then would need to give final approval, then have the project approved by the Board of Governors that oversees the university system.

Trustee Chairman Norman Tripp is comfortable with the level of detail in the latest proposal. "We want to come up with a final approach everyone can agree upon and go from there," Mr. Tripp said. But the cost of football already has made FAU's student fees the highest at any state public university. If FAU doesn't have enough money for education, how does FAU have enough money for big-time football?'

Well, the answer to that final question has to be first things first.
A Streetcar Named Slut

'There's a story going around South Lake Union [in Seattle], but a spokeswoman for Vulcan, Paul Allen's development company, says it's just an urban legend.

[T]he story [is] that the neighborhood's streetcar line now under construction was called the South Lake Union Trolley until the powers that be realized the unfortunate acronym -- SLUT ...

Officially, it's now the South Lake Union Streetcar. But the trolley name already has caught on, and in the old Cascade neighborhood in South Lake Union, they're waiting for the SLUT.

At the Kapow! Coffee house on Harrison Street, they're selling T-shirts that read Ride the SLUT.

"We're welcoming the SLUT into the neighborhood," said Jerry Johnson, 29, a part-time barista. Johnson said the T-shirts were done just for fun, but they seem to have tapped into something: The first 100 sold out in days and now orders for the next 100 are under way. ...'

---seattle post-intelligencer---
I Challenge You to Prove That
Texas is Riddled With Problems!

'Texas freshman running back James Henry has been charged with two felony counts of obstruction and tampering with evidence, making him the sixth Longhorns player arrested since June.

Henry, who was arrested Monday, is accused of beating up one of the victims of a July home invasion that allegedly involved two other players, Andre Jones and Robert Joseph.

Henry was booked into Travis County Jail where his bail was set at $30,000. He was suspended indefinitely from the team, coach Mack Brown said Tuesday.

Henry, who redshirted last season, has played in two games on special teams for the No. 7 Longhorns (3-0).

Austin police learned of Henry's involvement by listening to taped recordings of Joseph's phone calls from jail, said Det. Anthony Bigongiari.

During the investigation of the robbery, one of the victims told police that some of Joseph's friends had assaulted them. In one of the taped phone calls, Henry said he "went over there and whupped" one of the victims, who told police they were thrown on the ground and punching and kicked in the head several times, Bigongiari said.

Henry, who did not participate in the robbery, was charged with tampering because police believe he disposed of a backpack containing items stolen in the home invasion, Bigongiari said.

Police also charged a third person, Eddie Ramirez, who is not a football player, with threatening the victims.

Brown said Henry would have been suspended earlier if the team had known the latest allegations.

"It's unfortunate that we have just been informed of the situation or we would have been able to address it when it allegedly occurred in July," Brown said.

Henry's arrest is the latest trouble for a program reeling under a string of arrests. [Reeling under a string? Odd metaphor. How about reeling under an avalanche? Then you get a nice alliteration with avalanche and arrests...] On Monday, Brown reinstated linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive end Henry Melton, who had been suspended for the first three games because of drunken driving arrests over the summer.

Last week, senior safety Tyrell Gatewood was suspended indefinitely after his arrest on drug charges. Freshman defensive back Ben Wells, who was riding with Gatewood when he was pulled over, was given a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia and released.

Jones remains suspended from the team. Joseph had already left the team before his July arrest because of an earlier incident.

Brown said he is disappointed that the arrests have embarrassed the program but challenged the notion that Texas is riddled with problems.

"Young people who do not obey the law, university or team rules will continue to be disciplined with a stern hand and we will move forward. We continue to have a zero tolerance policy in that regard," Brown said. "I will put our long-term record of character up against anyone, and that's why these situations upset me so much."' [UD is often struck by what pussies coaches are. I'm sure on the game sidelines they're real big boys and all, but their response to each totally predictable 'situation,' is denial {Nothing's wrong! Nothing!}, hysteria {I'm upset!}, and irrationality {Nothing's wrong! I'm upset!}.]

...Anyway... As long as the Texas Adzillatron's still working, I guess everything's okay...

---sports illustrated---
William Carlos Williams...

...was born on this date, in 1883. Many of us, when we were in high school, stumbled over his plums and wheelbarrows. We were ready to be impressed by these much-anthologized poems, though we wondered why there was so little to them...

UD still wonders. Give her T.S. Eliot over Williams any day.

The poet's home town, Rutherford, New Jersey, is celebrating him... Or, rather, celebrating itself. A local columnist writes:

'On a personal note, I would be remiss if I did not mention that early in 2008 my vintage, critically-acclaimed 1984 biography, To All Gentleness: William Carlos Williams, The Doctor-Poet, will be reissued in a special $14.95 paperback by Black Classic Press/InPrint Editions of Baltimore.'

A town booster says:

"This is a man who could have lived anywhere in the world because of his stature as a poet, ... but he chose to live in Rutherford, and people should look at Rutherford and wonder why."
[An ambiguous comment, now that I look at it...]

I took against Williams even more this year when I realized that Garrison Keillor loves to recite excerpts from his poem "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower," especially these lines:

Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
I come, my sweet,
to sing to you!
My heart rouses
thinking to bring you news
of something
that concerns you
and concerns many men. Look at
what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
despised poems.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
Hear me out
for I too am concerned
and every man
who wants to die at peace in his bed

I like what the poet August Kleinzahler recently said about Keillor/Williams:

'[This] is a passage from a William Carlos Williams poem, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower," dear to the hearts of those who would peddle poetry, or the idea of poetry, to the masses. I have heard it read on NPR in that solemn, hushed tone that is a commonplace among poetry salespersons, not least Mr. Keillor ... [It expresses a] pretty sentiment, to be sure, but [one that is] simply untrue, as anyone who has been to the supermarket or ballpark recently will concede. Ninety percent of adult Americans can pass through this life tolerably well, if not content, eating, defecating, copulating, shopping, working, catching the latest Disney blockbuster, without having a poem read to them by Garrison Keillor or anyone else. Nor will their lives be diminished by not standing in front of a Cézanne at the art museum or listening to a Beethoven piano sonata. Most people have neither the sensitivity, inclination, or training to look or listen meaningfully, nor has the culture encouraged them to, except with the abstract suggestion that such things are good for you. Multivitamins are good for you. Exercise, fresh air, and sex are good for you. Fruit and vegetables are good for you. Poetry is not.'
How I Got that Picture

UDites know that UD loves a rascal. Here's one.

'Joe O’Donnell’s glowing legacy outlived him by less than a week. The man recalled by some as “The Presidential Photographer” with a knack for having a camera to his eye at just the right moment, became instead someone described as a fraud who hijacked some of the 20th century’s most famous images and claimed them as his own.

Mr. O’Donnell, a retired government photographer, died on Aug. 9 in Nashville at age 85. Obituaries published nationwide, including one in The New York Times on Aug. 14, praised his body of work over several presidential administrations, most of them singling out one famous picture: little John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his slain father’s passing coffin on Nov. 25, 1963. That picture was later determined to have been taken by someone else, and a closer examination of photos that Mr. O’Donnell claimed as his own has turned up other pictures taken by other photographers.

...The controversy began with the obituaries describing his role in taking a famous picture of 3-year-old “John-John,” as was John F. Kennedy Jr.’s nickname, at the funeral.

Stan Stearns, a 72-year-old wedding photographer in Annapolis, Md., knows that picture well. He took it.

...Another renowned photographer, Elliott Erwitt, has become forever linked to the “Kitchen Debate” in Moscow in 1959, for his famous photograph of Vice President Richard Nixon poking Nikita S. Khrushchev in the chest during a heated exchange. He even attended an anniversary reception 25 years later, playfully poking Mr. Nixon in the chest.

So Mr. Erwitt was stunned when he was shown a late-1990s video of Mr. O’Donnell speaking with a Nashville news anchor, and Mr. O’Donnell’s description of having taken the picture.

“They were arguing,” Mr. O’Donnell told the reporter. “Khrushchev was very belligerent and said, ‘We’re gonna bury you.’ And Nixon reacted just as fast as he did, and pointed his finger at him and said, ‘You’ll never bury us.’ ”

Of course, this was mistaken. Mr. Khrushchev’s famous line, “We will bury you,” was delivered three years earlier, in 1956 in Moscow before Western representatives.

Watching Mr. O’Donnell’s interview last week, Mr. Erwitt said, “Unbelievable. The picture is so well known.”...'

On the Occasion of
The Seventeenth Birthday
of UD's Joyce-Themed Spawn...

...a photo of her in Europe
last month with friends.

Educational History,
Ball State University
Director of Intercollegiate

BA Arizona State 1982
Attended Arizona State (no degree)
BA Northern Arizona 1994
BA Northern Arizona 2003
BA Northern Arizona (no year listed)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kind of Blah Essay...

...about an important subject: adjunctification.

But it does give La Scathe an opportunity to point out a writing error.

'[P]arents might be disconcerted to discover that at many public colleges and universities, some of the most important initial classes are taught by inexperienced graduate students, by short-term full-time instructors (another disturbing trend), or by itinerate adjuncts.'

Did you spot it?

"Itinerate" is a verb, meaning "to travel a preaching or judicial circuit." It can be used more broadly to mean to move about from one place to another. The word the writer (or editor) meant was "itinerant," the adjective form of the word.

... Did you say BFD?

You've itinerated to the wrong blog.
This Just In:

Chemerinsky WILL
Take Irvine Deanship
Grecian Formula

'Professor Tells Plato Students to Learn Greek or Leave

On the first day of classes, Professor Alison Laywine [Here's her Rate My Professors page.] told students in her [McGill University] PHIL 354 Plato class that it would be impossible for them to pass the course if they scored less than 100 per cent on the first test.

The test, which evaluated students’ knowledge of the lower and upper cases of the Greek alphabet and their ability to transliterate from Greek to English, is worth 10 per cent of the course’s final grade. It took place in class last Thursday.

Mystified by the intensity of the requirement, students were unsure whether to take the threat of failure seriously.

“It depends how strict she’s being,” said Benjy Sherer, U3 Honours Philosophy. “If it’s mostly an empty threat, there should be no issues here.”

Laywine, however, was unapologetic for the examination, explaining that knowledge of the Greek alphabet is essential for quality discussion of Plato’s works. She expected students who were serious about the class would put in the effort required to pass the test.

Additionally, Laywine reasoned that by placing the exam during the add/drop period, students could drop the course if they did not get 100 per cent on the test.

One impact of Laywine’s exam has been a steady decline in the number of students registered in PHIL 354 leading up to Thursday.

“I dropped the class because the syllabus terrified me,” said one philosophy student who asked to remain anonymous.

Laywine admitted that constructive class discussion can be difficult with the class’ maximum enrollment of 50 students. As of press time, about a dozen students had dropped the class since the first days, leaving only 34 registered.

Philosophy Department Chair Philip Buckley laughed at the idea that the test was used to limit student enrollment. ["Haha. Tell me another."] He suggested instead that the test was serving student interests by ensuring they possess a skill required to succced in the course.

“We certainly would not drive students away from philosophy,” he said.

Although knowledge of the Greek alphabet is a useful tool when digesting ancient Greek philosophy, the design of Laywine’s test may not comply with Article 12 of the Charter of Students’ Rights, which states: “the evaluation of a student’s performance in a course shall be fair and reasonable, and shall reflect the content of the course.”

While it is widely believed that professors are not allowed to hold exams during the add/drop period, no guidelines in the Charter explicitly exist to prevent it and Buckley admitted that there are no systematic checks in the Philosophy department to assess the fairness of a course’s evaluation structure.

“I don’t go and check every syllabus,” he said, but stressed that regulations regarding syllabus design are common knowledge among faculty members.

Buckley maintained that if every student in the class is evaluated equally, he is comfortable with Laywine’s testing method.

“As long as professor Laywine does not prevent students from entering the class late, then she should be OK,” he said.

Students who feel the regulations concerning course fairness are not being followed can lodge complaints with the Senate Committee on Student Grievances; however, Buckley discouraged this. Instead, he said, the best way for students to find a resolution in a case like this would be to contact the chair of their department.'

--- McGill Daily ---
Technical Note

The domain name switch to
hasn't yet transferred archived University Diaries
posts, so when you click on earlier months, you'll
get a not found message.

For the time being, use the old address -- --
to read earlier months of blog posts. That should work
until my niece does whatever needs to be done.


UPDATE: Archives are now up and running on
No Comment

'The University's Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Affairs plans to pick a new name by the end of the semester in an effort to be more inclusive.

Gabe Javier, an LGBT affairs assistant, said the current name doesn't represent allies - members who suport the group regardless of whether they fit into any of the categories mentioned in the title.

"Part of it is that the letters are more exclusive than inclusive," Javier said. "There are lots of people who are part of the LGBT community that may not identify as a lesbian, bisexual or gay person."

Another problem with the current title is the ambiguity of the word "transgender," he said.

The term is typically used to encompass people with a gender identity different from the male or female classification that society would conventionally designate to them. But many people tend to confuse it with the word "transsexual," a term for a person who wants to assume the physical characteristics and gender roles of a different sex.

The organization began investigating a name change in October 2006. Since then, it has conducted surveys of group members, asked University faculty and officials for feedback and researched what other schools call their offices.

It plans to select a name by the end of the term and to implement the new name next semester. It also plans to hold a contest to design a new logo for the group. The name change is slated to be completed by July.

The initiative has taken flak from some commentators who say the name change is taking too long or that it takes inclusiveness too far.

Dan Savage, the author of a syndicated column published in The Onion's A.V. Club, poked fun at the office's lengthy name change process in a blog post for "The Stranger," a Seattle-area alternative weekly newspaper.

"My God, think of all the Ls, Gs, Bs, Ts, Qs, Is, Ts, etc., that are going to have to get their degrees and leave Michigan before the name is finally changed," wrote Savage, who is gay. "If folks are feeling oppressed by LGBT, how can UM justify taking three years to process its way toward an inclusive name for the group?"

Andrew Sullivan, a columnist for The Atlantic magazine, also criticized the office's efforts at inclusiveness.

"I was a gay advisor on campus and I know the pain and issues involved. I know they need to exist," Sullivan said. "But the p.c. crapola gets you down."

School of Education junior Ashley Fotieo said she didn't understand why the office needed to change its name.

"If it's going to make a significant difference in the organization, then by all means they should change it, but I was surprised when I heard they were considering a name change, because I didn't really see much wrong with it before," she said. "It's a name that everyone already recognizes."

LSA senior Andrew McBride, an employee of the LGBT Affairs office, said the group won't pick a new name until it gets a wide range of suggestions from members of the University community.

"We will be holding three forums for anyone who wants to reveal that they are invested in the name change," McBride said. "Students, staff, faculty, and the greater community are welcome to come. We also have our blog, and we'll be taking suggestions there as well."'

---the michigan daily, university of michigan---
Entertaining Dr. Slade

Okay, Scathing Online Schoolmarm will admit that she opened the Houston Chronicle piece titled In Defense of Dr. Slade with her every scathing pulse afire... Some dunce is defending Slade!... Lemme at it...

Only it turns out to be satire. It's a nice enough satire, and she'll reproduce some of it here. But she can't help being disappointed.

'The $100,000 bar tab at Scott Gertner's Skybar and Grille.

That sounds like a lot of money, but keep in mind that amortized over the seven years of her presidency it is only $14,286 a year.

Her taste seems to have run to $100 bottles of wine, so that's only 143 bottles a year, or fewer than three bottles a week.

OK, about five a week if you take out for the time she was traveling to China, Rome, Costa Rica and Kennebunkport on the university's dime. Still, five bottles a week isn't that much.

...A $60,000 university-paid security system at her private home, including eight custom cameras, a $10,000 digital recorder and an office-sized "panic room" hidden behind a bedroom closet.

My first thought was that Dr. Slade should have remembered all the publicity surrounding the firing of FBI Director William Sessions, a Texan. Included in his alleged offenses was spending $10,000 of taxpayer money on a security fence at his home.

If an FBI director can't use taxpayer money to secure his house, why should a university president?

But as is so often the case, there is more to the story. Washington, it seems, is too weird to serve as a comparison. Sessions was actually faulted by Bureau brass for not spending enough on security.

His sin was that he acceded to his wife's wishes and put up an attractive $10,000 wooden fence around the backyard. FBI experts had proposed a $94,000 iron picket fence around the whole property, but Mrs. Sessions said it would make her feel imprisoned.

I'm persuaded that Dr. Slade researched the Sessions controversy and concluded that she didn't want to be criticized for not taking security seriously.

More than $176,000 in taxpayer money for landscaping at her $1.3 million custom home on Memorial Drive, including a waterfall near the pool.

Have you been to the TSU campus? Frankly, it's no garden spot.

Dr. Slade needed an idyllic retreat where she could lead Socratic discussions with her staff on how to come up with the money to improve all aspects of TSU: better salaries for its faculty, better facilities for its students and, of course, better landscaping for its quadrangles.'
Note Change:

has been changed
henceforth and forever to

Sunday, September 16, 2007

UD Live Blogs Her Reading
Of an Article that Appeared
Two Hours Ago On the Washington
Magazine Website

'In 2003, Ted Kennedy tried to nudge America’s colleges and universities toward changing two of the least defensible practices in the modern admissions process. The first is legacy preferences, in which schools heavily favor applications from the children of alumni, often ahead of students with stronger academic resumes but less-well-connected parents. The second practice, early decision, where schools make it easier for prospective students to get admitted if they’ll commit to attending at the time they apply, has a similar effect, since wealthier candidates don’t need to compare financial aid packages and can therefore more easily commit to a school early. Taken together, the two practices fly in the face of the ideal of American meritocracy, and reduce the opportunities for young people of more modest backgrounds to go to selective colleges.'

The writer goes on to note, in this lengthy article about the powerful and (the article claims) corrupt higher education lobby in DC, that both ideas failed to get anywhere because the organizations at One Dupont Circle (the building down the street from UD's office where all the ed lobbyists can be found) used their pull to kill them.

'For years, colleges and universities have hidden behind the argument that America’s system of higher education is the best in the world to insulate themselves from scrutiny and accountability, and to operate with a remarkable degree of autonomy from Washington, given the funds lavished on them by the federal government. [As you know, UD is a big proponent of university autonomy. Europe's universities will continue to be shitty (most of them) until they can get clear of their governments.] The claim that our higher ed system really is the best in the world, however, is becoming less and less true every year. In 1980, the United States led Canada by 10 percent in the percentage of its population with a college degree, and was ahead of the United Kingdom by 11 percent and France by 19 percent, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. By 2000, those leads had shrunk to 3, 6, and 10 percent respectively—and the evidence suggests that the gaps have continued to narrow since then. [As you may also know, UD considers the number of degree holders in itself a meaningless statistic. If your universities are wretched or bogus, if your students are merely going through the motions and being handed a degree, it doesn't mean anything that lots of them are attending and graduating.] Meanwhile, colleges, especially elite private institutions, have been raising tuition far faster than the rate of inflation year after year after year, outpacing the meager growth in federal tuition subsidies. That’s put a squeeze on middle-class families and forced students deeper and deeper into debt. [True, but not a dire situation, and not degrading the quality of American institutions generally.] Worst of all, the information that policy makers and the public need to begin turning these problems around —which schools are educating their students effectively, and how tuition dollars are really being spent —remains locked in the ivory tower. '[Yes, more sunlight's needed. But the locked in the tower image overstates things.]

Here's the heart of the writer's complaint:

'On a range of issues, higher ed has stood up for its own narrow strategic or pecuniary concerns, rather than the broader interests of students or the country at large. In short, though it represents institutions that loudly proclaim a mission of public service, the higher education lobby more often acts like any other Washington trade group. Today, one of the most significant roadblocks to fixing many of the pressing problems of our troubled system of higher education is the higher education lobby itself.'

The higher ed lobby has enormous political leverage in part because of...

'... admissions, [which] looms large in the lives of powerful decision makers and their families. According to Daniel Golden, the author of The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges—And Who Gets Left Outside the Gates, they routinely admit the children of legislators who aren’t the best candidates. (For example, Golden cites the case of then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s son, who in 2005, despite not being in the top 20 percent of his high school class, was admitted to Vanderbilt, an elite private school at which 80 percent of students finished in the top tenth of their class.) Barmak Nassirian, a lobbyist for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), admitted to me, “We live in a system in which people take care of each other. I’m not going to say that doesn’t happen.”'

