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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)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

UD Has a Little
Halloween Post... her branch campus,
University Diaries at Inside Higher Ed.
If it's not up yet, it'll be there in a little while.

[image from]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Real Question Is...

...what's the psychology
of quotation mark use?
What do people actually
think they're doing
when they do this?

UD has trouble putting
into words the content of gestures
like this... But the
"Blog" of "Unnecessary"
Quotation Marks
exists to help her.
There's a nice article about this blog today.


'[Quotation mark abuse] bothers people mightily ... as this 24-year-old grad student and language-lover has discovered from the hundreds, occasionally thousands of visitors she gets daily. And nary a day goes by when she doesn't receive a bunch of e-mails with photographic evidence of quote abuse, misuse or overuse. [Two examples are the] restaurant billboard in Madison, Wis., which felt the need to put quotes around "Lunch" and "Dinners." [And] the bathroom sign that asked visitors to Leave the Light "On" during business hours. ("On" was also underlined. Twice.)

A communications student who specializes in rhetoric at the University of Georgia in Athens, [the blogger] started her blog in 2005 after her senior year in college in Michigan. (Her boyfriend, also a rhetoric student but in Maryland, is a frequent contributor. And proofreader.)

The blog wasn't noticed much at first. But about six months ago, things started picking up. "You know how it happens - one person links to you, then others do. Also, everyone has camera phones now," [she] said in a phone interview. Earlier this week, she was linked on Yahoo!, which quadrupled her traffic for a couple days to about 2,000 hits - though her record is still about 3,000 in a day.

... Rampant quote abuse is a pet peeve of many writing teachers, of course. One of them, Pat Hoy, feels the larger problem is not the punctuation missteps - that's bad enough - but the reliance on quotes themselves, by writers who should know better.

"I have a thing against overuse of quotations, period," says Hoy, director of the expository writing program at New York University. "Whether in academic or bureaucratic writing, it's giving up responsibility for what you're writing. It's a pushing aside of the responsibility to be the major thinker in the piece."'

Right, so there are writers who quote too much from other people -- As George Bernard Shaw put it... Phyllis Diller calls this... That's a related thing, this guy suggests, to the "Security Guard" thing, because both gestures hide the self, the voice, of the author....? UD's not sure. What she does feel pretty sure of is that the effect of quotation marks in the world, as opposed to in the text, is a kind of disembodiment, a negation of conscious intent. As in Someone thinks the guy sitting here is a security guard. I'm not sure what a security guard is, and whether the guy sitting here is one, but someone thinks there's a security guard, and that the guy sitting here is one, so I've put up this sign...

There's another way in which the quotation mark thing can signify, in the world and in the text, and that's to be sarcastic -- to say Haha! Only an idiot would think this is a security guard. Security guard? What? Are you kidding me??

There's an even subtler way you can use the quotation mark -- a clever knowing postmodern way. Umberto Eco explains:

'I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows that he cannot say to her, `I love you madly', because he knows that she knows (and that she knows that he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say, `As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly.' At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently, he will nevertheless have said what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her, but he loves her in an age of lost innocence. If the woman goes along with this, she will have received a declaration of love all the same. Neither of the two speakers will feel innocent, both will have accepted the challenge of the past, of the already said, which cannot be eliminated, both will consciously and with pleasure play the game of irony… But both will have succeeded, once again, in speaking of love.'

This is related to a passage in Paul Fussell's Class, when he's talking about people he calls X's -- people who've beaten the whole class-racket:

'Soliciting no reputation for respectability, X people are freely obscene and profane, but tend to deploy vile language with considerable rhetorical effectiveness, differing from proles by using fucking as a modifier only now and then and never dropping the g. They may be rather fonder than most people of designating someone - usually a public servant or idol of the middle class - an asshole. This will suggest that generally they eschew euphemism, as, for example, when they insist that their children use the words penis and vagina. But they don't always call spades spades. Sometimes they will euphemize, but unlike more genteel speakers, Xs like to use euphemisms ironically or parodically, favoring those especially which low newspapers use with a knowing, libel-skirting leer. Thus when an X lifts one eyebrow slightly while referring to someone as a confirmed bachelor, we are to gather that flaming homosexual is meant. Similarly... starlet is the ironic euphemism for whore, constant companion for lover, tired (or overtired) for publicly drunk, and fun-loving for promiscuous. Applied to young women, willowy means near death from anorexia. X people can also use the middle class's euphemisms for sardonic effect if sufficient irony is signaled at the same time. Thus it is possible to speak of some poor soul's kleptomania problem in such a way as to install viciously skeptical quotation marks around the words.'

'Have you had any funny moments while you were teaching?

Well, what we professors find funny, students usually don’t find funny. Occasionally students misspell words that are bizarre to us. One student wrote, “He got a plastic enema,” when the correct answer was aplastic anemia.'

Q & A: Professor Lester Mitscher
The University Daily Kansan
Tenured Radical
Creates Turbulence
For Airplane Rich

For UD -- a lover of well-crafted stories,
a proponent of fairness, a web enthusiast,
and a professor -- the Victor Fleischer
story has it all.

First, look at him. A pisher. Thirty-six years old. Yet, already possessed of an old-man's mind, Professor Victor Fleischer meditates deeply upon tax codes, private equity taxes, tax policies, tax hikes, tax laws, carried interest taxes, service-compensatory profits, investment manager loopholes, income gaps, partnership tax rules, und so weiter.

This meditation has been carried out in quiet, non-aligned obscurity at a midwestern American university, its results published only on the web (they will soon appear in print, in a law journal).

"The draft paper has been downloaded more than 2,000 times," with politicians and everyone else eager to read Fleischer's proposal that the government "hike taxes on the 'carried interest' portion of the investment manager’s income from the current 15 percent capital gains fee to the 35 percent income tax that rich Americans typically pay." People already making millions of dollars a year in income (recall Harvard's hedge fund managers) have that income taxed at half of what you and I (I'm going to assume you make less than twenty million dollars a year) pay in taxes on our incomes.

Thomas Frank can write all the books he wants about grotesque wealth disparities in this country, but it's guys like Fleischer, doing the math and making the case, that actually redistribute things.

'It’s all quite an accomplishment for the former corporate tax lawyer, who entered the academy just four years ago after practicing in New York and doing a brief six-month stint in Washington. Academics generally toil in obscurity for years, hoping for a big political hit. The now-famous paper was Fleischer’s first published policy recommendation.'

So there's that drama, the drama of a guy walking into academia and having the big lights turn on all at once. But the tale's even more gratifying. The shits are playing their parts to the hilt:

'Industry lobbyists mock his earnest demeanor and bright-red hair. Behind closed doors, some even call him “Bazooka Joe,” after the bubble gum cartoon character.'

They've got their mockery cut out for them:

'In early May, the Senate Finance Committee invited him to speak at a closed-door briefing for staffers from the Hill, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service.

...In September, Fleischer testified on a panel before the House Ways and Means Committee.

“There is widespread agreement among tax professors and economists that the status quo is an untenable position as a matter of tax policy,” he told the committee. “The partnership tax rules were designed with small business in mind, not billion-dollar investment funds.”'

It's fun to watch the lobbyists looking for arguments, and, then, finding none, muscling up against Fleischer for more personal attacks.

'Behind closed doors, they call Fleischer a careerist hack. They criticize his use of the phrase “airplane rich” as a way to describe the investment managers, saying he’s simply targeting the wealthy.'

UD thought the correct term was fuck-you rich, not airplane rich.

With the main character in Saul Bellow's novel Humboldt's Gift in mind, UD calls her hero Von Humboldt Fleisher -- of humble flesh. A man of limited financial but limitless intellectual and ethical means.
Decidedly dull...

...article in The Guardian about professors who plagiarize. Tony Antoniou starts things off promisingly, but it's downhill from there.

Best part is a small bit at the end:

'A humanities student told Education Guardian how he felt "cheated" when he discovered his lecturer had passed off a Wikipedia entry as his own work.

The part-time undergraduate had struggled to understand a lecture on existentialism that day. He went on the internet at home to find out more.

"The words I had copied down from the lecture were pretty much word for word on Wikipedia. Bits were exactly the same," the student, now in his fourth year, said.

"I felt cheated. I am a mature student so I pay for my course fees out of my own money....'

Yes. When they find themselves in the classrooms of PowerPoint professors who stand up, look down, and read aloud, or film professors who snore (or leave) while showing film after film, or Wikipedians who print their lectures off the web, students should ask themselves what they're paying for.

American students, who pay in the tens of thousands of dollars, should really ask.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Uh, hey guys...
How's that whole
academic bonus payment
thing working out?


'..."The bottom line is, if you don't win, you are going to get fired," says University of Georgia coach Mark Richt, who will earn a salary of $2 million this season with a potential $200,000 in on-field bonuses and $50,000 in academic incentives.

Richt says if half his salary was based on academic performance, "you'd recruit guys you know would get 4.0s. They might not be able to play, and then you'll get canned because you can't play on the field."

... "It's public relations; a shell game," says Phil Hughes, associate athletic director at Kansas State University, which doesn't offer academic bonuses. "It's a feel-good story that suggests we somehow care about this."

David Graham, 38, Ohio State University's director of student-athlete support services, says the academic bonus isn't a motivator.

"A $50,000 bonus on a $2 million contract isn't what gets them moving in the morning," he says.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel earns a salary of $2.2 million, and has an academic bonus of as much as $300,000.

An examination of the 2007 coaching contracts at 81 of the biggest football programs at public universities shows that 29 of the 81 don't offer academic bonuses. The contracts are public records under state laws.

Top coaches often earn at least $1 million in salary.

University of Alabama coach Nick Saban, 55, earns a minimum $3.52 million. His academic bonus is as much as $100,000, or less than 3 percent of his salary.

Tedford's $3.3 Million

Jeff Tedford, 45, coach at the University of California at Berkeley, makes $3.3 million, and a maximum academic bonus of $25,000, or less than 1 percent.

Greg Schiano, 41, coach at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, will earn at least $1.6 million and could get an academic bonus of as much as $45,000, 2.8 percent of his salary.

The four-year average graduation rate published last year for the football team at Cal-Berkeley was 37 percent, trailing the school's overall average of 86 percent.

Rutgers graduated 50 percent of its football players, according to last year's report, compared with the student body average of 72 percent.

Gerald Gurney, 56, the University of Oklahoma's senior associate athletic director for academics and student life, says the academic bonuses are hypocritical and should be eliminated.

"The size of these incentives compared to those for going to bowl games or winning games are miniscule," says Gurney. "So the incentives really aren't meaningful at all in terms of changing behavior." ...'
Grassley Gets Going

'...Something’s not adding up when rising tuition rates keep climbing year after year while many universities are flush with ballooning endowments.

At a U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing in September, witness testimony revealed college and university endowments have grown enormous fortunes. The top 25 college and university endowments are $11 billion more than the combined assets of the top 25 largest private foundations. Investment returns often exceed 12 percent or more. However, college endowment spending averages a paltry four percent.

Some of those endowments are massive and have gotten so big, in large part, because they benefit from very generous tax breaks. Yale University’s endowment equates to $2.8 million per undergraduate. Tapping endowment returns to help keep college accessible to non-wealthy families seems more than reasonable.

As the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee hammers out details of an education tax package, an endowment pay-out requirement ought to be included in the discussion to reduce tuition and help students afford college...'

The Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee speaks.

If Not, Not
Oil on canvas
60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm)
Scottish National Gallery
of Modern Art, Edinburgh

UD's always been haunted by
this R.B. Kitaj painting. It
makes her think of Gauguin.

Kitaj died Sunday. He was 74.
UD Quibbles a Bit...

...with an opinion piece by GW's just-retired president.

'...When players on the Duke lacrosse team were faced with charges of rape, many people demanded to know how it was possible that [Duke's president] did not understand that lacrosse players were seen as notoriously "thuggish" and "entitled." Why had he done nothing?... [Trachtenberg defends Duke's president against charges that he didn't act to bring his players under control before the lacrosse mess. Since the players were found innocent, Trachtenberg reasons, they must not have been an established behavioral problem about which the president could have known. Yet several of the players were exactly that, and Brodhead knew it, just as many other university presidents know -- how can they not? -- that some of their athletic teams have more than a few thuggish people on them.] [There's no way the] head of a university with 30,000 students, 5,000 faculty and staff members, and another few thousand adjuncts and visitors [can] control the behavior of all those people.... [Again, when there's notorious misbehavior on the part of certain campus groups -- some groups of athletes tend in this direction -- there's in fact every reason for a president to take note.]