This sounds right. There's the great irony, for instance, that Ted Kennedy, who championed the two failed reforms with which the article starts -- gutting both legacy admissions and early decision -- was himself the classic legacy admit, a dim bulb who went Harvard because of his family's influence.

When the writer turns to our scandalous schools of education -- the sorts of places that turn out Glenn Poshards -- he's on firm ground:

[I]n the late 1990s the Clinton administration tried to ... [improve] colleges’ notoriously lackluster teacher-training programs. The Education Department put together a proposal requiring states to report the percentage of teacher-training-program graduates from each school who pass the state licensure exam, and to report which of their education schools, many of which are affiliated with major universities, were underperforming. [Drop of which are.] Schools that consistently failed to produce graduates capable of passing the exams would lose their eligibility to receive federal aid for teacher training.

For many colleges, teacher-training programs, which can count on a steady stream of applicants and have relatively low administrative costs, represent a crucial revenue source —and the higher ed lobby went into overdrive to protect it. “They didn’t want publicly accessible info for the performance of their graduates,” says Sara Mead, who worked on implementation at the Education Department. “They didn’t want to be held accountable. They would come up with all sorts of technical objections, but that was the real issue.” Sarah Flanagan of NAICU insists that the proposal would have discriminated against historically black colleges, or any colleges that let in low-income students, since standardized tests like state licensure exams are racially and socioeconomically biased. But Kati Haycock of Education Trust, a nonprofit education organization, calls that notion “preposterous … These are low-level exams. People who cannot pass the exam should not be teachers. There are plenty of African Americans who can pass these exams and then some.”

This time, higher ed lost, and a version of the proposal passed Congress. But the lobby didn’t give up. During the department’s rule-making process on implementing the law in 1999, lobbyists showed up at every meeting with complaints and objections, watering down the effect of the legislation. In addition, higher ed mobilized at the state level, prevailing upon state governments to set absurdly lenient testing standards —in some cases, schools essentially avoided compliance by simply defining a “program completer” as someone who had passed the licensing exam, ensuring a 100 percent success rate. Nine years after its passage, most experts agree the law has done little to improve teacher quality.

Strong stuff. The lobby champions mediocrity and condemns many public school students to substandard educations.

Strong stuff, too, on the resistance of universities to the publication for each school of various measures of their students' success:

A student-unit-record system would lay bare some of the tricks of the trade that higher ed would just as soon keep under wraps. First, it would make public just how much aid many institutions give to academically strong middle- and upper-class students, simply to encourage them to attend and thereby boost the school’s academic ranking in college guides like U.S. News’s. Perhaps more important, the system would undercut higher ed’s longstanding efforts to keep the federal government out of the business of regulating college tuition in order to deal with the growing problem of college affordability. As average tuition has continued to rise since the early ’90s, making college increasingly unaffordable for students from low-income families, the lobby’s chief argument against federal regulation is that, thanks to financial aid and scholarship programs, many students—more than half, at some schools—don’t pay the full “sticker price.” And since no one knows exactly how much they do pay on average, the government shouldn’t try to intervene based on incomplete information. The existence of a record system would fix this problem by giving the government that information, paving the way, higher ed fears, for the feds to regulate tuition rates. It would also reveal to students that many of their peers don’t pay full price, making those who do pony up the full rate less willing to keep doing so as costs rise, according to some experts. [While UD doesn't think federal regulation of tuition is a good idea, she thinks the writer's basically correct that higher ed will have to start revealing far more of its operations, and will have to provide much more data on student achievement.]

The writer concludes:

[T]he federal government should demand, and colleges should accept, the disclosure of key information—like what colleges are spending money on, and how well they’re teaching—so that it can be made available to ordinary citizens, who can then decide what to do with their own tuition dollars.
Amherst's Marx

Brief, charming interview with Anthony Marx, the young president of Amherst, who echoes points made by Walter Benn Michaels in his book The Trouble with Diversity.

'Why has diversity on campus usually been cast in terms of race rather than class?

America, through a terrible history, has a fascination for race and tends to be in denial about economic differences, or assumes that people are at the economic levels that they deserve. Yet it's impossible to argue that a really smart poor kid deserves to be poor because they were born poor.'

... What effect do you hope to have on the biggest names in higher education, like Harvard?

We can create pressure on the larger Ivy institutions with tremendous resources [Spell it out, baby: THIRTY-FIVE BILLION DOLLARS.] to take this issue more seriously. Harvard's level of economic diversity is roughly half that of Amherst's.
No Plans Yet for Your
Constitution Day Festivities?

You can always hear Mr. UD
hold forth on the Iraqi Constitution.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Well Said.
One Professor for 15,000 Students

'Warren County sheriff candidate Bud York has a college degree from a school that has been called a notorious “degree mill” and was shut down by the federal government after its founder was sent to prison for defrauding students.

York’s campaign literature lists a 1995 bachelor’s degree in criminal justice management from LaSalle University.

York acknowledged this week the LaSalle he went to is not the renowned college of the same name in Pennsylvania, but rather a mail-order institution in Louisiana that was closed by federal prosecutors after it was found to have one faculty member for 15,000 students. [Sounds like Universite de la Republique.]

The Post-Star asked York about the degree this week after being contacted by a Skidmore College professor, who saw the degree mentioned in a campaign flier and knew of the history of LaSalle University of Louisiana.

“It is most distinctly a degree mill, and it gives accredited colleges a bad name,” said the professor, Glens Falls resident Christopher Whann.

Whann, who teaches government in Skidmore’s “University Without Walls” distance learning program, said the name “LaSalle” jumped out at him because he had followed the campaign and knew York worked in Warren County in the mid-1990s, when he got the diploma. Whann also ran unsuccessfully for Glens Falls City Council in 2005 on the Republican and Conservative parties lines.

York said he wrote numerous papers, studied via the Internet and correspondence courses, and got credit for courses he took at Adirondack Community College and Albany Business College.

He also received credit for his experience with the State Police, where he was a trooper and senior investigator until he retired earlier this year.

He said his LaSalle degree was conferred based on a two-year program that he completed in a year-and-a-half.

He said State Police reimbursed him for the $6,000 to $7,000 he paid to get the degree, and he got an annual stipend from the State Police for having the degree. Troopers with bachelor’s degrees get an annual bonus of $500. [If you're looking for the real scandal, it's here. Note that the police paid for this shit, gave him credit, and gave him a bonus.]

“No one has ever told me it’s not a good degree,” he said. “I’ve never pushed the degree (in the sheriff campaign). It was just something personal I always wanted to do — get a college degree.”

York does refer to the degree in a flier mailed to Republican voters in Warren County and in a candidate questionnaire he submitted to The Post-Star.

He said he recalled getting a letter from the college years after he got his degree indicating there was an investigation, but he said he was assured the investigation did not affect the degree.

‘Degree mills’

The LaSalle institution is one of hundreds that has been singled out by educators as an unaccredited “degree mill” that gives degrees to people simply for paying tuition fees and doing little or no coursework.

John Bear, a California professor and noted watchdog of degree mills — he has written numerous books on the subject of unaccredited institutions offering mail-order degrees and operates the clearinghouse — has cited LaSalle University of Louisiana as the “second-worst degree mill” he’s come across.

“It’s not just my opinion that it was a degree mill,” he said. “It had one faculty member for 15,000 students, and she didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. Beyond any doubt, the man who founded it pleaded guilty to mail fraud, tax fraud and went to prison for four years.”

Degrees from LaSalle have also been questioned by regulators and employers across the United States.

“LaSalle University of Louisiana was an institution that did offer degrees for less than college level work required. They basically were a fraudulent or substandard institution. In fact, it was closed down by the federal government,” David Linkletter of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board said in an October 2006 interview with a Texas television station. A Texas school administrator’s Ph.D from LaSalle was under investigation at the time of that interview.

“LaSalle University (of Louisiana) was a paradigmatic example of a degree mill. There is not a lot of debate,” said Barmak Nassirian, spokesman for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers.

LaSalle’s founder, James Kirk, served more than four years in federal prison after a 1995 raid at the school resulted in an 18-count federal indictment against him.

Bear said the prosecution ended with federal prosecutors sending letters to every student that had paid for a degree at LaSalle. In the letter, prosecutors told students their tuition money would be refunded if they mailed their degrees back to Louisiana and renounced their diplomas.

York said he didn’t get any such letter.

He said he learned of LaSalle University through an advertisement and enrolled because it was one of the cheaper programs he found, and the course work could fit in around his schedule.

“They told me they were accredited,” he said. “To me, they seemed legitimate. If I thought it was wrong, I wouldn’t have put it out there.”'
Schmidly... Schmidly...
Where Have I Heard that Name Before?

'[The University of New Mexico] announced today that the Athletics Department received notices of four potential violations from the NCAA regarding members of the football coaching staff.

Three unnamed football coaches, not including head coach Rocky Long, helped four recruits and one student athlete get course credit they did not earn from Fresno Pacific University, the notice states.

The potential violations happened in spring 2004 and fall 2005, the notice states.

"There was no knowledge on the part of the institution until last summer (2006)," said Paul Krebs, executive vice president for athletics.

According to the notice, the coaches helped the students enroll in and falsely obtain credit for correspondence courses with help from the courses' instructor.

None of the students are on the UNM football team, and only two them of them played for the Lobos, Krebs said.

Krebs declined to comment on what punishments the NCAA might impose on the department if the allegations are found to be true.

Neither Long nor the Athletics Department were aware of these situations, Krebs said.

"The most important thing is for us to conduct our own investigation," he said. "We are going to do what we think is right."

Two of the three coaches suspected of violating the rules are no longer on staff, Krebs said.

"The coach will continue to coach until we complete our investigation," he said. "The charges are serious, and we don't take those lightly."

Krebs said the department would respond to the NCAA in December.

He said the department may impose sanctions and penalties on itself depending on the outcome of the investigation.

He said no other UNM teams would be investigated.

"This does not involve any other programs," he said. "This does not involve any other student athletes."

Krebs said he and UNM president David Schmidly made changes early this year in the department to ensure compliance with NCAA rules.'

Schmidly! He used to be T. Boone's boy at Oklahoma State! The man specializes in running dirty football schools.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm
A Hack

We have already encountered the tabloid-style writing of Susan Estrich.

Estrich assumes that hysteria and partisanship are the way to go if you want people to agree with you.

Which UD finds odd, since this is totally, radically, incorrect. Yet Estrich persists, column after column, in the sort of writing which guarantees no one beyond her close political allies will shriek along.

Since Estrich is a smart and accomplished woman, UD assumes she takes this writing approach cynically. UD assumes that Estrich assumes -- snobbily, lazily -- that people who read newspapers like to be shouted at and talked down to.

Another way to say this is that Susan Estrich thinks you're stupid.

'THE MOST CORRUPT MAN IN CALIFORNIA [National Enquirer headline.]

How do you get hired and fired from a prestigious position in the same week?

That is what happened to my friend Erwin Chemerinsky. He signed a contract to become the first dean of the new law school at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) last week. Then, days later, he was fired because the UCI chancellor decided his liberal opinions made Erwin, one of the most respected, quoted, cited and beloved constitutional law scholars in the country, "too politically controversial" for the job. [Who's the author of the "too politically controversial" quotation? Estrich doesn't make it clear.]


This column isn't about Erwin. [Um, so far it is.] In the world of law professors, everyone who knows Erwin — liberal and conservative — respects him. [It's still about him.] The outpouring of support [Cliche.] for him and the disgust at what was done to him have been overwhelming. It's about the cowardly fool who is leading his university down the tubes, the one who should be fired by the Board of Regents when it meets next week. [Cowardly fool is over the top. Estrich is preening. She means us to admire her hogwash and cowardly fool no bullshit approach. But it's over the top, so it feels like preening. Attention-getting. Tabloid stuff.]

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

So wrote Professor Lord Acton, who was the Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, even though he had not been allowed to attend Cambridge as a student because he was Roman Catholic. In the same year, 1877, in a famous lecture on "The History of Freedom in Antiquity," Acton defined liberty as "the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty, against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion." [In classical music, they call them warhorses. In writing, the absolute power quotation is the equivalent of forty warhorses. It's an insult to your reader to drag this dead, pretentious, much-satirized statement out as if you're sharing some shiny wisdom-gem. And "So wrote"! She's simply convinced you're a fool, someone not worth any real thinking on her part ... And what's the relevance of the shit about Acton being a Catholic, etc? That supremo law prof/tv pundit Chemerinsky is a similar sort of martyr?]

By Lord Acton's standard, Dr. Michael Drake, Chancellor of the University of California at Irvine, is the most corrupt man in California. [An absurd statement. Same sort of crap hacks like Bill O'Reilly say.] His job is, or should be, to protect the "liberty" of both students and faculty, the academic freedom that is the cornerstone of great universities [Cliche.].

But Dr. Drake has a twisted view of academic freedom, one that allows Muslim students to engage in open anti-Semitism, to hold rallies on campus attacking Zionist control of the media, equating Jewish support for Israel with Hitler's Nazis, even (according to campus Republicans) displacing previously scheduled Young Republicans meetings with rallies denouncing Israel's right to exist. But there's no room for a liberal, Jewish law professor who is routinely the object of bidding wars between top-rated law schools vying for his services. [Since she has made no effort to introduce the relevance of this paragraph, its connection to the Chemerinsky/Drake situation is unclear. It comes across as more steam-blowing.]

Last February, Hillel of Orange County formed a task force to investigate what it viewed as a troubling number of anti-Semitic speeches and incidents on the UCI campus, including complaints by Jewish students that they were being followed and harassed by their Muslim classmates. That was before UCI's Intifada week this past spring, which included speakers supporting the terrorist group Hamas and a speech entitled "Zio-Nazis." That was before the infamous Ward Churchill, defender of the 9/11 attacks, was invited to speak on campus. [Yeah, hey, why don't I throw Churchill in too... I mean, what's she on about? Chemerinsky is Jewish... Is Estrich hinting that Drake's decision was another instance of what she believes to be his anti-Semitism?]

This past June, at a meeting attended by hundreds of concerned members of the Jewish community in Irvine, Dr. Drake told one parent, whose children don't want to attend UC Irvine because of the virulent expressions of hatred, not to worry because these incidents "are not every other day. It's a couple times a year." Asked why he didn't exercise his own right to free speech to "speak directly to statements made on campus" (as former Harvard President Lawrence Summers did when he opposed calls for divestment from Israel by terming such actions "anti-Semitic in their effect, if not their intent"), Dr. Drake ducked. [Does she mean this to be funny? Drake - duck? It's not clear.] "We have 1,000 guest speakers on campus every year. Could I evaluate them and say this one is anti-Semitic? I could not. What I could say is that as a person and a campus, we abhor hate speech, period."

On the other hand, we have no room for a liberal law professor — whose views were well known before he was hired, who is squarely in the mainstream of modern constitutional thought — because we're afraid to take the heat that may be coming from some of Drake's biggest donors. [On the other hand...? What the hell's she talking about? There's no discernable logic.] While Drake told Erwin it was the Regents he was worried about, that was an out-and-out lie. He later admitted he didn't consult a one of them, and instead pointed to an op-ed Erwin wrote back in mid-August about death penalty procedure — even though he signed a contract with Chemerinsky three weeks after the op-ed was published.

No, this was Drake's call, and it will doom his law school, if it doesn't doom him first.'

SOS summarizes:

A hack rushes into print, with bad results.


Whadya Want?
The Guy's a Politician.
Can This Marriage Be Saved?
Weak Imaginative Capacity

'"What's happened here is so outrageous, it's beyond anything that anybody could have imagined happening," said Mark P. Petracca, chair of the political science department [at UC Irvine, commenting on the Chemerinsky/Drake controversy].'
Value of a Degree

'When [a] conservative [on the show The View attacked Monica Lewinsky], ... [Barbara] Walters ... became visibly angered.

“This is a good woman who has gotten a masters degree at the London School of Economics!” snapped Walters, her finger pointed in Hasselbeck’s face.'

Friday, September 14, 2007


A class act.
Things Are Hotting Up

'The opening of the University of California, Irvine's new law school in 2009 could be delayed now that the school has to begin a new search for a founding dean, said officials. ... [Chancellor] Drake has been accused of quashing academic freedom, criticism that intensified on Thursday when some faculty members called for his resignation... Despite his public denials of caving to pressure, [one professor] said that Drake told [a faculty] committee during an emergency meeting Wednesday night that he was forced to make the decision by outside forces whom he did not name.

"I asked whether it was one or two voices or an avalanche, and the answer is that it was an avalanche," [the professor] said. "But we are not supposed to capitulate to that in the world of academic freedom."'

---mercury news---
A Plagiarist Right Under My Pillow!

Or, well, a few steps from my office, a trip down the elevator, and a hike past a few buildings. And UD didn't even notice. This is a spectacular one.

"And here's his bio (now deleted) at the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, where he had been a senior fellow."

Yes, UD's own GW has been quick to delete M. Debat, and that's just what they needed to do. Get his name off the university's web pages pronto. Good.

What'd he do? He made up - or lifted - tons of interviews with prominent people:

'Jason Blair is a plagiarism piker next to Alexis Debat.

Debat, a former ABC News consultant, published a series of interviews with leading political figures in Politique Internationale, a well-respected French journal that has been around for nearly 30 years.

Trouble is, the interviews never happened.

Yesterday, Sen. Barack Obama's office flagged Debat's June interview with the Democratic presidential candidate as a fake. Today, the list got a lot longer: Former
President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"This guy is just sick," Patrick Wajsman, the editor of the magazine, told ABC News. He said he's removing all of Debat's articles from the magazine's Web site.

Debat, a a terrorism consultant with ABC for five years, resigned yesterday as a senior fellow on counterterrorism issues at the Nixon Center think tank. He told ABC News his only mistake was to allow his name to be put on interviews done by others.

ABC News says it is reviewing all stories in which Debat was involved. He resigned in June after ABC News officials challenged his academic credentials.

Here's how he was described at the end of an article about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that appeared in In The National Interest:

Dr. Alexis Debat, former advisor to the French minister of Defense on Transatlantic Affairs, is a visiting professor at Middlebury College, Director of the Scientific Committee for the Institut Montaigne (Paris) and a Senior Consultant to ABC News in New York. Dr. Debat is at work on the largest manuscript ever written on the history of the Central Intelligence Agency, to be published next year in Europe and the United States.'

OK - I know this is a mess. I'm going to post it anyway. I've got to teach right now. I'll fix it when I get back to my office.


UPDATE: I've fixed the margins and all. I had just thrown it on the page any old way on my way to class.

Debat is not just about fakery and plagiarism - it's diploma mill stuff: "Last June, he was discreetly fired by ABC News, because he couldn't authenticate his PhD." How much longer than that did GW keep him on? UD wonders whether there were any suspicions here on campus.


More detail here.


le grand debat
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

No one but pissy SOS would subject so excellent a gesture as the following letter to style-scrutiny.

But hell. What else am I supposed to do with myself? Watch four-hundred pound defensive ends obliterate each other?

As the LA Times, which ran it, explains: "Posted on a website for UC Irvine students, faculty and staff, this letter was signed online by 160 people in four hours."

'Chancellor Drake:

We find deeply disturbing [Drop deeply.] the many [Drop many.] reports now circulating regarding the hiring and "firing" [Dump the quotation marks. He was fired. Say fired.] of Erwin Chemerinsky as the founding Dean of the UC Irvine Law School because he is too "politically controversial," and not least regarding [Two is too many regardings, especially since this comes from lawyer-types. You don't want this to sound like a brief.] your role in this unfortunate debacle [Okay, kids. Why is unfortunate debacle a prose debacle? Datz right. Because debacle is a very very extreme word designating a really really bad thing. Unfortunate - recall its amusing ironic use in those children's books about the unfortunate Baudelaire family - is a very moderate word. No debacle is ever unfortunate. Debacles are horrible, hideous, tragic...] We are disturbed because of the deep violation [Drop deep. Note how the very upset letter writer thinks to convey her upset by shoving intensifying adjectives everywhere. Don't do this. It has the opposite effect. It dilutes.] both of the integrity of the university and of the intrusion of outrageously one-sided politics and unacceptable [By now you get the idea. Outrageously and unacceptable have to go. You want to keep your temper, and you want your prose to be strong and direct.] ideological considerations into a hiring process that should be driven by academic excellence, administrative expertise, leadership capacity, and personal integrity. By your own admission, Professor Chemerinsky exhibits all of these qualities in very considerable measure, which is why you sought to hire him in the first instance. Thus to withdraw the offer even after it has been formally accepted confirms that it is for reasons that should play no role whatsoever in the process, as even self-professed conservative deans of law schools have been quick to point out.