... We [presidents may be] instructed [by our students] that charging tuition is a sign of vice... [GW students have never argued that charging tuition is vicious; they have argued, and their argument has now been taken up by Trachtenberg's replacement as president, that charging excessive tuition is wrong.]'
Halloween Typo

'American University's Dead of Student Affairs Sara Walsron said, "Alcohol and drugs account for about 70% of our judicial disciplinary load on campus."'

---abc news, washington---

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Considers...

...prose not yet on the boil, but simmering nicely.

SOS, as you know, likes to feature outstanding prose by university students. She usually finds this prose in campus newspapers, and that's the case with tonight's example, which appears in the UC Santa Barbara paper.

As I say, the writing here's not quite as hot as it should be. But it's on its way. This is a promising writer. Let's take a look.

'Philosophy majors are notorious for being perpetually stoned, easy-going hippies. [I'd drop notorious for being.] They can be found in yoga class, at a NORML meeting or at a party trying to convince a bored sorority girl that the world is really nothing but the dream of a hamster named Fred. [End of sentence great: hamster named Fred is fun. But can be found is a bit clunky. How about Look for them in... And rather than trying to convince I'd simply write telling. I'd also drop is really nothing but and replace it with the world's the dream of a hamster named Fred. Notice the way my edits are about making things snappier, shorter, stronger, more direct.] However, there exists a lesser-known species of philosophy majors. [There exists is okay, because she's trying here for a certain pretentious intellectual formulation.] This minority consists of chain-smoking, coffee-consuming, Friedrich Nietzsche-worshipping emo kids. [Excellent.]

If you have ever been shaken out of your Sudoku-induced trance [I'd drop induced.] by the kid wearing black in the back of the class answering a professor’s question in an inappropriately deep fashion [Drop inappropriately.], you have probably encountered this lesser-known type of philosophy student. No question is too mundane. It could be an innocent rhetorical question such as, “How is everyone doing today?” Instead of joining the chorus of droning “Gooood,” from the class [The two of's are awkward; the joining and droning are too ingy. The sentence is wordy.], they volunteer the answer: “Considering the limitations of the human sense of perception, we can never know anything for sure. I do not even know for certain I exist. So how am I supposed to know how I’m doing? Why would you ask that? Whhhhy?” [Drop the final Whhhy. Too cute.]

For these lovers of knowledge, philosophy is a way of life. Spurning physical activity and rowdy social gatherings, emo philosophers can instead [Drop instead.] be found outside of coffee shops drinking coffee (black) and smoking cigarettes. [Unfiltered in parenthesis after cigarettes would be fun, and would give the sentence balance.] They will inevitably [Drop inevitably.] be reading an obscure philosophical text, or if with a partner, discussing the dark existential truths of life. [Simply dark existential truths would be better. Truths is a stronger word to end on.] Also, due to an affinity for rain and gloominess in general, they are often seen taking melancholy walks in the rain… without an umbrella. [Drop in general.]

They do occasionally detach themselves from their current book and engage in the pointless, shallow social activities that the rest of the world uses only [Drop only.] to distract [Awkward use of distract here. How about to elude etc.?] from the grim reality of life.
[Again, as in earlier sentence, simply write from grim reality.] When this happens, a large amount of alcohol can confer the emo philosopher with [ can confer upon the emo philosopher traits etc. would be better.] traits of their close relation, the stoner philosopher. Articulating nothing more intellectual than “Whoa!” repeatedly while staring up at the stars, or alternately giving long speeches about the futility of hope - both distinct possibilities. Drunkenness, however, is only an occasional respite from the weight of being serious all the time. [Note the unnecessary words gumming up this great material: repeatedly, alternately, long, occasional.]

The most recent on-screen emo philosopher is Dwayne from last year’s “Little Miss Sunshine.” He took an oath of silence in honor of his hero, none other than existentialist Friedrich Nietzsche. His over-the-top rebellious antics are common. [are common is a blah way to end the sentence.] When faced with the depressing conclusions dictated by their chosen philosophical gurus, some philosophy students have no choice but resorting to periods of long silences and listening to Elliott Smith. [Drop depressing; drop chosen. And rewrite latter part of the sentence something like this: resort to periods of silence or the music of Elliot Smith.]

If you have not been able to discern it already from my glowing portrayal [Drop glowing.], yours truly is a member of this philosophical following. My pride in my membership of this minority group [membership in.] stems from an incident that occurred [Drop that occurred.] last year at a party. When I answered a typical inquiry to my major [about my major] with “philosophy,” the response from the questioner [Drop from the questioner.] was: “Oh, did you just try to pick the easiest major possible?”

I was outraged, hot fire burned in my black heart. I knew that Socrates was flipping a shit somewhere in his Greek grave. [Flipping a shit's fun.] I proceeded to explain - while internally cursing
[Drop internally.] myself for participating in this idle distraction from life [Yet again: Drop from life.]- that actually, philosophy is one of the oldest and most interesting disciplines in the world.

Sadly, this one incident [Drop one.] is not the only time the seriousness of my major has been doubted. When faced with these naysayers, I need only relate the horror of the loathed branch of philosophy called “logic.” [Describe might be better than relate. And I'd drop the horror of.]

My teaching assistant actually told us on the first day that this class had a tendency to make students cry, give up hope and get a bad grade. Although filling me with dread, I suppose his warning was helpful. Now I can tell everyone who says philosophy majors aren’t serious students to eat shit and try to solve a biconditional derivation or read 100 pages on the word “the.” [This is good. Feisty.]

Despite their differences, emo kids and stoner philosophy students can unite in agreement [Unite in agreement is somewhat redundant and clunky. How about agree on one thing?] over one thing: Stop fucking confusing us with psychology majors!' [Excellent final line. An earned exclamation mark.]


Seven South Carolina
University Students...

...killed in a beach house fire:

'... The fire struck the house ... sometime before 7 a.m. and burned completely through the first and second floors, leaving only part of the home's frame standing. The waterfront home was built on stilts, forcing firefighters to climb a ladder onto the house's deck to reach the first living floor. The house was a total loss...

"We ran down the street to get away," said Nick Cain, a student at the University of North Carolina who was staying at a house about 100 feet away. "The ash and the smoke were coming down on us. We were just trying to get away."

Cain was one of the dozens of college students who filled at least four houses within a block of the burned home. Neighbor Jeff Newsome said the students were going back and forth between the houses all weekend long.

... Winds blowing flames over the water, and not toward any of the other residences on the tightly packed row of vacation homes, kept the fire from spreading. The intense heat kept [one neighbor] from attempting a rescue, although he said he had to fight to keep several of those who escaped from trying. When he approached the front door, he said, it was too hot to open.

"When I was going up to the entryway, you could hear the windows above me explode," [he] said. "When I knew the flames had taken over, I don't think I've ever felt as helpless in my life."

Authorities erected a blue tarp to block the view of the fire scene, but neighbor Bob Alexander said he saw investigators removing bodies from the gutted remnants of the home early Sunday afternoon. Family members of some victims who gathered in a chapel across the street from the town hall declined to speak with reporters.

"It's terrible to see somebody's children come out of that house this way," Alexander said.'

---associated press---
"Big-time college football
is now so divorced from what
actually goes on at a university
as to be a kind of subsidiary,
not even tangentially related to education."

Good piece in the New York Times about the business of bigtime university sports.

It features Florida, with its substandard higher education system, bankrupting itself on football:

'[Universities] now have to pay millions a year to keep their programs going, and donors alone won’t cover the costs. Two [such] schools — the University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic University — have ... run up multimillion-dollar debts building expensive stadiums.'

The article concludes:

'Maybe the best thing that can be said about pouring money into football is that, as [one commentator] told me, stadium construction is hardly the worst thing that goes on in college sports. “Skyboxes are not the most cancerous elements in most athletic departments,” he says. And what is? His reply: “How about the recruitment of athletes who do not have the ability to benefit from a college education?” Hey, someone has to take the field in all those fancy new stadiums.'

In line with other changes in the works on this blog (UD and her niece are even as we speak upgrading the look and, er, functionality of University Diaries), UD has decided she's had it with LOL, or Laugh Out Loud, the much-used abbreviation meaning I find what you just wrote very funny.

UD's been using LOL on this blog forever, but her Joyce-themed spawn, Anna Livia Soltan, tells her it's way out of date, no one uses it anymore, she should be embarrassed, etc.


From now on, UD will use the following three letters to indicate her pleasure and amusement at something a reader has said:


HLJ stands for High Level Jibe.

More seasonal strangeness. The head of Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice describes getting his master's degree:

'[Walter] McNeil said he could not remember any courses he took at St. John's or the names of any professors or how much tuition he paid. He also was not sure whether he wrote a master's thesis. "I think I did," he said.'

How do you get so fuzzy about things?

You've read University Diaries long enough to know.

You buy your master's degree over the phone.

The school "ran its operations from a converted house near the town of Springfield, La. (pop. 400). Until 2001, the school was listed in Louisiana corporate records as the St. John's University of Practical Theology. The school relocated to a house in Nashville in 2005," reports the St. Petersburg Times.

'McNeil is "putting himself on the same standard as other people with legitimate master's (degrees). It's not morally acceptable," said Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who has written books on the issue and now investigates corporate fraud as a Wachovia vice president in Tampa. "He's a cop. He's a law enforcement officer. He's supposed to lead by example."'

Yes, it's always a little more striking when someone in law enforcement does it... Sets quite the example, especially if you're working with young people...

'"It's basically a guy in some church," said Alan Contreras, who heads Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization, which closely tracks schools with questionable accreditation.'
Poor Poshard's Almanack:
We're Not in 'thesda Anymore

"You're not the center of the world, you know. The sun doesn't rise and set on you, you know."

How many times have people said these things to UD over the course of her life! And how little impact they've had!

Yet a certain widening of one's sympathies, a tentative awakening to the reality of other people, can happen, and sometimes in the most unexpected ways...

For instance, UD's become aware, reading letters in the Southern Illinois press about Glenn Poshard, that her comfy 'thesdan world has nothing in common with worlds where newspapers publish letters like this one:

I've been haunted about the issue concerning plagiarism in connection with President Poshard since I first heard about it. [Haunted is certainly seasonally appropriate...]

My first reflections went back to a recent issue about Dr. Walter Wendler being replaced because of plagiarism. [Wendler is one of three high-ranking SIU administrators who plagiarized.]

I've researched the dictionary and found the meaning of the word to be "To take (ideas, writings, etc.) from (another) and pass them off as one's own." I am persuaded by this definition.

Dr. Wendler didn't plagiarize anyone, because he was using his own plan for a project on the SIU campus. [He recycled a plan he'd prepared for a whole other university and, largely word for word, just stuck it onto SIU. This was stupid and lazy. He also more straightforwardly plagiarized in a speech he gave at SIU.] Dr. Wendler comes across to me as a fine gentleman and an asset to any organization. I've met him on campus a couple of times, and he is very well dressed, presents himself well and speaks to me although he doesn't know me. I'm honored. [See, this is the non-'thesdanian thing. In UD's world, defending a guy from plagiarism charges on the basis of the cut of his suit isn't considered a good move.]

He is a Christian man [Dresses well and isn't Jewish or anything.] and objects to some of the trends on campus, and I, for one, agree with him in what he attempted to do and his attitude about the whole affair. [What whole affair? This is mysterious. Haunting.]

I wonder if these issues [??] stimulated the anonymous letters that inspired the original accusations. I've been guilty of quoting the Bible at times without giving credit and have gotten away with it. President Poshard has been exonerated. Let's correct the issue with Dr. Wendler. [He'll be exonerating the third SIU plagiarist next.]


Saturday, October 27, 2007

"In other examples...

... cited in the report, $3,357 in charges at a New Brunswick restaurant -- including more than $1,000 in alcoholic beverages that included a $125 bottle of wine -- were billed to a state-funded [Rutgers University] account called Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture".

The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation is turning up some fun stuff.
Beethoven with a Side of Earth

Here's how you make UD jealous.

He says he can sit at the keyboard and look at the earth at the same time.

UD's friend Bill, at The Periodic Table, sends her the Washington Post's review of the play Redshirts.

UD will be attending the play. Eventually.


'[An] absorbing and suspenseful production ... "Redshirts" chronicles the crisis that erupts at a university when four football players are accused of plagiarizing an English paper.

...[It examines] the calculus of power and powerlessness on the Tennessee Southern campus. Dante [a player] and his teammates are at the mercy of [English professor] Dr. Bigelow and other authority figures from the university establishment.

But the athletes have a larger vulnerability, as their encounters with English literature suggest: They've missed out on valuable cultural grounding enjoyed by society's elite. "'Moor' and 'prayer?' That's a rhyme now?" Curtis complains in frustration while studying Emily Dickinson. "Man, they just keep makin' this [stuff] up!" Language is a kind of power, but it's one that largely eludes these students...'
Snapshots from Home

My Tree, My Executioner

Garrett Park, UD's town, is, as faithful readers know, an arboretum.