We are deeply concerned [Drop deeply. Note that it is our third use of the word in two paragraphs.] because this action places UC Irvine once more in the spotlight for the most negative and debilitating of reasons. One commentator has ridiculed your action as rank amateurism, and we cannot help but agree. It makes attracting to UC Irvine administrators, faculty, and students of the highest quality so much more difficult, and will all but torpedo the appointment of a Dean of the new Law School of Chemerinsky's quality.

But perhaps above all we are deeply [Yikes.] concerned that, if the reports are true, as our institutional and intellectual leader, and as our representative, you have failed to defend the integrity of the university, its recruitment process, and the sanctity of academic freedom you have given voice to supporting in the past. We have no idea what pressure you came under from those promising to support the university financially or politically, but we have heard nothing of your public undertaking to stand up for the intellectual independence of the university, its hiring processes which weren't allowed as a consequence to run their course, of academic integrity and of the principle of reasonable independence. It is this that disturbs us most deeply. [Deeply... See how, at this point, winding up on this sentence tends to have little impact?]

We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your position, and to reverse your decision thus to reinstate the process for Professor Chemerinsky's appointment. Anything less is an attack on the integrity, reputation, and morale of faculty, staff, and students alike at the University of California, Irvine.


How I Lost that Appointment

Badly mismanaged opinion piece in the LA Times by Michael V. Drake, UC Irvine chancellor, in which he does the opposite of what the title of his seven short paragraphs promises.

WHY I LET CHEMERINSKY GO got me all excited, and I'm not the only one. A lot of people are eager to know why he chopped Chemerinsky.

But the piece is classic prose-nothingness. [For another example of prose-nothingness, go here.] It doesn't say why Chemerinsky was sent packing. It simply denies he was sent packing for political reasons.

Drake says, in excruciating B-school speak, that he concluded he and Chemerinsky "would not be able to partner effectively to build a world-class law school at UC Irvine." That's it. Otherwise, the statement is a bunch of denials: It wasn't political; it wasn't about academic freedom.

Then what was it about? Why did you let him go? The "partner" thing leaves only one strong possibility open: Drake doesn't like the guy. Personality clash. Can't work with him.

In which case he shouldn't have hired him. The fact that he did hire him, and then, in what looks like a panic, flew down to Durham to unhire him, makes Drake out to be awfully emotionally volatile.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

There's a Delicious Irony... so many polygraph experts having lied about their university degrees. Here's an example Brian, a reader, sent to UD, from

'Samuel L. Braddock, director of the new Troy University Polygraph Center in Atlanta, Georgia appears to be the latest in a series of polygraph "professionals" to have held themselves out to the public as possessing a Ph.D. degree despite never having earned such from a regionally accredited university. (Other faux Ph.D.s we've exposed include prominent polygraph operators Ed Gelb, Michael Martin, and James Allan Matte.)

Until recently, Braddock was the director of the now defunct Skyhawk Polygraph Institute, an American Polygraph Association "accredited" school associated with Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Illinois. While at Skyhawk Polygraph Institute, Braddock described himself thus in his on-line biography, as cached by Internet Archive's WayBack Machine in 2005:

About the Director

Samuel L. Braddock, Ph.D., MS, MA, BS

Dr. Braddock has over 30 years in law enforcement/counterintelligence with over 20 years experience in the field of forensic psychophysiology (polygraph Science). He is retired from the U.S. Army and early deferred retirement from civil services. Dr. Braddock has worked for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), Office of Special Investigation (OSI), National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI), and the National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO). In the private sector, he has been a polygraph school curriculum coordinator and Director.

Similarly, a page from the Axciton International Academy archived in 2000 also describes Braddock as a Ph.D.:

Dr. Samuel Braddock (Instructor) has a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice Management, M.S. in Polygraph Science (Forensic Psychophysiology), M.A. in Administration of Criminal Justice and a B.S. in Behavior Science. He is a retired Army Officer having served with The Special Forces and the Criminal Investigation Command. He served with the Office of Special Investigation, US Air Force, National Security Agency, Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, and the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. He has 26 years experience in Criminal and Counterintelligence investigations. He was an instructor at DoDPI for eight years and has lectured to various State, DoDPI, Federal and International Agencies. Dr. Braddock has been involved in numerous research projects and has developed advanced training programs in the field of polygraph. He is a member of the American Polygraph Association and numerous other professional associations.

The website of the Illinois Polygraph Society still describes Braddock as a Ph.D. in its list of directors for 2006:

2006 Elected Directors and Board Members

President Roy Derby
Vice President Michael Kelmer
Secretary Deanne Theodore
Treasurer Chuck Holm
Board Member Thomas Ivey
Board Member William Straughn
Board Member Dr. Sam Braddock
Board Member Michael Campise
Consul Sergio Parisi

However, a search of ProQuest's authoritative list of doctoral dissertations awarded by accredited degree-granting institutions in the United States includes no dissertation by a Samuel Braddock.

Perhaps tellingly, it appears that Braddock has ceased describing himself as a Ph.D., at least on the Troy University website, where his official biography reads:


Mr. Braddock (M.S., M.A., B.S.) has over 35 years in law enforcement/counterintelligence with over 28 years involved in the field of forensic psychophysiology (polygraph science). He is retired from the U.S. Army (Special Forces/CID) and early deferred retirement from civil service. Mr. Braddock has worked for the U. S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID); Office of Special Investigation (OSI), U. S. Air Force; National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI); and the National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO). In the private sector, he has been a polygraph school curriculum coordinator and school director. Mr. Braddock retired as a Professor of Criminal Justice from Sauk Valley Community College and now is the Program Coordinator/Lecturer at Troy University - Atlanta.'

Braddock represents a high-risk variant of the fake diploma purchaser. He doesn't seem to have purchased one at all. Note that he never anywhere lists the name of his doctoral institution. This strategy is high-risk because you figure eventually someone's gotta ask.
Note: Imminent Domain... change for UD.

Even now, if you type the url you'll be directed here.

In a little while, the whole shebang will change to

Thanks, for the switch, goes to my whiz kid niece, Carolyn, without whom this blog would not exist. While UD has learned far more online technology than she ever thought she would, this blog still couldn't survive without help from Carolyn.
Shades of Papa Doc

And Ben Ladner.

To these two spirits of university presidents past, who remind us that high-end, er, spirits are often part of general presidential misbehavior, we can now add a third.

But first, from an earlier post of UD's:

It’s not that the presidents are unmasked as alcoholics and carted off; rather, it’s their extravagant taste in spirits that does them in. While his charges are out getting blasted on Boone’s Farm, the American university president may be home getting quietly tight on “daily wine for lunch and dinner at $50 to $100 per bottle,” as the now-notorious anonymous letter to the American University trustees about President Benjamin Ladner has it.

Or, like Peter Diamandopoulos, dethroned despot of Adelphi University, he may be out on the town with friends, racking up (as the Chronicle of Higher Education reported at the time) a “$454.65 bar tab” by sharing "$150 glasses of cognac” with “[John] Silber, a former Adelphi trustee, who later said that he had been unaware of the cost of the drinks."

And yet man does not live by drink alone., citing the New York Times, described “the $707 dinner Adelphi President Peter Diamondopoulos [sic] and art critic and Adelphi trustee Hilton Kramer shared at the fancy Links club in Manhattan -- charged to big D's university expense account -- not long after the scandal broke involving Diamandopoulos's $523,000 salary, the second highest among college presidents in the nation. According to the report, $552 of the tab went for a 1983 Chaval wine and Martel cognac.”

UD sucks at math, as you know, so she's not about to line all of these people up and compare, but it seems to her that Priscilla Slade's more than competitive:

'Ousted TSU President Priscilla Slade racked up a $100,000 bar tab at Scott Gertner's Skybar and Grille during her tenure and stuck Texas Southern University with the bill, prosecutors said Wednesday.

TSU routinely paid for $100 bottles of wine for Slade and drinks for her friends and staff, despite a prohibition at that time on state monies being spent on alcohol, Assistant District Attorney Donna Goode said.

Slade's former executive assistant, Erica Vallier, said that the rules for purchasing have since changed, but at the time, Slade told her not to worry about the prohibition. She said her boss drank bottles of Far Niente with her friends and staff at expensive bars, such as the Four Seasons bar and the Skybar.

Slade led the historically black university from 1999 to 2005, after being pressed into service from her post as the dean of the business school.

Slade is on trial on charges of misapplication of fiduciary property of more than $200,000, accused of spending school money on personal expenses. If convicted, she faces a punishment ranging from probation to life in prison.

... Out of the presence of the jury, Goode asked the judge for permission to tell jurors about her accusation of Slade siphoning money from the TSU Foundation.

Goode told Thomas that Slade and her staff reclassified accounts to ''suck money out of the school's foundation."

The foundation, started by Slade, was created to raise money for scholarships and endow chairs for professors.

"These started out as business expenses, and things got so out of whack that they had to look to the foundation for these unreasonable expenditures," Goode said.

Slade's defense attorney battled back from Vallier's testimony that seemed to keep him on the ropes.

Mike DeGeurin spent Wednesday morning stumbling through cross-examination of Vallier on details related to her years traveling, dining and drinking with Slade.'

---houston chronicle---
This Contrarian Take...

... on the necessity of college for everyone makes a good deal of sense. Yet to say this stuff, especially when Americans are so sentimental and (if they're parents) anxious about college, is to be called an elitist, mean-spirited, etc.

One thing the author doesn't take up is the quality of life question. His argument is exclusively based on employment prospects. Could one argue that all Americans, at whatever age the urge might hit, should get a crack at college, simply to see whether they'd benefit from a sustained, intellectually serious experience?
Memo to Those Who Argue that
Football Should be an Academic Major

Tim Layden, Sports Illustrated:

'...[Here's] the visceral truth at the center of [football's enormous popularity]: "It's people thinking they're watching a bunch of barbarians beating on each other," says Jeremy Shockey, the New York Giants tight end. It is bloodlust, built into the fabric of a sport.

..."People want to see violence," says [a player], "and every collision in the NFL is violent." Football without concussive hits is Ultimate Frisbee.

..."Most people sit back and look at it and think, They're animals," [says another player]. "They look at us like we're animals for entertainment."

...Then there is the defensive player's perspective. "It's the most perfect feeling in the world to know that you've hit a guy just right, that you've maximized the physical pain he can feel," says Giants All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan. "It feels like every muscle in your body is working in unison, and all your energy goes into his body. You feel the life just go out of him. You've taken all of this man's energy and just dominated him."

..."The long runs, the touchdowns and all that, that's the glamour, [a player says.]... But the game is about taking a man down, physically and mentally."

... On the one side, you have doctors and officials trying to protect players. On the other side, you have players trying to take an intensely violent and physical game to higher levels of violence and physicality. Wedged in the middle is the billion-dollar relationship between the NFL and the fans who drive its popularity and crave the very acts that make the game so dangerous.'

---via money players---

The blog's author notes:

...'[W]e should not forget where our NFL beasts come from. They are bred in the high-tech, win-at-whatever-price-boosters-are-willing-to-pay world of college football. In terms of concussive impact, college football is no longer a quantum leap from the NFL. It was once rare to have a 300-pound offensive lineman in the NFL; now I doubt there are many sub-300 pounders playing for a BCS conference school.'

UD is much more colorful on the subject.

Still, nice to see the Globe noticing.
Yesterday Bonzo,
and Today James...

...sent UD articles about the developing Chemerinsky situation (and this is an opportune time to thank my readers once again for the generous way they so often alert me to university-related news, forwarding this and that of interest), in which a high-profile law professor was offered the deanship of a new law school at UC Irvine and then suddenly not offered it after all...

It's the sort of thing that happens... universities get second thoughts... What's unusual here is Chemerinsky's decision to talk to the press about it. I guess he's pissed.

So... let's see... I mean, the reason UD didn't post on this thing yesterday, when Bonzo sent her an early article about it, is that she couldn't quite make out what the story was about. Political correctness? Administrative bungling? Bigtime donor pressure? Whatever it may look like, UD (who attended Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism) tries to exercise on this her blog some rough journalistic judgement... And her judgement yesterday was that things were too vague.

But with the Los Angeles Times piece James sent, where they've managed interviews with the, er, principals, things are now pretty clear.

Chemerinsky is majorly pissed. He even poses his attractive family in a heart-wrenching photo which accompanies the article. The paper titles the photo Packing Up , and in it Chemerinsky seems to be comforting his young daughter as they stand in a disordered kitchen.

"You always prefer a story to reality," Mr. UD has said - quite peevishly - over many years to UD. Absolutely -- and in the LA Times piece, you can not only see people stage-managing a story, as Chemerinsky is doing. You can also see people hardening - wonderfully - into storybook characters.

In a showdown over academic freedom [This is how this paper's playing it -- it's an ideological clash between a liberal law professor and a conservative donor.], a prominent legal scholar said Wednesday that the University of California, Irvine's chancellor had succumbed to conservative political pressure in rescinding his contract to head the university's new law school, a charge the chancellor vehemently denied. [UD's wondering about the legal implications, if any, here. Chemerinsky's not going quietly, to be sure -- but is he also laying the foundation for a lawsuit? What's his motive in going nastily public? Wounded ego? Money? Scoring political points?]

Erwin Chemerinsky, a well-known liberal expert on constitutional law, said he had signed a contract Sept. 4, only to be told Tuesday by Chancellor Michael V. Drake that he was voiding their deal because Chemerinsky was too liberal and the university had underestimated "conservatives out to get me." [With all her sympathy for rebels, UD's wondering if Chemerinsky's thing might not backfire. Sure, the chancellor looks like a fool and will be damaged -- and the new law school will be damaged -- but Chemerinsky's vindictiveness won't necessarily be a good thing for him, either.]

Later Wednesday, however, Drake said there had been no outside pressure and that he had decided to reject Chemerinsky, now of Duke University and formerly of the University of Southern California, because he felt the law professor's commentaries were "polarizing" and would not serve the interests of California's first new public law school in 40 years. [Drake tries desperately at the last minute to assert that he's been in control. Too late.]

News of Drake's decision quickly came made its way through academic and legal circles nationally where it came under criticism from liberals and conservatives scholars who said Chemerinsky was being unfairly penalized.

"It seems late in the day to notice to Erwin Chemerinsky is a prominent liberal," said John Jeffries, University of Virginia Law School dean. "That's been true for as long as I've known him. It's rather like discovering that Wilt Chamberlain was tall. How could you not know?"

Drake said he worried that the controversy had the potential to harm the university's reputation. "It was the most difficult decision of my career," he said in an emotional interview, his voice at times quivering. [Human, all too human. Was he faking the quiver for sympathy? Who cares. Anyway, Chemerinsky's Bob Cratchit routine wins hands-down.]

Legal academics said Chemerinsky's sacking could make it difficult for UCI to attract a top-flight dean, students and faculty.

Douglas Kmiec, a prominent conservative constitutional law professor at Pepperdine Law School in Malibu, called the development "a tremendous setback for UC Irvine. It is a profound mistake in my judgment to have obtained the services of one of the most respected, most talented teachers of the Constitution in the United States and to turn him away on the specious ground that he is too liberal or too progressive. That is a betrayal of everything a law school should stand for."

[Fine words, fine words. But recall this piece in the New York Times, which points out that with a teeny number of exceptions, virtually all law faculties are politically clubby: "'Academics tend to be more to the left side of the continuum,' said David E. Van Zandt, dean of Northwestern's law school, where the contribution rate to Democrats was 71 percent. 'It's a little worse in law school. In other disciplines, there are more objective standards for quality of work. Law schools are sort of organized in a club structure, where current members of the club pick future members of the club.']

Chemerinsky and Drake agreed the new dean's dismissal was motivated in part by an Aug. 16 opinion article in the Los Angeles Times, the same day the job offer was made. In it, Chemerinsky asserted that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was "about to adopt an unnecessary and mean-spirited regulation that will make it harder for those on death row to have their cases reviewed in federal court."

But Drake and Chemerinsky split sharply on what role the article played in the decision to fire the incoming dean and whether academic freedom was at stake.

"Shouldn't we as academics be able to stand up for people on death row?" Chemerinsky said.

Drake said "we had talked to him in June about writing op-ed pieces and that he would have to focus on things like legal education in this new role, and then here comes another political piece. It wasn't the subject, it was its existence. What he said doesn't matter." [Of course, this is what's happening to academic leaders generally these days. Instead of universities wanting them to be the public intellectuals they should be, you've got a trend toward wanting them to shut up and generate big gifts.]

Chemerinsky, one of the nation's best known constitutional scholars[,] will remain a professor at Duke University in Durham, N.C. He said he had lined up a board of advisers for the new school, including the deans of the UC Berkeley and University of Virginia law schools and three federal judges, including Andrew Guilford, a Bush appointee from Orange County. [Again, what's the money angle here? Chemerinsky's already done some work for Irvine. What sort of settlement - if any - are we talking about?]

Chemerinsky said Drake told him during a meeting Tuesday at the Sheraton Hotel near the Raleigh-Durham airport that "concerns" had emerged from the University of California Regents, which would have had to approve the appointment. The professor said Drake told him that he thought there would have been a "bloody battle" over the appointment.

Drake disagreed with the account. "No one said we can't hire him," he said. "No one said don't take this to the regents. I consulted with no regents about this. I told a couple people that I was worried and that this might be controversial, but no one called me and said I should do anything." [Again Drake tries to sound like the leader he has failed to be. It was his obligation to vet Chemerinsky, and he failed to do so. Now it's backtrack city.]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

UD: Ascetic Passionless Drone.

"But you are a good girl, Margaret," said a foxy fortyish Frenchwoman to me. Very condescendingly.

The year was 1983. We were sitting in an apartment (in Paris, on the Boulevard de la Grande Chaumiere) rented by Mark Hunter, son of the well-known writer Evan Hunter. Mark was going back to the States for a few months, and UD was taking the place while he was gone. (UD's friend Lisa Nesselson, who reviews films for many publications, had put her in touch with Mark.)

Was this woman Mark's girlfriend? UD didn't know. Didn't care. And today UD can't remember the context in which this woman felt moved -- having known UD for four minutes -- to proclaim UD a good girl. The sort who wouldn't get in trouble in Paris? Wouldn't sleep with this woman's boyfriend? Aucune idee.

Anyway, what UD does remember of that moment was her internal response. She had no external response, having been raised with a modicum of manners by her parents. Inside, though, she was roaring with laughter at the thought...

And yet, and yet... In some limited respects UD has all along been a good girl. I'm talking about chemical substances.

Even in college and grad school, UD's interest in being drunk or drugged or merely high was almost nil. She was aware she moved, especially in her undergrad years at Northwestern, in a desperately sodden world, but she didn't want to join it. There was nothing self-righteous about this. It's just the way she was.

Which makes it all the more difficult (arriving finally at the point of this post) for her to understand the intensity with which Georgetown University students are responding to new restrictions on their boozing. The following opinion piece is typical of what's been plastered all over the campus newspaper lately.

'It’s midnight on Saturday, I’m a junior, and I’m sitting in my university off campus townhouse with a grand total of four other people watching what I think has to be the saddest game of Beirut. [Don't understand the reference. Is it TV-related??] This is, in a word, pathetic. [If it's about watching tv, for sure.]

I should be out at a party with no fewer than 50 other people. We should be drinking alcohol — responsibly — and enjoying ourselves. We shouldn’t be hiding from the Metropolitan Police Department. We shouldn’t have to worry about the Gestapo tactics [The writer has clearly been studying German history with care.] that have been handed down from our painfully out-of-touch university administration. ["The new restrictions for on-campus residences include a one-keg per party limit, guest restrictions, hosting restraints (at lease two hosts must be 21 or older) and earlier registration requirements."]