Enormous old trees loom over UD's house. Out of every window deep forest appears.

This is especially attractive now, as the leaves crimson.

Yet some of the behemoths around UD's house are dead. Or dying.

Every time there's even moderately serious wind, heavy branches crack off and explode on UD's lawn.

This morning, as she dragged vast limbs to the side of her property, it occurred to UD again, as it has countless times, that she and her family will meet their doom at the hands of these trees. A bolt of lightning will hurl a maple through their roof, and les UDs won't know what hit them.
It's Because of This Sort
of Special Attention......

...that GWU's new president will decrease tuition:

'As high school seniors narrow their choices for college and parents gingerly peek at the price tags, they're asking themselves: How is it possible that colleges charge so much?

Colleges blame big tuition hikes on rising bills for fuel, health care benefits and salaries--and on the cost of keeping up with College X and its new rock-climbing wall and wired dorm. Businesses, though, face the same escalating costs and the same pressure to upgrade their products, but they don't raise their prices at anything like the same pace.

Since 1983 the cost of keeping colleges running has outpaced the Consumer Price Index by 48%, according to the Commonfund Institute, a nonprofit that compiles a higher-education price index. And the prices that colleges charge have climbed even faster. At George Washington University in Washington, D.C., the tuition for students who don't qualify for a discount is up 270% in real terms in the past 25 years....'


The A-H Gene and
Individual Optimization

Having now read, in the Times Higher Education Supplement, Tony Antoniou's resignation letter, which he wrote after he was discovered to have plagiarized almost everything he ever published, UD finds herself more convinced than ever of the results of a study published here.

She first reminds readers of the study's findings, and then offers excerpts from Antoniou's letter, which seem to her to offer the strongest evidence so far of the plausibility of the study's claims.

In 1993, Lawrence L. Kupper, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, published an article titled The AH Gene: Implications for Genetic Counseling, in which he wrote:

It is the purpose of this paper to discuss evidence supporting the existence of a gene (henceforth called the AH gene) that predisposes an individual to chronic behavior in an obnoxious, boorish, selfish, overbearing, and generally offensive manner. In our terminology, such an individual will be said to be acting like an AH. ... Following classical genetic theory, I postulate the existence of four alleles ...which I henceforth refer to as rectalleles ... Each pair of rectalleles constitutes a genotype; with four alleles there are 10 possible genotypes (disregarding allele order). An individual carrying the AH genotype will be referred to as a "complete AH"...

Professor Antoniou, who "declined to comment to The Times Higher," wrote last September that he resigned with a "heavy heart."

'I was appointed to raise the research profile of the school and, with the RAE submission now almost completed, I feel that we have achieved that objective. I am convinced that the school's RAE return will be an excellent one.

"I feel privileged to have led this school over the past few years. We now have excellent students, outstanding staff and a friendly and supportive working environment.'

Only an individual carrying the genotype would be able to write this letter.

Excerpts from the THES article:

'The full extent to which a leading business school head lifted material from papers published by his peers has emerged.

Tony Antoniou quit his post as dean of Durham Business School at the beginning of September for what were described as "personal reasons", amid unspecified allegations of plagiarism. He remains a professor of finance at the university.

An investigation by The Times Higher reveals that large quantities of material in Professor Antoniou's 1986 DPhil thesis, and a later journal article, are copied from a number of other sources.

The Times Higher has established that substantial parts of the professor's York University DPhil thesis, Futures Markets: Theory and Tests, take material from at least three other sources.

The introduction to Professor Antoniou's thesis begins identically to that of a paper by American academic Gary Koppenhaver "Risk Aversion and Futures Market Behaviour".

Both papers start with the same quote, attributed to an anonymous futures market analyst, and both are identical until the sixth line of the first paragraph.

Large sections of two chapters in the DPhil are also taken from Mr Koppenhaver's paper.

The DPhil also uses material from two other theses: Stephen Taylor's Time Series Properties and Models of Commodity Prices, Lancaster University, 1978, and Dosung Chung's Individual Optimisation and Market Equilibrium in Futures, Washington University, 1982.

Substantial duplication of other work is also apparent in a paper Professor Antoniou wrote in 1988 for the Journal of Business and Society.

Professor Antoniou's paper, "Futures Market Efficiency and the Time Content of the Information Set", borrows heavily from a paper, "Futures Market Efficiency and the Time Content of the Information Sets" written in 1983 by US student David Goldfarb and two Israeli academics, David Bigman and Edna Schechtman, for The Journal of Futures Markets.

... Professor Taylor said: "I am personally satisfied that Professor Antoniou's 1986 DPhil thesis contains several sentences and paragraphs that are identical to material in my 1978 PhD thesis."

"As Antoniou does not include any of my research output in his list of references, it is easy to see why people may believe that plagiarism has occurred."'

The THES offers an example:


"Of course, the real reason the market reacts one way or the other is because many traders are irrational and emotional."

Anonymous futures market analyst.

Seemingly "irrational and emotional" behaviour of futures market participants can often reflect optimal economic decisions. Assessment of trader behaviour and the benefit of futures market, as well as sensible market regulation and policy, requires a through understanding of market participation decision-making.

Antonios Antoniou

"Futures Markets: Theory and Tests"

York University 1986



"Of course, the real reason the market reacts one way or the other is because many traders are irrational and emotional."

Anonymous futures market analyst.

Seemingly "irrational and emotional" behaviour of futures market participants can often reflect optimal economic decisions. Assessment of trader behaviour and the benefit of futures markets, as well as sensible market regulation and policy, requires a through understanding of market participation decision-making.

Gary Koppenhaver

"Risk Aversion and Futures Market Behaviour"

University of Iowa 1980.
Intellectual Complicity

'...Germany's Federal Court has overturned the arrest of a sociologist accused of being a member of an extreme left group.... Holm, a sociologist at Berlin's Humbolt University, was released on bail at the end of August after three weeks in prison.... In its warrant, the prosecutor's office had said Holm had twice met with a suspected member of mg and that the researcher used "keywords and phrases" in his academic texts that had appeared in documents written by mg, such as the term "gentrification," according to news reports.

It also said that "as an employee of a research institute, [Holm] had access to libraries where he could inconspicuously do the research required for the founding of a militant group."... The Federal court, however, said this evidence did not meet the requirements of showing it was a "strong possibility" that Holm himself was a mg member. ... In August, more than 100 academics from Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States and other countries called on German Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms to release the sociologist.

..."We strictly oppose the use of violence as endorsed and practiced by the 'militant group,'" one of the letters reads. "At the same time, however, we strongly object to the notion of intellectual complicity adopted by the federal prosecutor's office in its investigation. …Such arguments allow any piece of academic writing to be potentially incriminating," the letter said.'

---deutsche welle---

Looks like data mining, with authorities picking over the work of academics for keywords that could be used to link them to illegal activities... With her extensive writings on prostitution, UD wonders if she'll be picked up at some point for solicitation...
With Europe's Subservient Universities... mind, UD has always urged as little state intervention in America's campuses as possible. But when your public university system can't govern itself, the state has to come in, at least temporarily.

One of the most shocking stories UD's covered on this blog has involved spectacular corruption at New Jersey's University of Medicine and Dentistry.

When a public university rots, and goes on rotting, so hideously, it has implications for the entire state system. The entire state system, especially when other campuses have their own accountability problems, will take the fall for a scandal of this magnitude.

'Thirteen years after New Jersey dismantled higher education oversight, the entire system has shown itself to be vulnerable to waste of taxpayer and tuition dollars and abuse of positions by officials, a state commission reported Thursday.

The New Jersey Commission of Investigation said it found instances of officials taking gifts from contractors, accounting systems that were virtually indecipherable, patronage appointments to boards, out-of-control borrowing and little oversight of hiring practices and discretionary spending.

In the case of the alleged gift-taking, at the scandal-plagued University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the commission's findings were serious enough to be specifically forwarded to state prosecutors for further review, according to the report.

... For example, Rutgers University, the state's largest higher education institution, had an accounting system that was so poorly integrated, with record-keeping so decentralized, that commission investigators had to hire a private forensic accounting firm to gain an understanding of it, according to the report.

A study of a random sample of Rutgers University expense reports submitted by faculty members found that nearly two-thirds - 37 of 58 - had compliance problems. A university professor, for example, received about $5,500 to take six people, plus family members, to a workshop in Lake Placid, N.Y., but submitted no documentation to support the expenditure...

... State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, said the commission's report backs up his proposed legislation to increase state oversight of higher education.'
Well, It's A Sore Point.

John Edwards has already had trouble maintaining his status as the campaign's most prominent and sensitive advocate for the poor. UD and others noted his Pere Ubu-like private estate, and now a university student has upset his campaign by noting the grandeur of his campaign headquarters:

'A journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is accusing aides of John Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, of demanding that he remove from YouTube a student report critical of Mr. Edwards’s Democratic presidential campaign — and of threatening to block the university’s access to Mr. Edwards and the campaign headquarters near campus.

Mr. Edwards’s campaign officials said they did not level any such threat during what were clearly heated discussions with the professor and the student over her approach and over the central question in her report: Why has a campaign focused on poverty based its headquarters in an affluent part of Chapel Hill?

The student, Carla Babb, posted the report on YouTube as an entry to a video contest sponsored by MTV, giving the report the potential for national viewing. Ms. Babb had initially approached the Edwards campaign to interview a student working as an intern at its headquarters, but the piece changed focus after the initial request, taking a closer look at the location of Mr. Edwards’s campaign headquarters in Chapel Hill, in light of its poverty message, which had been a subject of a column in the university newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.

The video includes an interview with the columnist, James Edward Dillard, saying, “To pick that place as your campaign center, when you’re going to be the man who advocates on behalf of the poor, I just think, why not turn the media’s attention to somewhere where there are huge, huge problems.”

Ms. Babb’s professor, C. A. Tuggle, said in an interview that after the report first appeared on YouTube on Tuesday night he received calls of complaint from a deputy in Mr. Edwards’s national press office, and, then, his communications director.

Mr. Tuggle said the aides told him they felt “blind-sided by the way the reporter presented the piece in the pitch,” adding unapologetically, “The focus of stories change[s] all of the time.”

“We told them we were not interested in taking it down or holding it from broadcast on our show on Monday,” Mr. Tuggle said, adding that the campaign responded by telling him that, “campus media would have real trouble getting any sort of access to the Edwards campaign, and so might other parts of the university.”'

Badly played by the Edwards people, who have attracted more attention to the video than it would have received; well played by the university student, who knows that hypocrisy is one of the easiest scents for human beings to detect.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Yum-yum Simulacrum

UD very much likes the way Professor Koppenhaver (see post below) calls plagiarism what it is: a selfish act. When a university leader like Southern Illinois' Glenn Poshard (or - as currently alleged - Tony Antoniou, who was dean of a business school) plagiarizes, it's literally about not caring what happens to large numbers of other people, and to institutions, so long as you advance your private interests.

Strangely, those interests - in these cases - involve an ambition to run the very institutions the plagiarism eventually devastates. In order to run Southern Illinois University, or Durham University's business school, in order to rack up the degrees and publications you need to advance administratively, you steal other people's work and call it your own. Eventually, as is so often the case, what you've done comes to light, and the institution becomes a laughingstock. The very president of the university! A man who doesn't know what every freshman knows -- how to use a quotation mark...

Why do you do this? Freudians might say you harbor unresolved malice against universities... or against yourself... That you've set the whole thing up to explode in your face, and in your university's face, because you crave abasement and destruction...

UD doesn't move in such sophisticated circles. In UD's world, plagiarists like these are ciphers, nowhere men, empty suits, simulacra rather than people. I actually think this is the biggest insult to faculty and students at Southern Illinois University -- that they are still being led by a man who has nothing to offer a university. He's not an intellectual; he knows nothing about the ethos or content of scholarship. He's not a leader; he ran from the consequences of his misdeeds. He's a person who might glad a few hands in the capitol and get some money for the SIU campuses -- though the record shows it'll probably be for athletes and administrators rather than students and professors -- but who will never utter a meaningful word about the purpose of a university.

Postmodern America has lots of simulacral people in it, people who really aren't there at all as substantive personalities, but who enact certain roles. These are our Gatsbys, our Felix Krulls, our Zeligs, our men without qualities, our unbearable lightness of beings. They're the empty vessels on America's high seas, and they may stay afloat for a lifetime, reading speeches written by other people, putting their name on work other people did, mouthing platitudes whispered into their ears by assistants...

Arguably the only place in America where a few people still care whether you're a vacant or an occupied is the university.