Above all, we shouldn’t have to be concerned with the possibility of getting arrested. [The police have apparently moved from citations to arrests in some cases.]

Prior to this year, there existed a reasonable balance between safety and student freedom in the community. Students drank, but they did so in a (mostly) responsible way. They behaved like college students of the nation — nay, the world — over. Georgetown is not a school with a reputation for excessive drinking, partying or crime; indeed, none of these words is the thing people first think of when they hear the school’s name. Perhaps the most outstanding example of the high regard in which Georgetown students were formerly held came just this past March, when hundreds of us ran to the White House in a non-destructive, totally legal celebration of our entry into the Final Four.

The rumor last night — quietly passed from student to student in the small gatherings that these days pass for parties — was that 21 Georgetown students were arrested. Fortunately, only six people were arrested in the Second District this weekend, five for possession of an open container.

Could there be any sharper contrast between the alcohol enforcement of old and of new? I’m not going to talk about how ridiculous it is that someone who is old enough to defend America around the world, old enough to take part in our democracy’s collective decision-making, is somehow not, in the eyes of the law, old enough to enjoy a beer at the end of a week’s worth of studying. This isn’t the venue for that. My point here is simply that, in purely practical terms, the new alcohol policies that have been put into place here at Georgetown are hurting us. They’re hurting the vitality of student life. They’re hurting Georgetown’s reputation with D.C. citizens and with Metro Police. And, perhaps most importantly for the future of our school, they may be hurting the university’s image with prospective students.

I would like at this point to speak to three groups. First, to our Georgetown neighbors; second, to the university administration; and finally, to my fellow students here at Georgetown.

To our neighbors here in Georgetown: I’m sorry. We all are. The last thing we want to do is disrupt your weekend respite. Please understand that we have been put in a position where recreation on our campus has been made impossible [That keg restriction thing.], and consequentially we have been forced to take our leisure activities elsewhere. All I can ask is that you try to remember the time when you were in college, and put yourselves in our shoes. Also, I recommend earplugs.

To the university administration: Fix this. We had a system that worked, and you broke it. We understand that you don’t want us to drink, but there are much more sensible ways to solve the problem than the restrictive tactics that you’ve put into place. If you wanted, you could clamp down entirely on student drinking. You could make campus entirely alcohol-free. Applications would fall through the floor. Our reputation as a highly-competitive, elite university would vanish in a flutter. Do you want a student body composed entirely of ascetic, passionless drones? If so, that’s exactly what you’re angling for.

On the other hand, you could embrace the problem. You could encourage people to drink responsibly, rather than trying to keep up this absurd charade of forcing them not to drink at all. Instead of compounding the problem by forcing it upon our neighbors, you could actually try to solve it. Please, solve it. Find a system that works. Find a system that, at the very least, doesn’t cause so many students to be arrested.

To my fellow students: As impassioned as that plea was, I think we all know that it fell on deaf ears, but there’s a way to hit the administration where it always feels it — the coffers. Call up your parents, your grandparents, your rich uncles and anyone that you know who might at some point consider donating money to Georgetown. Tell them to write in, threatening to withhold any donations if these ludicrous policies are allowed to stand. [Dear Professor Jesuit: If my grandson can't drink freely at enormous on-campus parties, you can forget that money I promised for the library!] If enough people with enough money write in, the university just might listen. We might not, as students, have much power — but a great many of us are here because we’re related to people with lots of pull. [Refreshing of him to admit that.] These are the people upon whom we must now call.'
"They are what Rutgers was not so many years ago.
Students first, athletes second."

A New Jersey sports writer adds a page to William C. Dowling's book.
An Ohio University Student
Looks Back on the Summer.

'Ohio University had a typical summer. There was a scandal that ended with an OU athletics administrator resigning and pleading guilty to stealing more than $31,000 in university funds. An anarchist parade marched through the streets of Athens and held up traffic, resulting in allegations of police brutality. The Board of Trustees gave OU President Roderick McDavis a glowing job evaluation despite recent surveys from both the faculty and students with the majority of both proclaiming they had no confidence in his leadership.

So, basically it was business as usual.'

---the post---

'E-expertise and scholarship: One of the challenges [for American law schools] relates to faculty scholarship rather than teaching or student selection. Law professor bloggers, or "blawgers" as some call themselves, number in the hundreds. They transmit their expert opinions online in short, timely postings and receive immediate feedback from those in the courts and practice. This limits, they say, their time to write the traditional lengthy law review articles and treatises. One of the treasured aims of legal scholarship has been to inform the courts and policymakers. Now the courts have begun to cite blogs in their opinions, and blawgers report hearing from policymakers that the blogs have arrived at just the right time to help them understand the area of law and issues before acting.

Blawgers argue that their online pieces should "count" as a professor's required scholarly activity and not just as social exchange. The blawgers may not prevail in their argument that blogs are scholarship, as other faculty despair of maintaining high-quality scholarship without the intermediary checks of law review staffs or peer reviews. To promote discussion of these issues, the AALS and The National Law Journal will sponsor an online debate on these issues on Sept. 17 at Santa Clara University, and the AALS annual meeting includes a plenary session on this topic.'

Nancy H. Rogers
National Law Journal
As the latest plagiarism at
Southern Illinois University...

...plays itself out, it's good to remind ourselves of the larger situation there.

UD reprints an opinion piece that appeared last February in the student newspaper. The author's an English department graduate assistant.

'I have just finished reading the Feb. 6 article in the Daily Egyptian, "Morris to cut journal subscriptions," and I am appalled. Notice that I used the word appalled and not surprised. This is because such drastic measures undertaken by our university departments no longer surprise me, but appall, terrify and anger me instead.

Our library, to the best of my knowledge, is still seeking funding for the upper floor of the extensive Morris Library expansion project. The rooms in Faner Hall are only half lit (apparently there was a shortage of funds for light bulbs one year, and they had to make do with what they had) and it was only recently that most of the extremely uncomfortable classroom chairs were replaced with something much more modern. This latest travesty to education - Morris Library cutting journal subscriptions to balance the budget - is where I, and hopefully many readers, can no longer remain silent.

Let us examine the situation at SIUC. The administration has set a goal of becoming one of the top research facilities in the nation. According to the Southern at 150 plan, SIUC "will provide our students with first-rate educational opportunities. Our faculty and staff will have excellent facilities, tools and support." However, the Saluki Way project emphasizes the construction of a new basketball arena and football field. Apparently, the "excellent facilities" clause in Southern at 150 pertains only to alumni, whom we shamelessly seduce into donating funds merely on the appearance that SIUC is strong, healthy and a university to be proud of based on our new construction of the only buildings that many alumni ever see - sports arenas. When is the last time that an SIUC alumni actually wandered the half-lit corridors of Faner Hall, or spent an hour in a sub-standard classroom? I'd be really interested to know the answer to that question.

Morris Library being forced to cut journal subscriptions is absolutely, categorically not in the best interest of the student body, or the much sought but quickly dissipating prestige this university hopes to achieve. The day looms ahead when our administrators will be forced to say, "No, we don't carry that very popular journal any more because it became too expensive," while also adding (with a wink and a nudge) "But have you checked out the new Saluki stadium?"

Quite simply, enough is enough. The subscription cut is not really the library's fault. They're trying to make the best of a lose-lose situation. But this no-win situation has occurred because of SIUC's misplaced priorities. Before long, we'll be asking students to bring their own toilet paper because funds have been cut to the campus buildings. Rest assured, though, there will be [an] ample amount of tissue paper in the basketball arena.'

Borderline Depressed Writing

UD now predicts that President Glenn Poshard of Southern Illinois University, who has led by negative example, and whose plagiarism case is only the latest among recent fallen SIU leaders, will resign.

There are reasons the world envies America's public and private universities. The crucial reason is one of legitimacy: To an amazing degree, by global standards, we maintain a reality-based higher education establishment, in which the quality and substance of scholarship and teaching undergoes authentic and frequent scrutiny.

This scrutiny is both external, in the form of things like the US News and World Report rankings and Rate My Professors, and internal, as in tenure review. Some of it's sort of internal/external, as in our remarkably free market of professors, a market whose operations make administrators aware of their best faculty, since they're the ones who can move somewhere else.

Even in advanced European countries, and certainly in many other countries, as UD has chronicled at length on this blog, nepotism, abuse of power, meager admissions standards, illegitimate procedures in faculty hiring and retention, laziness or corruption in research activity, extensive government control, and restrictions on free speech are common. The core problem in many of these countries is the politicization of higher education, its primary use as a patronage machine, or as a place to stash unemployed young people for awhile.

Many weak American universities look a bit like European universities. They're run by people like Poshard, political hacks without intellectuality -- without, really, a grasp of what a university is.

UD understands why public systems in particular would find the prospect of political machers running them attractive. These people are powerful, well-connected, can make things happen in the legislature, etc. But without personal academic legitimacy, and without an understanding of the ethos of the university, such presidents and chancellors represent a real risk. Frank Brogan of Florida Atlantic University has a resume similar to Poshard's -- a life in politics, degrees in education (Brogan only went as far as a Master's) -- and he demonstrates, in the way he runs the school, the same embarrassing unawareness of the nature of a university.

Observers of American higher education warn that the model of the intellectual president who can also run things (George Washington University's new leader, Steven Knapp, looks to be one of these) is being displaced by the CEO-type for whom the mega-university is a profit-driven business. But we have just as much to fear from hacks who don't know what they're doing. Poshard still doesn't know that he plagiarized. In his world, you eke out an ed degree because you need the credential, and everyone knows the work in it is shabby but no one cares. That's why he was able to say, when asked, that his committee didn't care whether he cited stuff, so why should he?

When you can't defend a person intellectually, there's always a temptation to go the emotional route. This is almost always a mistake. SOS says lookee here:

To the Editor
: In regards to the recent stories concerning Glenn Poshard, I feel [In regards is a clunky formulation, best avoided; and SOS has already warned you off the emotive, girly I feel thing.] this is nothing more than the efforts of disgruntled individuals, Alumni and Faculty Against Corruption, who by remaining anonymous, give little credence to their allegations and in fact are cowardly. [Awkward word order, and ad hominem: disgruntled, cowardly...] This perpetuates the efforts of some to keep this university from moving forward. [The claim here is simply wrong. SIU was not moving forward as a university before this latest disgrace; and if it is going to move forward, it'll do so by finding a better president.]

We would be hard pressed to find anyone who cares more about SIUC or has done more than Glenn Poshard. [The writer needed to cite one or two achievements here. As to Poshard's caring, this is the emotive rather than substantive problem again. You can care a lot about something and destroy it anyway.] He is certainly not without his warts but to nit-pick improper or missing citations in a dissertation written 23 years ago, and approved by faculty, is petty and mean spirited. [Image of a nit-picker picking a wart not pretty... We're talking about vast uncited stretches of prose; doesn't matter how long ago it happened; faculty approval only deepens the scandal.]

I am tired [I feel... I am tired... Trust me: No one cares.] of this divisive, constantly attacking culture we seem to have fallen into. [Breaking out into vast cultural generalization is a real mistake here. Along with the hankie-shredding, it makes the reader suspect that you don't really have a substantive case and are trying to distract her attention from this by going cosmic.] Whether its [Apostrophe missing.] national politics or local gossip we have become so focused on the politics of destruction [Thunderous cliche.] versus getting something done it's no wonder people walk around in a borderline depression. [Hey baby, I'm fine. I don't walk around depressed. And my position on the Poshard question will have little to do with what outcome will cheer you up.] My best recommendation is to tackle the real issues and move on. This issue does not deserve the ink or time it's generating.


Monday, September 10, 2007

"At Texas Southern University in Houston,
15 percent of entering students complete college."

'[Texas Southern University] paid to send university President Priscilla Slade and her executive assistant to Maine, Costa Rica and Rome, where she stayed at the Four Seasons hotel, her former assistant testified today.

More details emerged this morning in the spending scandal that shook the financially unstable university as Erica Vallier told jurors about Slade's lavish lifestyle and how the university was expected to foot the bill for it.

Vallier said Texas Southern University paid for spa treatments, exercise classes and a $20,000 golf membership for Slade. She also told jurors about annual manicure/pedicure parties for her staff and friends, outings that TSU footed the bill for as a "team building exercise."

Vallier also talked about accompanying Slade to expensive restaurants at least twice a day, attending Houston Texans football games and sitting in courtside Houston Rockets basketball seats for which the university paid $10,000 to $13,000.

In Rome for a conference, Vallier said Slade chose to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel, while Vallier and university regents stayed at a less expensive hotel. She said they went to Kennebunkport, Maine, at least three times to scout for locations for fundraising events near the home of former President Bush, who was an honorary chairman of TSU's fundraising efforts.

Slade, who has been fired as university president, is charged with two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property of more than $200,000. Prosecutors have alleged that she spent more than $500,000 of the school's money for personal expenses.

Slade's attorney, Mike DeGeurin, has said that her expenses were reasonable and necessary to court donors and improve the university's image.'

---houston chronicle.---
Bonzo on Redshirts

Mr. Bonzo, of the blog The Periodic Table, comments on the play Redshirts, currently on view at the Penumbra Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The play will soon move to the Round House Theater in UD's own 'thesda, and UD will go, although it's clear from newspaper reviews, and from Bonzo, that it ain't all that good.

The play, writes Bonzo, "deals with academic cheating and the big-time athletics/academics interface," but tries to do too many things, and lacks forward momentum. With some script work, he goes on to suggest, it could be very good.

Maybe the author will revisit Redshirts before it comes to 'thesda.
The Proposed Public Service Academy...

... and now this. William Bennett and David Gelernter propose an online university for conservatives. Name, University of the Republic... or, as UD, a blue state elitist, will call it, Universite de La Republique.

From an interview with Bennett:

What is the University of the Republic? How will it work?

Bennett: About two years ago, my friend David Gelernter, a technology visionary and great intellect, wrote about the need for “a cyber university that presents an integrated, conservative world view” based on the fact that there are great scholars scattered around the country and yet there is not a central place where students can learn from them in an integrated setting. So he and I and a handful of others have set about building that very place with the idea that, ultimately, the universe would have access and be able to take courses from the world’s leading professors and collaborate with other students. Stay tuned.

Remember, higher education is one of the greatest things in this country, when done right. Too often it is not; from the supply side. That’s what we’re trying to fix.

Lopez: What’s the attraction for professors to do the online thing?

Bennett: Larger forum to ply their trade without diminishing the kinds of things you like in a low student/teacher ratio. Ask any professor if he’d rather teach 10,000 students than 10 if the demands on his time were not much greater than they already exist, and I think you’d find most of them would be honored. [Er, how would the demands on my time not be much greater? 10,000 people are now able to email me about my lectures.] There are national treasures in higher education in this country, in many of our professors. Their lessons, their learning, should not be cabined to a select few and they should be financially rewarded better than they are. If you had the opportunity to have Harvey Mansfield or Robby George or Charles Kesler (to take just three examples) teach you political science, wouldn’t you jump at that? And if they knew you could be their student, without them or you leaving your living rooms, they’d jump too.
Enough Already.

'...Remaining tight-lipped about a matter that involves a public figure who is paid with public dollars and is the face of a major public institution is unwise. [A smidgeon of SOS here: If you tighten this, you get a better opening sentence: "Remaining tight-lipped about a matter involving a public figure paid with public dollars, a man who's the face of a major public institution, is unwise."] Though it provides a handy shroud of ambiguity for those in question, at this point, whether Poshard sleeps well at night should not be a priority.

Sometimes good people do bad things. We do not dispute that Poshard is a well-liked man, capable of great accomplishments and good deeds. But if the Pope was accused of plagiarizing his sermons, we would still expect a prompt investigation.

Unprecedented situations are difficult. We understand it is hard for the faculty of this university to question their boss. However, it does not dismiss them from doing so.

Finally, if the [Board of Trustees] wants to maintain any level of credibility, it needs to follow the rules it deems fit for the rest of us. The graduate school handbook already outlines the procedure for academic dishonesty.

What more is there to say?'

Editorial board, Daily Egyptian, SIU Carbondale student newspaper.
Big Babies

In 2003, Martha Nussbaum, in Singing in the Fire: Stories of Women in Philosophy, wrote this about male philosophy professors:

[Their] ways of being infantile vary. Some are flirtatious and silly in a relatively harmless way. Some fear old age dreadfully, and believe that continual exercises in seduction will produce something like erotic immortality. Some long to tell you in no uncertain terms that you are a whore, because it makes them feel power. Some hate themselves and have contempt for any woman who is nice to them. Some — and these are the worst, I think — are satanic, by which I mean that they have an emptiness at their core that they fill with exercises in domination, which they market with a frequently dazzling charm. ...

The main problem of feminism in philosophy is the infantile level of human development of many of the men who are in it.

Pretty strong claim: the main problem...

Now Inside Higher Ed links (the link doesn't work - I found what I think is the same paper elsewhere on MIT's site) to an essay by Sally Haslanger, a philosopher at MIT, which notes the under-representation of women in philosophy, and accounts for it in similar terms.

Haslanger feels deep "rage" at her treatment by the men who dominate the field. "Philosophy departments are often hyper-masculine places," she writes, full of "poorly socialized," "competitive, combative, judgmental" men devoted to "hyper-rational, objective, masculine" thought.

IHE quotes David Schrader, executive director of the American Philosophical Association, agreeing to some extent:

While he said he didn’t want to overgeneralize, he said that “clearly we have some significant enclaves of chauvinism.” The association is currently planning to collect data on women and employment in the discipline.

“I suspect philosophy is in many respects different from other humanities,” he said. “Obviously none of this should justify sexism in any sense. But the culture of philosophy is halfway between the culture of humanities and the culture of mathematics.” He also said that there “are quarters in the profession where feminist philosophy is not highly regarded.”

Haslanger and others who care about the representation of women in philosophy departments are right to make a fuss. But you want to be careful here. UD linked awhile back to an LA Times opinion piece by Deborah Tannen (the link doesn't work anymore -- here's the post on UD) in which she sets women back by claiming that they're hard-wired to hate aggressive intellectual combat:

[A]rguing ideas [is] a way to explore them … . Because they're used to this agonistic way of exploring ideas — playing devil's advocate — many men find that their adrenaline gets going when someone challenges them, and it sharpens their minds: They think more clearly and get better ideas. But those who are not used to this mode of exploring ideas, including many women, react differently: They back off, feeling attacked, and they don't do their best thinking under those circumstances. …[Women are] put off by the competitive, cutthroat culture of science. The assumption that fighting is the only way to explore ideas is deeply rooted in Western civilization. It can be found in the militaristic roots of the Christian church and in our educational system, tracing back to all-male medieval universities where students learned by oral disputation. … [Males see] fighting as a format for doing things that have nothing to do with actual combat: They show affection by mock-punching, getting a friend's head in an armlock or playfully trading insults.

If you think women are put off by competitive and cutthroat intellectual ways, take a look at Nussbaum's notorious attack on Judith Butler in The New Republic [Or don't: "The Professor of Parody: The Hip Defeatism of Judith Butler," February 22, 1999, pp. 37-45 -- doesn't seem to be online anymore]. Most serious women aren't, and certainly shouldn't be, put off by mental battle. You don't want to create a feminist ghetto within academic philosophy. You need to take on the nerds, the flirts, the satanists, the power-mongers, the old-age-phobes, the self-haters...
Poshard Serial Plagiarist

UD has often pointed out on this blog that a person who plagiarizes one thing has typically plagiarized others.

The president of Southern Illinois University is no exception. From today's Chronicle of Higher Education:

Recently ... The Chronicle obtained -- from a source outside the university -- a copy of Mr. Poshard's 1975 master's thesis for Southern Illinois on drug abuse among students at rural high schools. It contains some of the same types of problems as his dissertation: sentences that appear nearly verbatim in sources published earlier but are not in quotation marks or cited.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

A news article from a Tuscaloosa Alabama newspaper:

'In the beginning, Ed McMinn knew that at the University of Alabama, football was like religion.

And that prayer factors in quite heavily.

“There may be quite a bit of prayer that goes on, especially when Alabama is facing fourth down in the last minutes of the ball game,” McMinn said.

So he decided to combine the “two things that many people are passionate about — college sports and their faith” — to write the book God Bless the Crimson Tide: Devotions for the Die-hard Alabama Fan.

A collection of 90 stories from sports played at the University of Alabama, the book includes a Bible verse for each of the stories.

The end of the book concludes with a “replay” of the major points of each devotion.

“God is extremely persistent,” McMinn said, recounting how he had the idea for the book for a while before he got around to writing it.

McMinn, who spent most of his life in the newspaper business as a reporter and editor, taught journalism in college before becoming a minister at a non-denominational church in Terry, Ga.

He entered seminary when he was 52 years old.

Now he has gone from Methodist minister to non-denominational minister and book author.

“I guess I can claim that the book was divine inspiration,” McMinn said. “I was raised in the south. I grew up in Georgia, and I’ve always been a sports fan, especially of college football.”

A secret? He’s really a University of Georgia alumnus and fan, but the publishers wanted him to focus on Alabama and Tennessee first. (McMinn also wrote God Bless the Vols.)

McMinn said he would first find stories of faith, success, loving others and other inspirational topics about Alabama sports teams and coaches, then go look for scripture that complimented those stories. [The writer means complemented.]

“Football in this part of the country is a big thing. But other sports are in there,” McMinn pointed out. “You cannot do a book about Alabama sports without doing gymnastics. “

And from gymnastics to volleyball, figures and teams from the pages of Alabama sports history come to life, filled with passion and faith. [Cliches.] Bear Bryant is, of course, included, as well as Gene Stallings and Sarah Patterson, as well as other, lesser-known names.

“It comes at a good time for Alabama,” McMinn said of the book, and the hopes and prayers of Alabama fans for a good season. “The Alabama folks are really excited with the hiring of (head football coach) Nick Saban.”

Gary Cramer, director of the Fellowship of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for UA [How's that again?], said that one of his favorite quotes from the book was from Senator Jeremiah Denton, who at one time said, “We believe that on the eighth day the Lord created the Crimson Tide.”

“That’s not necessarily a theologically correct statement, but true to the heart of the Crimson Tide fan,” Cramer said. “The book is just a real relative way of tying in scripture to some of the great stories of Alabama [UD doesn't get what the speaker means by calling it a real relative way.], and some of the truths that have occurred over the years. It was very entertaining to read as he ties it into scripture and encourages people on their daily walk.”

The book, which was published by Howard Books, the Christian book arm of Simon and Schuster, was not initially about the University of Alabama. [To be verbs and redundancy are making the writer's walk a little labored here. Possible rewrite: Published by Howard Books, Simon and Schuster's Christian imprint, God Bless the Crimson Tide was not at first about Alabama.] He initially [redundant] wrote about — brace yourself if you’re a Tide fan — Auburn, before he pitched the book idea to publishers. [Four uses of the word "book" in two sentences.]

But the Auburn University library was the closest college library to Terry, Ga., where McMinn lives, he noted in his defense. He was able to go there to de [typo] research on his off time.

McMinn said he hopes the book serves as a way to connect with people who might not otherwise read devotionals, as well as those who already practice faith.

“For too long there’s been a disconnect,” McMinn said.

“You go to church on Sunday, you practice your faith on Sunday and forget about it the rest of the week. Of course that’s not the way it should be. This was a way to connect people.”

More SEC schools are on McMinn’s list to write about next, but for now, he hopes Alabama fans enjoy the book.

“It is my prayer that it reaches many audiences,” he said.'

Amen. [Editorial comment doesn't belong in a news story.]


Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Intensity and Clarity
Of the Inner Life

Norman Mailer's frailty and age
-- he just spent four days in the
hospital with breathing difficulties;
he's 84 -- have UD thinking of him,
and recalling in particular her delight
in his hilarious book
The Prisoner of Sex,

which, among other things,
is a fervent defense of her
beloved Henry Miller. She hasn't
read the thing in, oh, thirty years.

Here are some excerpts from a Paris Review interview with Mailer in 1964:

"[G]ood style is a matter of rendering out of oneself all the cupidities, all the cripplings, all the velleities.... I try to go over my work in every conceivable mood. I edit on a spectrum that runs from the high, clear manic impressions of a drunk, which has made one electrically alert, all the way down to the soberest reaches of depression where I can hardly bear my words. By the time I'm done with writing I care about, I usually have worked on it through the full gamut of my consciousness.... The moment you borrow other writers' styles of thought, you need craft to shore up the walls. But if what you write is a reflection of your own consciousness, then even journalism can become interesting."

"Booze, pot, too much sex, too much failure in one's private life, too much attrition, too much recognition, too little recognition, frustration. Nearly everything in the scheme of things works to dull a first-rate talent. But the worst probably is cowardice - as one becomes older, one becomes aware of one's cowardice; the desire to be bold which once was a joy gets heavy with caution and duty."

"[T]he audience which has no tradition by which to measure their experience but the intensity and clarity of their inner lives. That's the audience I'd like to be good enough to write for."

"[A friend of mine said he wrote because] 'The only time I know that something is true is at the moment I discover it in the act of writing.' I think [this is why one writes]. [You're] in love with the truth when you discover it at the point of a pencil. That, in and by itself, is one of the few rare pleasures in life."

"One's condition on marijuana is always existential. One can feel the importance of each moment and how it is changing one. One feels one's being, one becomes aware of the enormous apparatus of nothingness - the hum of a hi-fi set, the emptiness of a pointless interruption, one becomes aware of the war between each of us, how the nothingness in each of us seeks to attack the being of others, how our being in turn is attacked by the nothingness in others."

Well, the interview did take place in 1964.... Though actually this comment about our being and nothingness wars made me think of something I read just the other day on Lucky Jane's blog, about a horrible lunch Jane had with a new faculty member:

'The play date with my new colleague in another department has come and gone, and boy howdy was it a waste of time. She was twenty minutes late. She was reticent and awkward to interact with. She had table manners that made me gasp; e.g., with her tongue she deposited little wads of chewed-over broccoli fibers onto the edge of her plate mid-sentence, reminding me ever so vaguely of Lena Grove’s inner monologue in Faulkner’s Light in August: “Like a lady I et. Like a lady traveling.” And she was a downer. Before her department chair, she lamented her two-block walk to the parking garage, JPU’s surly and unresponsive students (already?), the danger she perceived lurking in the dark shadows of big bad funky new city, the difficulty of meeting people here, the tightness of her shoes, whatever. I hope I didn’t sound like her last year. I was relieved to have had less than an hour for lunch, because I was exhausted by the time I choked down my cupcake and sped off to meet with students. I don’t consider myself a new age-y person, but every now and then I encounter people who siphon off my energy. These people are emotional black holes, and I fear them.

Newbie is one of those people.'

'On the face of it, an email and a letter are the same thing: a piece of writing addressed to one or several persons. But letter-writing was never the fraught activity that email-writing is. Shipley and Schwalbe believe that the trouble derives from a fundamental flaw in email for which the user has to compensate:

If you don't consciously insert tone into an email, a kind of universal default tone won't automatically be conveyed. Instead, the message written without regard to tone becomes a blank screen onto which the reader projects his own fears, prejudices and anxieties.

To counteract this perilous ambiguity, Shipley and Schwalbe suggest a program of unrelenting niceness. Keep letting your correspondent know how much you like and respect him, praise and flatter him, constantly demonstrate your puppyish friendliness, and stick in exclamation points (and sometimes even smiling face icons) wherever possible. "The exclamation point is a lazy but effective way to combat email's essential lack of tone," Shipley and Schwalbe write. "'I'll see you at the conference' is a simple statement of fact. "'I'll see you at the conference!' lets your fellow conferee know that you're excited and pleased about the event." Shipley and Schwalbe then make an arresting remark:

Sure, the better your word choice the less need you will have for this form of shorthand. But until we find more time in the day— and until email begins to convey affect—we will continue to sprinkle exclamation points liberally throughout our emails.

So this is the crux of the matter: Email is a medium of bad writing. Poor word choice is the norm—as is tone deafness. The problem of tone is, of course, the problem of all writing. There is no "universal default tone." When people wrote letters they had the same blank screen to fill. And there were the same boneheads among them, who alienated correspondents with their ghastly oblivious prose. One has only to look at the letter-writing manuals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to see that most of the problems Shipley and Schwalbe deal with are not unique to email but common to the whole epistolary genre. They are writing problems. Some of us do find the time in the day to write a carefully worded, exclamation-point-free email when the occasion demands. Mostly, though, all of us who use email avail ourselves of its permission to write fast and sloppy. Shipley and Schwalbe's serene acceptance of the unwriterliness of email, of its function as an instrument of speedy, heedless communication, is correct, and their guide is helpful precisely because it doesn't pretend that the instrument is anything but what it is.'

[From a review of SEND: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe. In The New York Review of Books.]
Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says...

... satire is extremely difficult to write.

Barbara Ehrenreich, in The Nation, finds a perfectly satirizable subject - overpriced college educations - and manages to fall flat with it. Why? Because satire shouldn't be about your anger and sense of futility. When your peevishness dominates, the thing's undercooked. Satire is done to perfection only when you've removed your aggravation.

Ehrenreich needed to let this piece sit overnight. Then she needed to go back to it and make it amusing rather than sneering. Take a gander. (And if you know UD, you know she's fine with Ehrenreich's dig at George Washington University. UD's problem with the piece is style, not content.)

Here, by way of contrast, are two successful examples of satires which, like hers, adopt a persona.


Nineteen Years in the Wilderness


A report on Oct. 24, 1988, about the marriage of Amy Levine and David Abrams, misstated where the bride received her undergraduate degree. She graduated from Brown University, not Boston University. Amy Abrams only recently called attention to the error.'

--new york times--
Lacrosse Case
Playing Out

...'[The three exonerated] students ... were in talks with the city [of Durham] for a settlement of $30 million and a package of law enforcement changes.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the details of the settlement proposal. If the city refuses, the students are threatening to file a civil rights lawsuit.

The changes requested by the students and their lawyers include oversight of the police department by an independent commission, stricter procedures and videotaping of witness identifications conducted by the police, and the passage of a City Council resolution calling on the state to establish ombudsmen for district attorney’s offices and require the transcription of grand jury proceedings.

... Barry Scheck and Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., the lawyers representing the three lacrosse players, made the settlement proposal at a meeting Wednesday, where city representatives were shown a copy of a civil rights complaint to be filed next month if no progress has been made on negotiations. On Thursday, members of the City Council were briefed on the meeting.

The suit would be filed against Mr. Nifong, the Durham Police Department and other participants in the investigation. The city is potentially liable because of the police department’s involvement in bringing proceedings against the students.

The proposal, which calls for $10 million for each player, could put the city in a financial bind, because its insurance policy covers only $5 million for “wrongful action,” with a $500,000 deductible.

The players — David F. Evans, 24; Collin Finnerty, 20; and Reade W. Seligmann, 21 — have already received an undisclosed sum from Duke University. They have spent an estimated $3 million on their defense, according to a nonprofit organization formed to raise money for their legal fees.'

---new york times---

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Chicago Tribune Calls for
Poshard to Resign

CARBONDALE -- 'The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees has called a special meeting for Monday, Sept. 10 in the Stone Center at SIU-Carbondale, officials said.

...Trustees could ... determine how they will proceed with a review of a 1984 doctoral dissertation by SIU President Glenn Poshard, who is facing plagiarism claims...

Plagiarism allegations against Poshard have left SIU officials fielding many questions during the last week. The state’s largest-circulation newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, editorialized on the matter Friday, calling for the president to step down.

The editorial refutes the previously asserted idea that Poshard should get a "do-over" in re-submitting his dissertation, and says his degree "has been exposed as a fraud." The newspaper also compares the former congressman to former President Bill Clinton in explaining away his wrongs by "parsing his definitions."

One passage of the editorial reads:

"Poshard acknowledges that he neglected to put quotation marks around some material...but says he believed that was OK as long as he cited the sources in footnotes, which he might have forgotten to do a few times... But that's not plagiarism, Poshard says.

“Yes, it is. And it's an egregious and unforgivable offense for a university president, of all people. Poshard should step down."'

---the southern---
Scholarship Student


As the University of New Hampshire football team made its way to Harrisonburg, Va., Friday for the first game of its football season, back-up quarterback Hank Hendricks was en route to his native San Diego, where he’s facing a murder charge.

Hendricks, 21, was indicted on Thursday in the beating death of a professional surfer, Emery Kauanui Jr., on May 24 in La Jolla, Calif. Four other suspects were previously charged in his death and have pled not guilty.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Hendricks, who will be in court on Monday to answer charges of murder, assault and battery, was immediately suspended from the football team, school officials said Friday. He had been practicing with the team, which is ranked fifth nationally heading into its game against No. 10 James Madison, all week.

Calls to the cell phones of UNH coach Sean McDonnell and the school’s sports information director, Scott Stapin, were not immediately returned Friday.

According to a report published earlier this week in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Hendricks admitted to police he was with the four other defendants at a bar on the night of May 23. He said he had left the bar to take a phone call and go to a nearby store when a fight broke out between one of the other suspects – 20-year-old Eric House — and Kauanui.

Hendricks, a San Diego native, told police he and the others left the bar and drove to Kauanui's home in La Jolla, where another fight broke out. Kauanui was eventually transported to a hospital, where he died a few days later.

According to the Union-Tribune, Hendricks gave a statement to police on May 29, where he said he saw defendant Seth Cravens, 21, hit Kauanui in the jaw, causing his head to fall back and strike something.

If convicted of murder, the five suspects will face jail terms of 25 years to life.

Police are alleging that Hendricks and the four other suspects are members of an affiliated group of men known as the “Bird Rock Bandits,” which is suspected in other assaults in the area in recent months. All five were also charged with assault and battery in this incident.

...After taking some courses at a local community college in the fall of 2004, Hendricks arrived at UNH with a scholarship in January of 2005. '

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pot Head

'A department head in Penn State's
College of Education is facing two counts
of drug possession after he was allegedly
caught smoking marijuana in his on-campus office.

Murry Nelson, 60, has worked at Penn State
since 1975, according to the Centre Daily Times.

Police said they responded to reports of burning
marijuana in the North Chambers Building Office
on July 29.'

The Baseball Team's Heirloom

Along with Allan Bloomian denunciations of the soulless American university, September's the month for gut course lists. Here are two.

The first is from a North Carolina newspaper, and among the local guts it describes, this one sounded most promising to UD:

BCN 226: Masterpieces of Television Drama

This little beauty... comes [highly recommended]. Attending [the University of North Carolina Greensboro]? Planning to spend all semester sitting in your dorm eating Fritos and watching reruns of "Six Feet Under?" Would you like class credit for doing so? Life is good.

A Yale student provides an extensive list for Gawker. Excerpts:

[D]on't you feel good when you show up to class on day one and you see a lot of baseball caps and blue and gray warmups[?] I know I do. I know I am home - at Yale, trying with all my might to not overexert myself. So here's to us, the proud students of Yale who really [would] rather not take 5 really "challenging but worth it classes". That shit is way overrated. .... [W]e all take "porn in the morn," a womens and gender studies class, for an A...

modes of thought - This is a classic case of "[T]his class's name sounds so absolutely nebulous and idiotic that it must be a gut." Surprisingly, it is actually a complete joke, receiving some of the strongest "You will learn nothing and get an A" comments that you can find on the eval system.

conservation biology - Somehow, the entire DKE/Football gut-taking machine found out about this one last year and with great results. With material like "how to save salamanders and algae," this class really offers you some skills and knowledge you can take to the real world or at least to impress the person sitting next to you when you are stoned and watching planet earth at 4am

computer science and the modern intellectual agenda: Yeah, I read the title to this and asked myself "uhh, what is the modern intellectual agenda?" too. This may get the award for the most random mix of subjects to the point that there is pretty much nothing to say. It'd be like having a class on Pornography in the Boer War. Seriously, there cannot be more than like 5 sentences to say about that in the universe. If you are willing to really have no clue what you are getting into, this looks like a great gut.

the hero in the ancient near east: This is perhaps the biggest "How in the world did someone find out this was a gut class" gut. Seriously, who would sign up for a random class like this before people knew it would be a gut? WTF? Anyway, somehow, the baseball team discovered this one and has been holding it as an heirloom for a couple of years now. Apparently, everyone gets an A and the final is some sort of trip to a museum. You may even be able to tell me what the ancient near east was.

intro to comparative politics: this is sort of like the saturday night toads of yale guts. You really can expect to see absolutely everyone who you have ever seen hold a solo cup at this one. It isn't particularly gutty except that it has a massive curve and if you just bother to show up and do the reading you will get an A. Plus, the hockey team will probably make some sort of study guide that will get forwarded to you eventually before the midterm and final. You will definitely start to schedule naps when you should be at this class.

strategy technology and war: This is of course the classic "Meaty guys who want to talk about tanks and rockets and shit exploding class" but it apparently brings so much more to the table than that. Sure, you will know all about the U.S. nuclear arsenal hiding in our submarines all over the globe just waiting for some bro to press the button after taking this class, but you will also probably get an A. Apparently, the professor just disappeared at the end of last year and then gave everyone As? The story was something like that at least.

public opinion: Adam F. Simon is probably the easiest professor at Yale. He is really gunning to be the next Bob Dunne. Basically, Adam F will complain to you about how network tv is retarded, people are retarded, and tell you random anecdotes about his dog, family, time at ucla, or his next book. You will know a lot of about current events if you show up. You will get an A even if you don't. This class generally migrates directly to the varsity weightroom right after letting out.

Fun comments at Gawker, too.

UD thanks Andrew for forwarding the Gawker list to her.
The Innocence Project

Via Cliopatria, a powerful review of a book about the Duke lacrosse case, whose District Attorney went to jail today (but only for a day):

... Houston Baker, a noted professor of English, called the lacrosse players "white, violent, drunken men veritably given license to rape," men who could "claim innocence . . . safe under the cover of silent whiteness." Protesters on campus and in the city itself waved "castrate" banners, put up "wanted" posters and threatened the physical safety of the lacrosse players.
A Matter Much Regretted

'A professor of law at Leibniz University in the German city of Hanover faces charges of inflating marks for female students in exchange for sex and of selling doctorates, the daily Sueddeutsche newspaper reported Friday.

Also charged are two managers of a business consulting firm, which is alleged to have paid the professor a total of 184,000 euros (250,000 dollars), and two female students, who lent the professor their favours in return for higher grades.

'We very much regret the matter,' Leinniz University spokeswoman Stefanie Beier told the newspaper. 'But we assume that this is an isolated case of considerable criminal enterprise.'

Hanover prosecutors are charging the unnamed professor on 78 counts of corruption. The company managers are charged with acting as a go-between for the doctoral candidates he assisted.

The professor's greed might have gone unnoticed, but for his weakness for his female students.

Other female students had complained to the local examining authority, insisting that they should not have the professor marking their work, the Sueddeutsche reported.

After this became known, the university began a probe that resulted in the suspension of the professor and his banning from university property.

Fearing the professor might seek to flee justice, the court ordered Thursday that he remain in custody. '
Alphabet Soup

'Three charged

Three Purdue University football players were charged Thursday in connection [with] a March 30 stabbing at a West Lafayette nightclub.

Selwyn J. Lymon, 20, is charged with Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated, Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, Class A misdemeanor battery, Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct, Class B misdemeanor false informing, and Class C misdemeanor illegal possession of alcohol.

Stanford Keglar, 22, is charged with Class A misdemeanor battery, Class B misdemeanor false informing and Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Jonte Lindsey, 21, is charged with Class B misdemeanor false informing and Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct.'

{UD thanks a reader for the link.}
Because They Prefer Not To.

'A group of faculty leaders from a broad range of departments at Southern Illinois University will be tapped to investigate allegations of plagiarism against former gubernatorial nominee Glenn Poshard.
SIU Carbondale chancellor Fernando Trevino plans to appoint the review committee next week to look into allegations that Poshard plagiarized several sections of his 1984 doctoral dissertation, a source familiar with the process said. Poshard earned the degree at SIU -- where he is now president.

Trevino was forced to consider creating a new committee after members of SIU's department of educational administration and higher education -- which granted Poshard's degree -- turned down the job. Poshard had asked them to review the paper last week "to advise me on corrections necessary to make this dissertation consistent with the highest academic standards.''