Certainly no one beyond a few editors cares whether the latest high-profile American simulacrum -- a best-selling cookbook assembled by Jessica Seinfeld's staff and stamped with her name -- is a simulacrum. Because the book is somewhat similar to another book released shortly before it, some people accuse Seinfeld of plagiarism. But, as a writer for Slate points out, she's not so much a plagiarist as a nothing:

'Jessica Seinfeld did not write the new cookbook Deceptively Delicious. A team of experts large enough to form a soccer team—a writer, chef, nutritionist, art director, photographer, agent, editor, project manager, and then some — did. [But despite claims by some, it's not plagiarized.] Plagiarism [is]... about dishonesty. It's about pretending someone else's ideas and work are your own, even if those ideas are paraphrased. [Seinfeld's book and the other book in question] are based on the same unremarkable, unoriginal idea. [This makes both books empty. But they're different enough in their particulars that one hasn't plagiarized from the other.]... Plagiarism is a serious accusation. It can get students expelled; it can ruin writers' careers. And if it's occurred, it should. But the news media should take plagiarism seriously enough to not use the word unless it truly applies. Many things can be said of Seinfeld's book and its runaway success. A sad commentary on the state of parenting? I think so. A triumph of celebrity over substance? You bet. Further evidence of the decline of the West? Definitely. But an act of plagiarism? No way.'

People like Glenn Poshard are Jessica Seinfeld without the team of experts.
A Reader in England...

...tells UD about a developing story there involving the former Dean of Durham Business School, who, if allegations are correct, has been plagiarizing like a dervish for years. My reader describes a Times Higher Education Supplement article which will note that he appears to have

'...copied his 1986 doctoral thesis (University of York) from three other sources: a paper by Professor Koppenhaver, "Risk Aversion and Futures Market Behaviour", a thesis by Professor Stephen Taylor (Lancaster, 1978) and a thesis by Dosung Chung (Washington University, 1982). Furthermore an article he wrote in 1988 for the "Journal of Business and Society" is largely based on another article from the "The Journal of Futures Markets" of 1983.'

The person in question remains a professor of finance at Durham. And, because of the nature of the web, he continues to be listed as Dean at many other sites.

It's early days on this one. UD will keep an eye on it.



Professor Koppenhaver has kindly emailed UD some of his THES comments on the situation (the professor in question... er, might as well name him -- Tony Antoniou -- allegedly copied a paper by Koppenhaver as part of his doctoral thesis):

"The probability that two authors use the same sources six years apart to write exactly the same thing including quotes is nil...

The role of a senior administrator, especially in the highly competitive environment of business education, is to maintain and improve the institution's reputation. Reputations are built on the trust between scholars, students and business partners – the trust that is required for an environment of scholarship. While plagiarism is always abhorrent to scholars, plagiarism by a senior administrator not only destroys the reputation of the individual but also the very environment for scholarship. Pity the students, both past and present, for the price they pay for such a selfish act."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Are you okay?
You haven't posted today!
Call me."

My sister left this message a couple of hours ago on my voice mail... What should one call this? Post-traumatic something... Anyway, I have in fact posted today, but because I began the draft of the post yesterday, it showed up as having been posted yesterday. If you get what I mean. Bottom line -- scroll down a bit to the post titled The Frog Through the Door.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Schoolmarm v. Rev.

A graduate student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville sends SOS the following letter, published in the SIUE student newspaper. As always, SOS butts in.

'The controversy surrounding the president of Southern Illinois University has begun to bother me. [Recall SOS's many, many cautions against beginning a letter of this sort with how upset, hot, bothered, wild again, beguiled again, a simpering, whimpering child again, you are. Feelings expressed in this way do nothing for an argument except make it feel minutely, dully, personal.] While I have met Dr. Poshard on several occasions professionally, I have no vested interest in the affair. However, as it is playing out I have several observations and questions. [Dead ringer for Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice.]

My first deals with the continuous calls for "open and honest" revelation on the part of Dr. Poshard. If that is the case, why is that not also required of the person(s) who brought to light the issue in the first place? [The author of this letter will prove quite the fan of the quotation mark. Read on.]

Next, I struggle with a concept of law known as the statute of limitations. [Writer thinks you're stupid. "...a concept of the law known as..." ] I believe that in law there are very few actions that do not have to follow that rule. One of those exceptions is for murder.

If an academic panel found the text of Dr. Poshard's work acceptable over 20 years ago, why is it an issue now? Please tell me we are not making this "issue" as grave a matter as that of taking a life? [Quotation marks around issue mean to say I don't think it's an issue! It's a non-issue! I speet on your "issue"...] I am also troubled by the faculty vote at SIUE and rational of the person who proposed it. [He means rationale. I think. Bit murky in here.] Quoting a former U.S. President: "What is 'is'?" [Meta-quotation marks. Not murky. Send a search party.]

In philosophy there is a construct known as "cause and effect." [Same thing as with statute of limitations above. Since we've never heard of cause and effect, the writer introduces it to us here. With quotation marks around it.] I wonder what the "real" cause is? [Though a Reverend, author appears to be a radical skeptic. "Does" "reality" "exist"?] Is it academic integrity or perhaps the not so off hand remark to separate the two campuses? Or could it be something else? In short, I find this small rodent-like bump being made into the latest glacial peak. [Off the rails here..] It seems that we are more and more becoming a people caught up in the minutiae while real problems within society remain.

Yes, academic integrity is important, but to the detriment of "real" societal issues; I think not! Perhaps some of those in the academic "ivory towers" and the editorial offices who have been calling for the removal of Dr. Poshard would like to join me in my office where I deal with people who are trying to purchase gasoline for their cars, put food on their tables, pay their rent or keep their utilities connected; "real" issues for "real" people.

Is it not time to return some "common" sense to the issues that seem to drive our media and our lives?

Rev. Gary Gummersheimer

Murphysboro, IL'


The Frog Through the Door

When she was growing up, UD had crushes on the following men:

James Agee
Albert Camus
D.H. Lawrence
George Orwell
Thomas Wolfe

This was not your standard list for a 'thesdan female in her teens.

To make UD's list, you had to write brilliantly, live intensely and self-damagingly, and die too soon. For UD, reading and re-reading Lyrical Essays or Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was (since she'd also read every detail of these men's lives) communing with personalities still very much alive for her.

Another morbid crush of UD's was Ted Hughes, who, though he lived longer than her other crushes, exhibited the same creative/destructive intensity. UD remains deeply intrigued by Hughes, for whom things went grotesquely wrong twice, with the suicides of Sylvia Plath and, not long after, Assia Weevil (Weevil killed herself and the young daughter she had with Hughes), and then, for Hughes, a haunted afterlife.