But on Wednesday, the department told Poshard it preferred not to do so...'

---chicago sun-times---

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Snapshots from Home

UD gets a new, grand piano
-- well, a baby grand --

and has her father's old Waldorf spinnet
hauled away, on the day Pavarotti dies.

She'll make her first song on the
new instrument Vissi d'arte, in memory.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Poshard Punctured

It was a lose-lose proposition from the start for the education department at Southern Illinois University, and UD's not surprised to read that they've said they won't rubber-stamp President Poshard's extensively plagiarized dissertation:

"The academic department that Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard asked to review his doctoral thesis has declined to do it.

Under attack for allegedly plagiarizing parts of his 1984 thesis, Poshard last week asked the university's department of higher education and administration, which awarded his PhD, to review the work and recommend action. As president, Poshard now oversees that department.

"The department has concluded that a committee with broader academic representation would be more appropriate for this review," SIU spokesman Dave Gross said in a statement, noting that the decision leaves the review process unresolved.

The department's chair, Brad Colwell, did not respond to requests for comment.

Poshard has maintained that any mistakes in his thesis were 'unintentional.'"

If they'd reviewed the thing honestly, they'd have publicized to the world the lax standards in their department and in ed schools generally. If they said it looked okay to them, they'd... accomplish exactly the same thing. If they said they couldn't make a determination, they'd ... you get the idea.

This is very bad news for Poshard, who may find himself in the undignified position of passing his dissertation off to one education department and then another, in search of someone willing to handle the damaged goods.


Update: Mike Davidson of Profane sends me some local accounts, including an article that quotes a faculty member:

Rob Ware, a philosophy professor on the Edwardsville campus, said it was appropriate for the department to refuse to review the paper. SIU would come to a standstill if it reconsidered all cases of plagiarism from the past, so Poshard should not be afforded any special treatment in this case, he said.

Besides, Ware said, this appears to be a pretty clear case of plagiarism. He noted that he has not seen any denials of the allegations which first surfaced last week.

"I think that what should have happened already several days ago is that President Poshard should have presented his resignation," Ware said. "He is dragging the university’s reputation through the mud."
Philanthropic Ego Gratification

From the International Herald Tribune:

'Eli Broad, a billionaire businessman, has given away $648 million over the last five years, to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to establish a medical research institute, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and to programs to improve the administration of urban schools and public education.

The rich are giving more to charity than ever, but Broad is not the only one footing the bill for such generosity. For every three dollars he and other wealthy individuals give away, the U.S. government typically gives up a dollar or more in tax revenue, because of the charitable tax deduction and by not collecting estate taxes.

Broad says his gifts provide a greater public benefit than had the money gone to taxes for the government to spend. "I believe the public benefit is significantly greater than the tax benefit an individual receives," Broad said. "I think there's a multiplier effect. What smart, entrepreneurial philanthropists and their foundations do is get greater value for how they invest their money than if the government were doing it."

It is an argument made by many of the nation's richest individuals. But not all of them. Take the investor William Gross, also a billionaire. Gross vigorously dismisses the notion that the wealthy are helping society more effectively and efficiently than government.

"When millions of people are dying of AIDS and malaria in Africa, it is hard to justify the umpteenth society gala held for the benefit of a performing arts center or an art museum," he wrote in his investment commentary this month. "A $30 million gift to a concert hall is not philanthropy, it is a Napoleonic coronation."

Elaborating during an interview, Gross said he did not think the public benefit from philanthropy was commensurate with the tax breaks the givers received. "I don't think we're getting the bang for the buck for gifts to build football stadiums and concert halls, with all due respect to Carnegie Hall and other institutions," he said. "I don't think the public would vote for spending tax dollars on those things."

The billionaires' differing views epitomize a growing debate over what philanthropy is achieving at a time when the wealthiest Americans control a rising share of the national income and, because of sharp cuts in personal taxes, give up less to government.

A common perception of philanthropy is that one of its central purposes is to alleviate the suffering of society's least fortunate and therefore promote greater equality, taking some of the burden off government. In exchange, the United States is one of a handful of countries to allow givers a tax deduction. In essence, the public is letting private individuals decide how to allocate money on their behalf.

What qualifies for that tax deduction has broadened over the 90 years since its creation to include everything from university golf teams to puppet theaters - even an organization established after Hurricane Katrina to help practitioners of sadomasochism obtain gear they lost in the storm.

Roughly three-quarters of charitable gifts of $50 million or more from 2002 through March 31 went to universities, private foundations, hospitals and art museums, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Of the rest, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation accounted for half on the center's list. That money went primarily to improve the lives of the poor in developing countries.

Valuable as that may be, it also meant that the American public effectively underwrote several billion dollars worth of foreign aid by private individuals, even though poll after poll shows that Americans are at best ambivalent about using tax dollars for such assistance.

In contrast, few gifts of that size are made to organizations like the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and America's Second Harvest, whose main goals are to help the poor in the United States. Research shows that less than 10 percent of the money Americans give to charity addresses basic human needs, like sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry and caring for the indigent sick, and that the wealthiest typically devote an even smaller portion of their giving to such causes than everyone else.

"Donors give to organizations they are close to," said H. Art Taylor, president and chief executive of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. "So they give to their college or university, or maybe someone close to them died of a particular disease so they make a big gift to medical research aimed at that disease. How many of the super rich have that kind of a relationship with a soup kitchen? Or a homeless shelter?"

Philanthropists like Broad say that looking at philanthropy solely as a means of ameliorating need is too narrow. "If you look historically at what Carnegie did with creating a library system and the Rockefellers in creating Rockefeller University, I think it does a lot more for society than simply supporting those in need," Broad said.

About two percent of the money Broad has given away through his two foundations over the last five years, or $15 million, went to support organizations like the United Way and the United Jewish Fund, which serve needy people as well as the middle class.

Still, Broad dedicates his biggest gifts to areas he thinks lack government support, like the $25 million he gave to the University of Southern California last year to found an institute for integrative biology and stem cell research, or the tens of millions he dedicated to complete the new Disney concert hall in Los Angeles.

Like many philanthropists, Broad said he considered such gifts an illustration of the proverb: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." The argument is that simply taking care of the poor does nothing to eliminate poverty and that they will ultimately benefit more from efforts to, for example, find cures for the diseases that afflict them or improve public education.

As for Gross, despite his uncharacteristically fiery criticism of what he calls "philanthropic ego gratification," some of the large gifts he and his wife, Sue, have made are not so different from those made by other billionaires. He has given millions to a local hospital, for example. And in 2005 the couple gave roughly $25 million to Duke University, Gross's alma mater.

But the Duke gift illustrates Gross's priorities. The money is almost exclusively for scholarships.

"Universities have their own thing going - they want to build infrastructure and endowments and perpetuate their system, which isn't necessarily in the social interest," Gross said. "Scholarships get a little more down to the ground level."

Warren Buffett, another billionaire investor, also voices strong feelings about how donations are used.

When Buffett pledged $31 billion to the Gates Foundation, he included a little noted requirement that the foundation spend each increment of the gift he hands over, in addition to its own annual legally mandated spending. If he transfers $1.3 billion of stock to it, it must spend every nickel within a year.

"I wanted to make sure," he said, "that to the extent I was providing extra money to them, it didn't just go to build up the foundation size further but that it was put to use."

The Gates Foundation's work is largely international, although a portion of its spending supports efforts to improve urban education and access to college, so Buffett's money is unlikely to be used to address basic needs in the United States.

"I think the government ought to make sure that all the people here who drew short straws have a decent minimum," Buffett said. "We moved toward that with Social Security, but we could go a lot further now."

He does not regard his gift as charitable and expects no tax benefit from it, in part because he has credit for past donations that he has not used.

Rather, he considers his sister, Doris Buffett, the "real philanthropist" in the family. Doris Buffett runs an organization, the Sunshine Lady Foundation, that helps the needy pay for scholarships, medical bills, mortgage payments, glasses and cars.

The charitable deduction cost the government $40 billion in lost tax revenue last year, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, more than the government spends altogether on managing public lands, protecting the environment and developing new energy sources.'
Overheard on Campus

'A pair of former Northeastern University freshmen are facing drug and other charges after prosecutors said one of them leaned out his dorm window on Sunday and loudly told a woman in the dorm opposite his that he and his roommate were selling pot.

Two plain clothes Boston officers in the building overheard the conversation, made their way up to a second floor dorm room where they arrested Michael Emery, 18, of Haverhill and Matthew Ferrante, 18, of North Andover after finding about four ounces of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, including a scale, and several bottles of alcohol in the room, the Suffolk district attorney's office said.

"If you're looking for weed, my roommate Ferrante has some for sale," Emery allegedly said out the window, according to the district attorney's office.

The students were arraigned in Roxbury District Court on Tuesday on charges of possession of a class D substance with intent to distribute in a school zone, possession of alcohol by a minor, and conspiracy to violate the state's drug laws. The intent to distribute charge carries a maximum of two years in jail.

They pleaded not guilty, were both released on personal recognizance and are due back in court on Oct. 24.

Attorneys for the men did not immediately return calls for comment.

"They are no longer students here," university spokeswoman Laura Shea said.'

Robert J. O'Hara at The Collegiate Way
forwarded it.

He got it from Brad DeLong's blog.
A Nation at Risk

After complaining about the tendency of American college curricula to rush to theory courses before teaching students the basics, Peter Berkowitz, in the Wall Street Journal, describes the terrible life consequences of this sort of education for students, and for the nation:

... [U]niversity education can cause lasting harm. The mental habits that students form and the ideas they absorb in college consolidate the framework through which as adults they interpret experience, and judge matters to be true or false, fair or inequitable, honorable or dishonorable. A university that fails to teach students sound mental habits and to acquaint them with enduring ideas handicaps its graduates for public and private life.

Moreover, properly conceived, a liberal education provides invaluable benefits for students and the nation. For most students, it offers the last chance, perhaps until retirement, to read widely and deeply, to acquire knowledge of the opinions and events that formed them and the nation in which they live, and to study other peoples and cultures. A proper liberal education liberalizes in the old-fashioned and still most relevant sense: It forms individuals fit for freedom.

The nation benefits as well, because a liberal democracy presupposes an informed citizenry capable of distinguishing the public interest from private interest, evaluating consequences, and discerning the claims of justice and the opportunities for -- and limits to -- realizing it in politics. Indeed, a sprawling liberal democracy whose citizens practice different religions and no religion at all, in which individuals have family heritages that can be traced to every continent, and in which the nation's foreign affairs are increasingly bound up with local politics in countries around the world is particularly dependent on citizens acquiring a liberal education.

...It is a mark of the politicization and clutter of our current curriculum that these elementary requirements will strike many faculty and administrators as benighted and onerous. Yet the core I've outlined reflects what all successful individuals outside of academia know: Progress depends on mastering the basics.

...Many [professors] will fight such a common core, because it requires them to teach general interest classes outside their area of expertise; it reduces opportunities to teach small boutique classes on highly specialized topics; and it presupposes that knowledge is cumulative and that some books and ideas are more essential than others.

It's helpful to put names to the curricular models Berkowitz here invokes: UD would suggest St. John's in Annapolis as one version of the common core he has in mind, and crazy quilt Brown University as the enemy.... And if you've read at all deeply in University Diaries, you know that UD has a lot of sympathy with what Berkowitz is saying.

Though she finds his writing pompous.

I wonder whether he's overstating the effect and significance of a four-year undergraduate education, however. He reminds me in this piece of poor Dana Gioia, the head of the NEA, who's always gadding about warning the nation that it will soon meet its doom because not enough of us are serious readers...

I think it makes more sense to defend a basic liberal arts curriculum by arguing that it may contribute to greater happiness, to a profounder reconciliation to the conditions of human life, and, since this sort of education tutors one in the particularities of suffering, to deeper empathy with other people. It's a little tricky, thinks UD, to make grand claims about the urgent political utility for a liberal democracy of what may turn out to be, on many college campuses, a matter of fine-tuning...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Jarndyce v. Jarndyce

Teeny bit of legal action coming up in the endless litigation between Princeton University and the heirs of some rich people who intended their humongous gift years ago to that university to support only students intending to go into government work:

...William Robertson maintains his parents, Charles and Marie Robertson, heirs to the A&P grocery fortune, gave $35 million in stock to Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs expressly to train to students to work for the U.S. government. He claims Princeton hasn't lived up to its end of the deal, and he wants to be able to spend the foundation's money elsewhere for its intended purpose.

...The unusual circumstances at Princeton include not only the big financial stakes but a long, steady build-up of acrimony that has prevented a settlement and made Robertson willing to spend millions suing his alma mater.

Still, trends among both universities and donors suggest other conflicts are likely — no matter how carefully agreements are written...

The precise legal action isn't important, but the decision will finally put one side at a clear advantage.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

How Not to Argue About Poetry

Stranded [Pun on the poet's last name is fine.]:

Poet Mark Strand Preaches Political Indifference at UCI [Doesn't seem to have done anything of the sort. Read on.]

Mark Strand is one of the most talented poets currently writing, producing beautiful and evocative lines like:

Soon the house, with its shades
drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.

He’s been greatly -- and justly -- lauded for his skill; he has served as the nation’s poet laureate and received a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. [Also fine - he knows he needs to start with admiration so that this doesn't look like an ignorant or resentful hatchet job.]

But to paraphrase another, greater poet, there are more things in heaven and Earth than are evident in Strand’s philosophy. [The Hamlet quotation is tired and, in this context, hokey. The author's recourse to a too-often-used quotation makes us doubt his own capacity for fresh language, and therefore doubt his qualifications to attack Strand.] Ostensibly lecturing at UC Irvine on “the future of poetry,” [Ostensibly comes across as sneering.] Strand -- the first recipient of the university’s Nichols Award for Humanities -- managed the January 27 talk without locating any of the issues confronting contemporary poetry. [How can that be if, in the title of his essay, the author tells us that Strand took a strong position on politics and art?]

Indeed, what Strand delivered that evening was Poetry 101, a series of short -- if mildly amusing -- parables that attempted to define poetry. [The problem with this condescension is that the author is unknown, Mark Strand well-known. Strand may have earned the condescension, to be sure; but rhetorically it's a too-big-for-his-britches problem... And it's never a good idea - though academics in particular are fond of it - to attack adversaries by calling them naive and simple-minded (Poetry 101) -- unless they truly are. Mark Strand is not. And it's a venerable move among some social activists to say that artists interested in broad themes miss the turbulent, immediate particularities of political life. But art's value resides precisely in its removal from the chaos of the moment, and its worked, formal clarity about the experience of being in the world.]

“At the center of each poem is a mystery,” Strand said amiably, describing how poetry allows people to touch something greater than themselves and how poetry allows the author to communicate his own, personal world in that world’s unique symbolic language. But Strand never answered another, grander question: Why should anyone care? [Answer: Only a few people will ever care, even about the greatest poetry. It's difficult to understand. Its themes are often morbid, and most people can't stand that. The few people who care will care because they're compelled by the beauty of the poem's language, and the intriguing complexity of its ideas.]

Answer that question, and you might answer other interesting ones -- like, “Why has poetry fallen from public grace?” Or, “How can poetry reclaim its place in everyday American life?” [Challenging poetry never had public grace, and never will. Sentimental poetry does have a place in American life, whether in Hallmark card or rap form.]

Poetry’s fall was evident in Strand’s offhand comments and his responses to questions throughout the evening. “Some, particularly the Academy of American Poets, like to criticize Wallace Stevens for being too privileged, for not writing about social causes,” Strand said at one point. “Poetry should be about reaching beyond all that.”

Strand isn’t so much a leader in the movement to divorce poetry from politics; rather, he’s part of a crowd that has misconstrued the mundane for the real. Between Ginsberg’s “Howl” in the ’50s (“What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed upon their skulls and ate up their brains and imaginations. . . Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!”) and Marc Smith’s “I’m for the Little Guy” in the ’80s, few poets addressed the interests of average Joes. And among those few, most were black; many, like LA’s Watts Prophets, found their work consigned to a poetic ghetto until relatively recently. [Note that for this writer you're a privileged quietist if you're not writing for the little guy, the average Joe. Gotta be about poetry or politics; the poetry of Wallace Stevens or Mark Strand can never be construed as in some sense political, in some sense about how we move and feel in the public world. No. Since it's not explicitly and theatrically about injustice, it has to be about smug indifference to suffering.]

Strand would likely discount the Watts Prophets as poets. They’re often cited as the fathers of rap, and as Strand stated flatly at UCI, “There’s no connection between rap and poetry. . . I can’t listen to it. It’s like being blasted up against a wall.”

Well, then, there you have it.

It was a curious statement from someone who, mere moments before, had praised poetry as the communication of real feeling and said, “The poet’s vision of their world should not always be a comfortable one.” Perhaps some internal worlds -- like those of black Americans -- are more uncomfortable than others?

Like so many academics, Strand values stillness, and poetic stillness, unfortunately, is a luxury, an accouterment of the tenured and speculative classes that have lately signed an armistice and linked arms in their face-off with more revolutionary art forms. [Well, then, there you have it. What we're really attacking here is repose and meditation, the long silent practice of creative thought that generates the greatest poetry. And prose. James Baldwin left the turmoil of America and moved to France so that he could have enough stillness to write his novels. This writer is forced to find this contemptible.]

(Strand’s Nichols Award was endowed by medical-technology bazillionaire ---and, let it be said, generous spirit -- Al Nichols.)

Never mind that rap incorporates more elements of formal poetry -- particularly metric rhyme -- than the free verse so popular among Strandians. Rap -- and the street poetry that gave birth to it -- is not about stillness; much of it, particularly the less commercialized stuff, addresses the social issues Strand maintains poets should “rise above.”

And it’s true. No poetry that addresses politics has survived. Except Shakespeare and Marlowe, who peppered their verse plays with direct commentary on current events. And Percy Bysshe Shelley’s invocation to the masses in “The Masks of Anarchy” to

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you--
Ye are many -- they are few.

And T.S. Eliot’s evident compassion for the alienated in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” in which he describes “the muttering retreats / of restless nights in one night cheap hotels.”

[The writer's problem is sentimentality. He insists that poetry be about high dudgeon, raw feeling, outrage on behalf of the alienated... But T.S. Eliot isn't expressing compassion in Prufrock... The poem is about self-hatred, and fear of other people... The highest forms of poetry will never appeal to people like the author, because he is too full of restless feeling to be patient enough to read it.]

An old Chinese adage observes that the first thing tyrants do in taking hold of a country is round up the poets. Strand needn’t worry. Speaking before a mostly upper-middle-class audience, he finished to rousing applause and then signed books for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, local poet Jaimes Palacio is reading his heart-rending poem about Arthur Carmona, a wrongly imprisoned teenager from Costa Mesa; LA’s Jim Natal is reading his hymn to the endangered Bolsa Chica wetlands; Sherman Alexie is recounting stories of Indian reservations; and DJ Renegade is talking of Christmas in the Washington, D.C., ghetto, his mother polishing the same Christmas ornaments year after year. [The writer seems unaware of the bathos of the language he's bringing to these descriptions.] Everywhere, there are beautiful, well-crafted poems that acknowledge the politics of loss and suffering -- poems that connect to Strand’s “greater mystery” while comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

And Strand? Strand remains above it all. And from that perspective, he misses it completely.


Here's the full Strand poem that the writer quotes in part at the beginning of his piece.

My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer


When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon's ash-colored coat
on the black bay.


Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.
And my mother will stare into the starlanes,
the endless tunnels of nothing,
and as she gazes,
under the hour's spell,
she will think how we yield each night
to the soundless storms of decay
that tear at the folding flesh,
and she will not know
why she is here
or what she is prisoner of
if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.


My mother will go indoors
and the fields, the bare stones
will drift in peace, small creatures --
the mouse and the swift -- will sleep
at opposite ends of the house.
Only the cricket will be up,
repeating its one shrill note
to the rotten boards of the porch,
to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark,
to the sea that keeps to itself.
Why should my mother awake?
The earth is not yet a garden
about to be turned. The stars
are not yet bells that ring
at night for the lost.
It is much too late.

Start with the paradox at the very end: Not yet; and yet much too late. The earth, like the poet's mother, is ashy, vague, unfulfilled, full of nothingness, not knowing itself, not alive. Mother and earth are both too young, in the sense of unknowing, and too old, in the sense of having arrived at this late summer night after eons of late summer nights, none of them with any clarity, none of them yielding light as to the meaning of existence. The light is "veiled and dust-filled," his mother is about "shadow" and "smoke," and the moon wears an "ash-colored coat." The smudgy half-life of the earth mirrors our half-life.

The heart of the poem's in the second stanza, where his mother stares into the vast emptiness between the stars and thinks "how we yield each night/
to the soundless storms of decay..." -- how our lives quietly rush away from us even as we are unaware of the violence of our daily demise, even as we fail to understand why we are here.

The cricket sings his mother's song -- one note only, in the "rimless dark," a world without clarity, boundaries, meanings. The world does not sing to us, or to her. It is not a garden, or a poem. It is an ashen enigma.

Like most great poems, this one's existential, approaching with great subtlety and love the vulnerability of human beings. Language worms its way into this perplexity and suffering as nothing else can; language allows us to sense our essential condition. Poetic language does this through indirection, since it's impossible to grasp the condition directly.
Scathin' Online Schoolmarm...

...leads today's reading from the Book of Boone.

'The wheels touch down five miles from the University of Georgia campus, and the first thing Dallas billionaire [$$$$!] T. Boone Pickens sees after leaving the $50 million [$$$$!], leather-couch comfort of his Gulfstream 550 [$$$$!] is a stuffed cowboy hanging from the control tower. [The reporter for the Dallas Morning News is a genius. He knows exactly what his readers want to read. They want to read about big money. Right away. Up front.]

It's almost as if the Bulldogs knew Pickens was coming.

"This isn't Nebraska, where the fans applaud you if you win," Pickens says. "If we win, these Georgia fans are going to be nasty."

The day started with Pickens quickly bagging his limit of 15 doves while hunting with family and friends on his 45,000-acre ranch [$$!] near Pampa in the Texas Panhandle.

All Pickens could talk about as he picked off birds as if they were stationary targets at a state fair was the Oklahoma State-Georgia game, set to kick off at 5:45 p.m. Central time.

"This is big," said Pickens, whose energy and stamina belie his 79 years. "We find out where we are tonight. The whole country may be talking about Oklahoma State tomorrow." [Don't wanna give away the ending, but OSU loses. Just shows that when you hand your program to a billionaire because you want his money, it's liable to stink.]

Pickens' fourth wife, Madeleine, 60, causes people to stop and stare as much for her statuesque, blond-haired beauty as for the 30-carats-plus, heart-shaped diamond [$$!] on her left hand.

The couple resides during the week in Dallas but spend most weekends at the ranch, which could be confused for a resort in Dubai [$$!]. Boone and Madeleine, who married in 2005, recently built a runway there. Now the couple can come and go on their airplane the way most people drive out of their garage.

"Boone is spending so much time thinking about Oklahoma State these days, I think it's moved into the top three things that he does," said Madeleine, referring to her husband's many ventures.

At the moment, those include commodities and equities investing, buying up water rights in West Texas to sell water across the state and building the world's largest wind farm.

But Madeleine is no stranger to being around aggressive businessmen who love sports. She was married to Gulfstream founder and magnate Allen E. Paulson before he died in 2000, at age 78.

Paulson was an avid thoroughbred horse owner, and Madeleine remains the owner of Cigar, who captured the Breeders' Cup Classic and was voted horse of the year in 1995 and 1996 while winning a record 16 straight races.

After the plane stops in Oklahoma City to pick up the last of 14 passengers, including former Oklahoma State regents chairman Burns Hargis and his wife, it's off to Athens.

Close scrutiny

Pickens was criticized for business practices in the 1980s that included buying up a bunch of stock in a company, then trying to buy that company. The move would drive up the stock price, allowing Pickens to sell his stock at a profit. It also earned him a label he despises: corporate raider.

So even a $165 million gift to Oklahoma State for new athletic facilities has been questioned. The questions cover everything from how it's being invested – in Pickens' own BP Capital, an energy hedge fund – to the university's buying up houses near campus to make room for a new athletic village being built with Pickens' largesse.

What no one disputes, however, is that Pickens is reshaping an entire university with the fortune he built, lost, then built again. It may be the best story in college athletics when it's done. Simply put, Pickens loves his alma mater and got sick and tired of watching his beloved Cowboys get trampled in football by the likes of Oklahoma and Texas.

He knew that with OSU's budget, third lowest in the Big 12 ahead of only Iowa State and Baylor, the Cowboys wouldn't be able to compete in football without financial help. Lots of financial help.

Pickens first gave $75 million to renovate the football stadium in 2003, then followed with the $165 million in December 2005. Two things made the second gift possible: the persistence of his friend Mike Holder, now the athletic director, and a record year in Pickens' commodities hedge fund that resulted in $1.261 billion in clear profit.

No love for Miles

An hour into the flight, Pickens begins making his case for why current Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is the right guy for the job by blasting former coach Les Miles, who's now in charge at LSU.

"Mike wants to be here," Pickens says. "He's permanent. During the 2004 season, I offered to pay for new practice fields and asked Les if he wanted artificial turf or grass. He said he would call me and let me know. He never called back. That told me right there, he didn't plan to be around long. [You never offend the king.]

"Then, that Alamo Bowl game against Ohio State proved to me he wanted out. Ohio State beat us like 100-to-nothing. I left at halftime, flew home and watched the fourth quarter from my bed. I was worried LSU might not be interested in him after that.

"But thank God they offered him the job. The folks at Oklahoma State wanted to try to keep him, and I said, 'If you do, one of your top donors will no longer be enthusiastic.' " [Threats work every time for T. Boone.]

Fortune lost and found

In 1995, Pickens' world began collapsing. His best friend, West Texas businessman Jerry Walsh, and Walsh's wife, died in a car accident. Then, Pickens and his second wife, Beatrice, divorced. And in 1996, Pickens was forced out of Mesa Inc., the oil company he formed and ran for 40 years.

Pickens began treatment for depression.

It would get worse from a financial standpoint. Pickens had $36 million left and used $34 million of it to create a commodities hedge fund in 1997. In 1998, that fund had lost $32 million and was worth $2.4 million as oil fell to $10 a barrel, a level not seen since 1970.

Today, Pickens has two hedge funds – one for energy commodities, the other for equities – and has more than $4 billion under management.

Oil's record run to $60 a barrel made Pickens a billionaire again. According to Forbes magazine, Pickens was worth $2.7 billion at the start of the year.

Rock star treatment

Pickens settles next to Madeleine on a 35-seat bus with a police escort to Georgia's Sanford Stadium.

"I saw [Florida coach] Urban Meyer at the Kentucky Derby and I asked him what I could do for the team that I hadn't already done," Pickens says. "He said, 'Go to every game – home and away – and make sure they see you.' "

As Pickens gets off the bus, seven Oklahoma State students spot him and begin elbowing each other, then start taking pictures as they shout, "Thank you for all you've done!"

Pickens asks if they'd like a picture with him. The students begin yelling and shouting, nearly dumping their cups of liquid courage all over Pickens. As the students look at the digital image and walk away, they are jumping and high-fiving each other.

"How can this atmosphere not keep you young?" asks Andrew Littlefair, a longtime business associate of Pickens who worked in the White House under Ronald Reagan.

Investing in a bond

For years, Pickens and Holder would hunt quail together, typically in November when Oklahoma State's football season was coming undone. For years, Holder would tell Pickens what OSU needed to kick-start the athletic department.

In November 2004, Holder told Pickens the school needed $200 million. Pickens said he would never give that kind of money unless he felt comfortable with the person controlling the purse strings. Pickens wanted that person to be Holder. At the time, Holder was OSU's golf coach. Pickens wanted him to take over the athletic department.

Holder had no interest. He had won eight national titles in 32 years and had led the fundraising to build Karsten Creek Golf Club, used by the men's and women's golf teams since the course opened in 1994.

Then Pickens dropped one line on Holder that changed everything.

"Well, Mike, you're on the bike with your feet on the handlebars," Pickens said. "You're coasting. You're not pushing yourself."

Pickens says now, "That got to him. It got at his pride."

On Sept. 16, 2005, Holder was named athletic director at Oklahoma State. In December 2005, Pickens transferred $165 million to the university for the construction of new facilities. [See there? That's how it's done. That's how you buy a university.]

The money – now invested in Pickens' equities hedge fund – has grown to nearly $300 million, according to Pickens.

Countdown to kickoff

Pickens and his entourage, now numbering 23 after the arrival of another planeload of supporters, are led into the stadium and down to the locker room before the game.

Holder takes Pickens inside for about 15 minutes. After Pickens emerges, Burns Hargis asks if the players look nervous.

"No," Pickens says. "I think they're ready to go."

Former Oklahoma State golfers Scott Verplank and Bob Tway are at the game and find Pickens.

"I think the football landscape in our state is changing," Verplank says. He adds that he can envision OSU beating Oklahoma on a regular basis. "It may not be this year or next year," he says. "But the tide is going to change."

Aggies' costly cut

In Pickens' office in Dallas, he has a framed article from Texas A&M's 12th Man Magazine last year listing the top 10 mistakes in Aggies history. On the list: cutting Pickens from a $25-a-month basketball scholarship.

Coach Marty Karow cut Pickens in 1947 because he was too short and "not fast enough to scatter leaves."

Pickens, who initially wanted to go to Texas but couldn't get a scholarship offer, transferred to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) because his animal science credits would be accepted.

He attempted to play basketball for legendary OSU coach Henry Iba, but Iba, too, said Pickens was too slow. When Pickens finished school at OSU and needed a job, Iba offered to help him get a high school coaching gig as long as Pickens would send him a couple of players.

"I think what I've done since for the school would make Henry proud," Pickens said. "I bet we'll get more than a couple players with all the new facilities we're building."

Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer is impressed. Switzer took a tour of OSU's facilities this year and told a local television station, "Oklahoma needs to wake up because 18- and 19-year-old kids don't care about tradition. They want what's shiny and new, and Oklahoma State is fixing to have the best facilities I've ever seen."

Game time

With 27 minutes to kickoff, Pickens' party has settled into a suite in the southwest corner of Sanford Stadium when the public address announcer booms, "It's Saturday night in Athens, and it's time to tee it up between the hedges!" A sellout crowd of more than 94,000 stands and screams.

OSU players look around and take it all in. Welcome to the Southeastern Conference.

As Georgia kicks off to start the game, Pickens says, "OK, this is it gang."

The announcers on the TV inside the suite blast OSU for taking the ball and going three-and-out.

"Oh, shut up," Pickens mutters.

Right then, the Cowboys snap the ball over punter Matt Fodge's head, and Georgia scores on the next play.

"I'm in an unlucky chair," Madeleine says. "I'm switching. Everyone switch."

Adds Pickens, "You start off slow and then you pick it up."

OSU's defense holds Georgia to two straight three-and-outs.

"They thought they had Florida Atlantic," Pickens says, growing in confidence. "I'll get really mouthy here in a second." [Hm. Boone and UD have something in common. We both bad-mouth Florida Atlantic...]

The Cowboys tie the game at 7 with 8:45 left in the first quarter.

"Take that, Dawgs!" Pickens yells, looking out the window at the Georgia fans seated outside. "It's awfully quiet. I bet you could hear a pin drop."

BCS is the goal

Pickens wants Oklahoma State to play in a Bowl Championship Series game and have a chance to win every game it plays.

By this time next year, Boone Pickens Stadium will be completely refurbished. And ground should be broken on an indoor practice facility and new practice fields.

Pickens' money has also paid for nine-foot mattresses for athletes to sleep on and a chef, Andrew McGee, to preside over their dining hall. Pickens jokes that he never had a good meal on campus, even as a student, until McGee was hired.

Holder used to give Pickens a long list of things the athletic department needed every year. This year, the only thing athletics asked for was a new Web site at a cost of $200,000.

"The list is getting shorter," Pickens said. "That's good."

Looking down the road

OSU converts on third-and-21 and scores a touchdown, cutting Georgia's lead to 21-14 at halftime.

"I love it," Pickens says.

The second half doesn't go well. Georgia returns a punt 63 yards. Bobby Reid throws an interception. With 7:09 left to play, Georgia leads, 35-14, and Madeleine asks, "Are we going to stay until the end and get caught in the crush?"

Pickens wants to see one more drive. It ends with a punt. With 5:52 left, the Pickens party is heading out of the suite.

Madeleine uses one of her horse racing terms: "There's always another race."

Pickens tips the bus driver $200 for getting everyone back to his private jet quickly.

The stuffed cowboy is still hanging from the control tower. Pickens, who knows all about bouncing back, sits down on his Gulfstream next to Hargis and says, "We learned a lot tonight. We've got a ways to go. But we're going to get there. I promise."'

---dallas morning news---
Faithful UDites...

...know of UD's love of Malcolm Lowry's
novel, Under the Volcano.
The San Francisco Chronicle reviews a
new book which collects Lowry's short
stories and occasional writing.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Fee Scam

Tomorrow's New York Times has an article about the many universities and colleges that hit their students up for higher and higher fees every year. Fees are add-on expenses beyond tuition, and they cover, as the NYT notes, everything conceivable: energy, technology, health, buildings and grounds, student activities, libraries, course materials, transportation... but the biggie at most places is athletics.

For instance, "The University of North Dakota has imposed a $37 per semester fee to pay for pulling its whole athletic program into Division I." We already know about Southern Illinois and its huge Saluki Way fees. Other sports-mad schools, like San Diego State and Indiana University (where the sports fee went up so amazingly one year that student protests forced the university to rescind it), are notorious for rip-off fees.

From tomorrow's article:

'Some students are rebelling, calling fees an underhanded tuition increase that obscures the real cost of college. In Arizona, students recently called on the Regents to change the fee-setting process. “A lot of students felt like fees were being used for services that used to be covered by tuition,” said Serena Unrein, executive director of the Arizona Students’ Association.

In Oregon, students went to the Legislature last spring to demand relief. “Students want more transparency,” said Ms. McLain, who is student body president.

And in California last year a state judge ordered the University of California system to pay back millions of dollars to the students who sued the university system in 2003 charging that increases in fees violated university assurances that fees would stay fixed for current students. The University of California has appealed the decision.'

Over the years UD's featured a number of articles from student newspapers chronicling discontent with fees... um, have to tack on more words here in order to have something to highlight for the links...
Yeah, yeah, Michigan
lost in this big upset,
I know... I know...

...and I had absolutely nothing to say about it until Thorstein Veblen at Left of Centre sent me a link to the Michigan coach's postgame interview, and a link to commentary about it on a blog at the New York Times. Here's the NYT blogger:

'The juiciest quote Carr gave ... is about how the off-field problems at Michigan could have contributed to the loss. Michigan had four players dealing with legal issues this summer.

“Any off-the-field issues are a distraction to the team,” Carr said. “And you’re trying to deal with that. They’re certainly a distraction to your team. How much they had to do with it, I don’t know.”

One of the players was wide receiver LaTerryal Savoy, who was accused of indecent exposure for allegedly exposing himself to a female acquaintance in Michigan Stadium. That led to this quote by his lawyer to John Heuser in the Ann Arbor News: “In order for this to be a crime, this has to be done knowingly. I get the impression he just forgot to zip up his fly.”'

UD has some questions.

Was the stadium full when Savoy did his thing? If so how can we say that he exposed himself only to a 'female acquaintance'? If he exposed himself to her, didn't he also expose himself to a lot of other people in an act of, er, collateral exposure?

UD may be live-blogging a news story in a few months (it's not yet a done deal), and she finds this description of live-blogging's advantages intriguing:

'[Scott Beale, of the blog Laughing Squid] reported the [Burning Man] story by updating the blog over time. The practice is not unusual for bloggers. Revising or appending an update after the main or original story is fairly common. However, as this particular story grew and grew, Scott decided to keep adding more and more updates to the same blog post instead of creating new and separate posts each day. As of late today, he had twenty-four updates, each one adding some new piece of information to the story or linking to others and it was playing out elsewhere. The last update I read was a link to a Jimmy Kimmel segment where he's making fun of the story.

Having been on the road, I had not read much about the Burning Man story until I read Scott's story. Scott does a great job covering the story (and he doesn't cloud it with opinion.) This story on Scot's blog had a real beginning and I could follow it, having the sense of how it developed. I was able to catch up on what I missed and it was satisfying. If this story had been covered in today's newspaper, much of the detail would have been collapsed and summarized -- and that summary, if I want it, I'll be able to find in Wikipedia. While a newspaper is unable to give me a choice between a chronological view and a summary, the Web could.

Scott's story hints at a better way to tell a news story, better than traditional methods practiced by or imposed upon journalists. What's increasingly difficult to tell, in print or other news media, is the difference between what is new and what is being used to fill up the paper or the hour-long newscast. As a reader, I care about how I fill up my time and use my attention and I know that print and TV waste it. If I'm watching a breaking news story on CNN, they repeat the story over and over again, and then go out into the field to talk to people who have no new news to report. You have to endure all of that in hopes that they will eventually uncover something new to report. I have often wished I could turn the TV set off and let CNN notify me when the breaking news story actually comes with news to break.

When I pick up the paper, I don't know if or how today's story picks up from yesterday or the day before. I know the journalist can't assume that people are familiar with the story and have been following it for days so the story must be repeated. Also, on larger stories like the Iraq war, I get lost, seeing similar stories day after day without much sense of what's exactly changing. It's hard to see a beginning, middle or most dire, the end. I end up reading feature stories that promise to be original, self-contained and complete.

I wonder if anybody is thinking that there might be a better way to organize a story using the tools of the Internet, creating a timeline view of the news. What if each news story had its own "blog" and the developments were added as they occurred? A reader could choose to see the story from the beginning or start where you last checked the story. What if an RSS reader understood the structure of stories with updates and allowed you to expand and collapse a news story like a timeline? What if I could subscribe to stories I wanted to follow and just get updates?

While a timeline view of stories could be automated, I think the best results would come with a journalist using a tool to create the story. I use Google News but I don't find it a satisfying replacement for a newspaper. While it is easier to scan than a newspaper or a newspaper's daily index, Google is not particularly good at identifying the best story or the story with the right amount of news in it. In its own way, it fills up space, telling you how many stories they are, not which ones have new information. And that's the key, the reader/viewer wants to know when there's news, and not because the newspaper or TV needs to say it has news. I believe you need someone to make a judgement on what's news.

I imagine someone's working on a kind of wikipedia for news as it happens. I can think of some interesting ways to visualize a front-page for a news site that ranks and highlights stories with breaking news. The reader might be able to go back in time and join a story that's now a week old. It's a reverse Reuters, which, instead of pushing the same story of a single event to many channels, it organizes the flow of multiple stories of events coming from many, different sources. However, I want an editor or reporter sorting through that flow and organizing the story for me, much as Scott did.'
SOS Takes Her Hat Off... this master of the craft of cliche. Don't ask how he does it. You're either born with this or you're not.

'As the season plays out, time will tell if Michigan's stunning loss to Appalachian State was a defining moment or merely a hiccup....

...When it happens so obviously right smack dab in front of 109,218 pairs of eyes and a couple dozen more on the Big Ten Network, against Appalachian State, that's a different story.

...The previous high-water mark for I-AA teams was win by The Citadel over Arkansas in 1992. Hogs' coach Jack Crowe was fired on the spot.

Some distressed UM loyalists think Carr merits the same fate.

...But Carr has enjoyed considerable success and has earned the right to go out on his terms at his time. He will never live down the loss to Appalachian State, but he deserves the opportunity to steer his team out from under it.

...Gregg Brandon: It's easy to play by the book. You score in overtime, trail by one, kick the extra point and proceed to another overtime period.

It was sheer genius, and called for a heavy dose of guts, for Bowling Green to go for a two-point conversion and the win in the first OT at Minnesota on Saturday night. It was genius because it worked, but the right call even had it not.

Brandon knew his Falcons were reeling. Minnesota scored 24 unanswered points and BG had just 125 total yards in the second half before driving 63 yards for a game-tying field goal in the waning seconds of regulation. The Gophers scored effortlessly to begin overtime. BG's defense was dog tired and on its heels and Brandon knew it.

So he put the ball in the hands of his best player - quarterback Tyler Sheehan was an astounding 34-of-51 for 388 yards in his first college start - and rolled the dice. Nice call.

...Notre Dame had 121 yards of total offense and three turnovers in a 33-3 loss to visiting Georgia Tech. Weis had a quarterback controversy even before that game; now, he has a dire mess heading to Penn State. He'll no doubt sink or swim with Jimmy Clausen, who has the best arm, from here out.'

---toledo blade---


Big Brother on the Godzillatron;
Plus, Postgame Analysis

'From the gleaming, incandescent 55-foot-by-134-foot screen known as "Godzillatron," [University of Texas football coach] Mack Brown has the Texas crowd prepared for everything. Every so often on a game night, his prerecorded high-definition visage will gaze down from Royal-Memorial Stadium's huge video board, reminding fans to cheer with class...

He saw some things [during the team's latest game] that disappointed him, but he said he focused his postgame speech on positives. (Presumably, one of those was the encouraging fact that no UT player was arrested on the sidelines.)...'

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The problem is that someone else
will take the ethics course for them.

An excerpt from a column by Lou Gelfand, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

[If] newspaper sports sections published a standing feature, perhaps headlined "The Wayward," the column rarely would lack for names university athletes -- generally football or basketball players -- suspended for unacceptable behavior or violating a statute.

Years ago it should have been obvious to university presidents that every graduate be required to have passed a course in ethics -- one shaped, where practical, to conform to a student's academic interests and including lectures by law enforcers, attorneys and former judges.

If you're a believer in big-time college and professional football, don't despair. Neither is likely to suffer permanent damage from the Vick case. His former employer will be hit with a loss of revenue for a year, maybe two. But those who envision the gridiron as the citadel of courage and virility won't adopt a new set of standards.

Nor will the cycle of the lack of respect for the law, exemplified by the Vicks, and the scores of other professional and college football players suspended or dismissed for unacceptable conduct, be silenced until boards of regents agree that ethical standards and graduation rates of athletes are as much a priority as building new stadiums and expansions to existing ones.
A Harvard Professor Considers
Hedge Fund Managers

'Since the dawn of civilization, [Yikes. Quelle cliche. And he starts with it.] markets have been ubiquitous. Many of us have benefited from their focus and efficiency. Yet two widely held beliefs — that markets are best left unregulated and that markets are inherently benign — are naive and outdated. In fact, all markets require some regulation; and it is as likely that there will be clear winners and losers, as that all will benefit from a market economy.

For many, perhaps most, Americans, markets are sacrosanct. Most people in the United States cannot even envision a society that doesn’t revolve around an untrammeled market. In interviews with Americans (particularly young Americans), my research team has found a widespread assumption that any governmental intervention is bad, that the most accurate measure of success is how much money you have accumulated, indeed that general merit can best be gauged by one’s net worth — with perhaps an exception made for Supreme Court justices. People find it hard to believe that chief executive officers and star athletes did not always earn millions, that the marginal tax rate on high incomes was once more than 90 percent, and that some lead happy lives without numerous cars, homes, and private-school educations.

The accumulation and cross-generational transmission of wealth in the United States has gone way too far. When a young hedge-fund manager can take home a sum reminiscent of the gross national product of a small country, something is askew. When a self-made entrepreneur can accumulate enough money to, in effect, purchase that country, something is totally out of whack. It’s impossible to deny that market fundamentalism has gone too far. [Rather plodding prose for such a lively subject.]

There are two modest and generous ways to change this situation. First, no single person should be allowed annually to take home more than 100 times as much money as the average worker in a society earns in a year. If the average worker makes $40,000, the top compensated individual may keep $4 million a year. Any income in excess of that amount must be contributed to a charity or returned to the government, either as a general gift, or targeted to a specific line item (ranging from the Department of Veterans Affairs to the National Endowment for the Arts).

Second, no individual should be allowed to accumulate an estate more than 50 times the allowed annual income. Thus, no person would be permitted to pass on to his or her beneficiaries more than $200 million. Anything in excess must be contributed to charity or donated to the government.

To those who would scream “foul” to such limits on personal wealth, I would remind them that just 50 years ago, this proposal would have seemed reasonable, even generous. Our standards of “enough” have become irrationally greedy. Were these proposals enacted, I predict that they would be accepted with amazing speed, and individuals would wonder why they had not always been in effect.

As a society, we would be sending an unambiguous sign that we believe no individual or family should be allowed to accumulate unlimited wealth. In addition, we could use the newly available billions — indeed, probably trillions — to begin to solve the problems about which others are writing in this collection of solutions to save the world.'

(Howard Gardner, education professor at Harvard. From a Foreign Policy symposium on ways to save the world. )
The Closing of the End of the University Without a Soul

From a review of a book poised to attack as classes start up this month.

'With a quiet fury against the many malefactors he sees everywhere in schools across the nation, Anthony Kronman, the former dean of Yale Law School, now submits to the public his brief for the prosecution against professors teaching the humanities in this country. "Education's End" (Yale University Press, 320 pages, $27.50) announces that these professors have failed, one and all, in their primary duty — that of teaching "the meaning of life." Surrounded as they are by the deep richness of Western literature, philosophy, and political thought, they have been blind to the magnitude of this bounty and have instead witlessly surrendered to the forces of political correctness, affirmative action, feminism, and vapid theorizing.

...Mr. Kronman builds his indictment while again and again reminding his readers that "the meaning of life" has been cast aside by the many thousands he arraigns. He argues that the natural sciences and the "harder" social sciences, uninfected by relativism and lack of courage, have surged ahead to become the dominant practices of the academy. Heady with a sense of mission, these disciplines now command the admiration of the public. The humanities are no more than a "laughingstock."

...The one extraordinary omission in Mr. Kronman's bill of particulars is, alas, evidence. It is one thing to claim that humanists across the country have defaulted on what he believes is their primary duty — to teach "the meaning life." It is quite another to accumulate the facts — by analysis of curricula, by interviews with teachers and students, by a continuing exposure to what actually goes on within classroom after classroom, and by other forms of painstaking research. Then and only then can we ever know for sure what professors do.'

Hell, UD'd settle for some anecdotes.
This is the Second Review...

...of a book UD
thinks she'll have to buy.
It's in the Washington Post.
The book in question, which she'd
already read about in the
Village Voice, is
An Arsonist's Guide
to Writers' Homes
in New England.

Here's a bit from the Post review:

This straight-faced, postmodern comedy scorches all things literary, from those moldy author museums to the excruciating question-and-answer sessions that follow public readings. There are no survivors here: women's book clubs, literary critics, Harry Potter fans, bookstores, English professors, memoir writers, librarians, Jane Smiley...

...When Sam [the main character] was 18 years old, he snuck into the Shrine of Amherst [Emily Dickinson's house] after hours for a smoke and accidentally incinerated it along with two docents who were upstairs making whoopee on the poet's virginal bed. As you can imagine, Sam's parents took this hard. His father was an editor at a small university press, and his mother was an English teacher. "Beautiful words really mattered to them," Sam writes. "You could always count on a good poem to make them cry or sigh meaningfully." And the town reacted badly, too: graffiti, ugly slurs, "some picketing by the local arts council." And there were the letters, although, as Sam admits, "There is something underwhelming about scholarly hate mail -- the sad literary allusions, the refusal to use contractions." What really unnerves him are the "other letters," scores of them from across the country: "They were all from people who lived near the homes of writers and who wanted me to burn those houses down."

... You'll have your own favorite scene, but mine is the spot-on description of a bitter, alcoholic writer-in-residence at the Robert Frost House reading from a story that is "more or less an unadorned grocery list of the things the old man hated."...

The Village Voice quotes from the narrator, once a young unintentional arsonist, now out of jail and trying to lead a normal life. He begins to get letters from people:

A man in New London, Connecticut, wanted me to burn Eugene O'Neill's home because of what an awful drunk O'Neill was . . . A woman in Lenox, Massachusetts, wanted me to torch Edith Wharton's house because visitors to Wharton's house parked in front of the woman's mailbox . . . A dairy farmer in Cooperstown, New York, wanted me to pour gasoline down the chimney of the James Fenimore Cooper House . . . 'We'll pay, too; I'll sell some of our herd if I have to. I look forward to your response.'

Other homes on the list: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's, Nathaniel Hawthorne's, Mark Twain's, Edward Bellamy's, and a replica log cabin at Walden Pond. As these places begin to go up in flames, Sam desperately tries to prove his innocence by tracking down the people who sent him those letters years before.

The plot doesn't burn so much as it smolders. But that doesn't matter, because Clarke serves up so many priceless setpieces skewering the literary life — from women's reading groups and the current vogue for memoirs, to the love affair between two professors of American literature, one of whom begins class with the statement, "Willa Cather is a cunt." There's also a detour to New Hampshire, where Sam attends a reading by the writer in residence at the Robert Frost Place, an author who embodies the spirit of New England, and whose work features an ax-wielding old man named Pa. Any English major who can read this chapter without shedding tears of mirth should go into accounting.

Here's the book's website, with a chapter excerpt.
Snapshots from Home

'...GWU is known for its swanky new housing with kitchens and dining rooms; it ranked third on the Princeton Review's "dorms like palaces" list this year. And yet, more often than not, it's the old, cramped Thurston [Hall], with its exposed pipes and dead bugs in the fluorescent lights, that sticks.

In 1968, students refused to leave the lounge of the then-all-female dorm at midnight curfew, telling campus police they were holding a love-in. During the Vietnam War, protesters marched from Thurston three blocks to the White House. One alum remembered people getting hosed down at the doors to wash off crowd-control chemicals.

Former Virginia governor Mark Warner (D) told students he did some partying when he lived in Thurston in the '70s and liberated some ice cream from the cafeteria pre-dawn. In the '80s, students in Thurston welcomed newly elected President Ronald Reagan to Washington, chanting, "Bonzo, Bonzo." In 1992 some company supposedly announced that they ate more pizza than any other dorm in the country.

Former GWU president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg stayed in Thurston one night, much of it spent answering the door for the stacks of pizzas that pranksters had ordered delivered to his room. "I'm told that there are no windows or clocks in casinos in Las Vegas because they want people to have a sense of timelessness -- just keep gambling. That's sort of how it is in Thurston," he said...."

---washington post---
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

Two locals respond in the newspaper to the Poshard plagiarism controversy at Southern Illinois University.

I write this letter as a taxpayer! [A taxpayer who uses exclamation marks!]

As a taxpayer [I said it again!], I am outraged [Bursting with pride and outrage!] by this self-anointed, holier than thou [Proud, proud cliches!] group calling themselves the Alumni and Faculty against Corruption at SIU. I am outraged [Dear Letter-Writer: SOS finds your ability to experience intense emotion over and over again exciting! She is panting!] they are trying to destroy a good man [John Wayne talk.] but don't have the guts [JW again.] to identify themselves. In my opinion [Dear L.W.: You can't start out fully extended and then all of a sudden shrink into in my opinion. Gotta keep it up. Try Here's the deal or Wake up suckers BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!], they are cowards of the worst kind. I challenge these cowards to publicly identify themselves! [You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you!] I challenge each one to turn over every dissertation, thesis or other academic paper they have written in the last 30 years for review. I have found over the years that people who hide their identities may be hiding something dishonest, unethical or even illegal in their past. [Ooh, now you're scaring me.]

Read my lips, you cowards! I pay your salary to teach [That taxpayer thing again.], not to spend your time searching a 23-year-old dissertation, which was approved by a review committee 23 years ago, looking for quotation marks to destroy the reputation of a good man. Is it possible you hide because you may have used taxpayer resources illegally in your witch hunt? [Read my lips... witch hunt... This man does not mince words!]

If these gutless geniuses refuse to publicly identify themselves, then I would urge the SIU Board of Trustees to find out who they are and whether they might have acted unethically or even illegally. I, and every other Southern Illinois taxpayer, have a right to this information.

Finally, Alumni and Faculty against Corruption at SIU, look in the mirror and you might find the real corruption staring back at you.

Charles R. Garnati, Carterville


Enough is enough

To the Editor:

Once again SIU is embroiled in controversy [Cliche, but let it go.]. This time over a 24-year-old Ph.D. dissertation by SIU President Glenn Poshard. The paper contains unattributed passages. The critics have a point: plagiarism is inimical to the academic enterprise. [Good - acknowledges some legitimacy on the other side.] But, in the annals of plagiarism, this appears to be small beer [The figurative language is making things a bit weird... annals... small beer...]. His academic committee, using information that was [Drop that was.] available to them at the time, granted the Ph.D. Poshard then went on to a brilliant career as a state Senator, a U.S. Congressman and a candidate for governor of Illinois. He then turned back to academia and rose to president of SIU. Arguably, he is one of the most illustrious graduates of SIUC in its history. [Yes, this is arguable. Also sad.]

I think we need to keep this in mind as we reflect on the continued turmoil at this university. From Jo Ann Argersinger's dismissal to Walter Wendler's firing to the hoax in the DE over a fictitious Iraq veteran, the university's name and reputation has taken a brutal beating.

The university community is in danger of devouring itself in these endless controversies. Meanwhile, its core mission of educating deserving students from the middle class in a world-class research environment is threatened.

It's time to move on and press for the things that will make SIUC the best university that it is [Drop that it is.] possible to have in this day and age [Thundering cliche.]. Let's argue about better classrooms and maintenance, better salaries for staff and faculty, better neighborhoods and a safer city. Let's support the students as they struggle through debt and the state's indifference to higher education.

And let's support Poshard. He's earned it. [Letter #1 came on too strong; this one comes on too weak. Cliches, unnecessary words, and insufficient confidence in the tone make the whole thing small beer. It moves unsteadily from unpersuasive assertion -- Poshard's brilliance -- to vague generalities about the purpose of a university. The writer, most damagingly, fails to see the connection between the state's indifference to its universities and a tradition of political hacks like Poshard running them. ]

D. Gorton, Carbondale

SOS summarizes: Complete lack of substance in both letters.


Same Thing Up There.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


A thoughtful consideration of the large and growing impact of blogging on legal scholarship. Excerpts:

'If you are looking for the future of legal scholarship, chances are that you may find it not in a treatise or the traditional law review but in a different form, profoundly influenced by the blogosphere.

...Who are the bloggers? The uninitiated might think they would be young professors, those who have grown up with the Internet and are comfortable with self-publication in that format. While there are some of those, the legal blogosphere tends to be populated by midcareer professors who have tenure, are intimately familiar with traditional legal scholarship and see the Internet as a way to reach more readers in a less ritualized format.

...[A] blog reaches far more readers than traditional scholarship. Eugene Volokh said in 2006 that his blog gets about 20,000 unique visitors a day. Readers of traditional law review articles are not counted, but, he says, he's pretty sure that number is very far from 20,000.

Immediate feedback is another reason. In days of yore, a law review article would be written, published and perhaps presented at a symposium. Scholars would reply with another article, perhaps followed by a response from the initial author. With a law review publication schedule of six to 18 months, scholarly dialogue proceeded at a snail's pace. Bloggers explore issues as they happen, knowing that others will critique their opinions within days, if not hours or minutes. Supreme Court opinions are announced, and bloggers post within hours. Longer, more thoughtful pieces will eventually be published about an important case, but the initial assessment is over in a week or less. Scholars want to be part of that conversation.

There also may be a reputational bonus. Blogging gets you recognition among your peers earlier in your career, resulting in more readers for the articles you do publish. Law review editors may view your next submission more favorably because they're familiar with your online presence. You may get more invitations to appear at symposia or consulted by lawyers for assistance in their cases. The key word here, though, is "may." Volokh, Hurt and Yin cite anecdotal evidence, but the jury is still out.

...Even if blogging will never replace traditional legal scholarship, blogs are where the scholarly dialogue increasingly takes place...'

---legal times---
Terrible Title...

...but the subject of this article is part of our acclimation to the forthcoming university football season. Plus it's from UD's alma mahler, Northwestern:

Urinator Terminators to Patrol NU Game

After fielding complaints about fans peeing on manicured lawns as they leave Northwestern University football games in Evanston, officials have come up with a relief plan for today's home opener. [Relief plan's obvious but not bad.]

More portable toilets will be available outside Ryan Field, and the bathrooms will be available at nearby St. Athanasius School, which helps supply parking at football games.

But if fans still choose the great outdoors, they'll face $75 fines if caught.

Evanston police say they plan to crack down on public urinators outside Saturday's Northwestern-Northeastern football game at Ryan Field. [Who knew urinators was spelled with an or rather than an er?]

Evanston Police sent 500 leaflets this week to neighbors of the stadium, providing police phone numbers and a list of specific city code violations. [I guess they've been, er, fielding some complaints... This reminds UD of the time -- centuries ago -- when she was living in Paris in a small hotel off the Blvd. St Germain. One afternoon, as she sat in her window nook on the third floor, eating a crepe and enjoying the view of the Rue Whatever, a guy came out of a cafe just below her room and began watering the sidewalk. UD threw her crepe on his head.] The list included not only urinating and defecating in public, but also prohibitions on drinking alcohol in public areas, littering and disorderly conduct.

But public urination is the biggest problem that, er, ticks off residents, acknowledged Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington.

"I imagine that if someone is urinating in your flower garden, you are not going to be too happy," Eddington said.

The problem usually happens after big games against Big Ten teams. Police handed out about a dozen citations last year at such games to people breaking urination laws, Eddington said.

A game against a team like Northeastern University -- the Wildcats' opponent today -- usually draws fewer complaints, he said. [That's interesting. I wonder what it means. If you're playing against a serious competitor, there's more peeing... Is it because people leave earlier with a less inspiring contender? Or do men feel a greater need to commune with themselves when they're confronted with a true challenge...?

And isn't UD the sexist to assume women aren't squatting in the flower gardens of Evanston?]

"We are really looking for voluntary compliance to prevent this problem," Eddington said.
Coming to 'thesda.

So I suppose ol' UD will have to go and blog the thing. It's called Redshirts, and it's a play about bigtime university athletics:

"I have to choose my words very carefully," said Lou Bellamy, Penumbra Theatre artistic director, as he began to discuss the experiences of Lou Bellamy, University of Minnesota theater professor. The academic Bellamy is quite familiar with the topic that director Bellamy is staging as Penumbra opens its season in St. Paul.

"Redshirts" (the title refers to the practice of keeping a player out of varsity competition for a year to extend his or her college career) concerns a group of student athletes at a major university who are accused of plagiarism. Beyond that dramatic hook, though, the work by playwright Dana Yeaton explores the minefield that athletes, coaches and professors tiptoe through every year as they juggle academics and high-stakes college sports.

Bellamy has seen hundreds of real-life examples over some 30 years of teaching at the university -- student athletes who navigate the system with varying degrees of success and failure. He's been caught between the rock and the hard place of balancing academic necessities and flunking a student, which can end their athletic career and, ironically, dash whatever hopes they might have had for more education.

"The stakes are way too high," said Bellamy, "as universities are being used as training camps for the professional leagues. We have a ways to go on this."

Bellamy heard about "Redshirts" through Blake Robison, artistic director of Round House Theatre of Bethesda, Md. Round House is coproducing the show, and this production will travel to Bethesda. Previously, Robison headed the theater department at the University of Tennessee and invited playwright Yeaton to come down in 2004, several years after an academic scandal at the Southeastern Conference school.

"My motives were not to do an expose about the obvious thing -- that there's academic fraud in college football," said Yeaton. "I wanted to write a play about people we think we know, but that goes several layers down, like the stereotypical dumb football player who we later see is smart and self-aware."

In Yeaton's play, four running backs for fictional Tennessee Southern University struggle through a poetry class and end up being accused of plagiarism when similarities appear in essays they each wrote. The backfield coach intervenes with the English professor. Throughout the piece, a tutor figures prominently with the athletes.

If all this sounds familiar, local audiences certainly would find resonance with the academic tutoring fraud at the University of Minnesota that forced the resignation of basketball coach Clem Haskins and four top officials in the athletics department in 1999. Jan Gangelhoff, an administrator in academic counseling, was the leading figure in a scandal in which she and others completed assignments and wrote papers for athletes.