UD is very excited about the release, in a couple of weeks, of Letters of Ted Hughes. She read his posthumous book of poems about Plath, Birthday Letters, with amazement and admiration. She cried through the last poem in the book, and UD doesn't cry all that much...

The Telegraph has been running some of the letters in advance of the book's release, and they're spectacular. Spectacularly moving. The London Times reviewer writes: "No other English poet’s letters, not even Keats’s, unparalleled as they are, take us so intimately into the wellsprings of his own art." And simply on the evidence of the few letters UD's seen, this looks likely to be true. Here are two brief excerpts and one long one. They're related in theme.

"The inmost spirit of poetry at bottom, in every recorded case, the voice of pain – and the physical body, so to speak, of poetry, is the treatment by which the poet tries to reconcile that pain with the world. "

"The only calibration that counts [Hughes wrote this toward the end of his life; it's addressed to his son] is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated.

And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all."

And in another late letter to his son:

"Do you remember ... you described a dream – ...A frog was jumping up the path behind you. You entered the building and closed the glass door, shutting out the frog. The frog then jumped against the glass of the door. Do you remember it?

...One series of dreams I had, from my teens on. Occasionally still have. Were versions of your frog. Instead of a frog, mine, in these dreams, is an aeroplane. Sometimes I'm in it. More often, it goes over – in trouble. On fire, or driving out of control. It crashes – usually just out of sight.

...That plane is the frog hitting the glass. Something from the other side of my conscious mind – something mighty important, ie the news from my whole body and its understandings, is trying to get through to me.

...What I was needing to do, all those years, was deal with what had happened to your mother and me. That was the big unmanageable event in my life, that had somehow to be managed – internally – by me.

...The best I could do, through all those following years, to deal with that giant psychological log-jam of your mother and me, was write, as if to her, quite privately, simple little attempts to communicate with her about our time together.

They were what accumulated, over the years, to this Birthday Letters. ... So all I wrote, through all those years, contained nothing of what I really needed to say. And nothing in my way of life contained the real me – I was living on the wrong side of the glass door. ...

It was when I realised that my only chance of getting past 1963 was to blow up that log-jam, and assemble whatever I had written about your mother and me, and simply make it public – like a confession – that I decided to publish those Birthday Letters as I've called them.

I thought, let the feminists do what they like, let people think what they like about me, let critics demolish and tear to bits these simple, unguarded, quite private for the most part, unsophisticated bits of writing, let the heavens fall, let your mother's Academic armies of support demolish me... – I can't care any more, I can't lock myself in behind this glass door one more week.

So I did it, and now I'm getting the surprise of my life. What I've been hiding all my life, from myself and everybody else, is not terrible at all. Though you didn't want to read it.

And the effect on me, Nicky, the sense of gigantic, upheaval transformation in my mind, is quite bewildering. It's as though I have completely new different brains. I can think thoughts I never could think. I have a freedom of imagination I've not felt since 1962. Just to have got rid of all that.

Well, let's hope it wasn't all just a bit too late.

...You were given the means – if you use them, everything about you will be changed, by what follows the frog through the door. Slowly. Like a leakage. Bit by bit."
A Fun
Diploma Mill Story
With Dialogue

'I got it to impress me.'

In this one, a reporter chased after highly-placed Texans who brandish bogus degrees, and got them to talk. They're all real characters.

'Meet the top boss in Fort Bend County: County Judge Bob Hebert, who says he has a doctorate in management.

Hebert: “You want to know about my throw down degree.”

11 News: “The Ph.D.”

Hebert: “Oh, that’s my throw down degree.”

It’s from California Coast University, which is ... on the Texas illegal list.

But the judge claims, “I didn't get the degree to impress you or an employer or a voter. I got it to impress me.”

And he said, “I don't use that degree professionally. I don't sign any documents pertaining to the county as Bob Hebert, Ph.D.”

But 11 News showed him his own Web site.

“It says Ph.D. county judge,” Hebert said.

And the county’s official Web site had it too.

11 News: “You're claiming to be a Ph.D. as the county judge.”

Hebert: “That is an error.”

A reader from Texas sent UD word of another person featured in this story, Professor Chen-Feng Lin, at Texas Southern University.

'11 News: “Do you claim you're a Ph.D. sir?”

Lin: “Oh yeah, yeah. I got a Ph.D. from Kennedy Western.”

He did say his Ph.D. was from Kennedy Western – something also mentioned on the Texas Southern’s own Web site.

11 News: “The State of Texas says it’s illegal for you to claim you are a doctor inside the state of Texas. Why would you continue to do that?”

Lin: “No I didn't claim that one myself. That's from the department.”

11 News: “Are you going to continue to claim you're a doctor?”

Lin: “Oh yes, yes. I have my Ph.D. degree. Yes.”'
Snapshots from Home
Plus SOS

Writing strong opinion pieces for newspapers is enormously difficult. You have little space in which to explain a situation and take a compelling position in regard to it. Your writing has to be razor-sharp and tightly organized. It has to offer a powerful sensibility and a set of brilliant examples.

Tone's important, but there are many pitfalls. Outrage is usually a no-no -- there's something absurd, as the failed writing of Bob Herbert in the New York Times demonstrates, about large emotions in small spaces. Humor is a yes-yes, but only if you're really funny...

A few writers -- David Brooks, also in the New York Times, comes to mind -- can manage all of this. Most writers end up bland and ineffective.

Here's an example, from today's Philadelphia Inquirer. [Did one of my readers send me this or did I find it myself? I can't remember!]

'Thousands of Americans will travel to colleges and universities this fall for "parents' weekend." [Drop the effing quotation marks! ... Who told me that there's a whole blog now devoted to unnecessary quotation marks?] They'll wander leaf-strewn lawns and quadrangles with their sons and daughters, asking earnest questions about courses, sports and friends.

Later, when they retire to the local Hilton, Sheraton or Holiday Inn, they might notice something funny: It looks a lot like their children's dormitory. [This actually is funny, and a good comic writer could do great things with it... The idea that the parents' hotel room might indeed be less glamorous than their kid's dorm is a winner. But this writer will not be able to capitalize on the comic potential.]

Dorms are changing - to resemble hotels. Student centers have gotten makeovers, too. They look like museums or corporate office buildings. [These sentences, which gesture in the direction of description, but don't really describe, would be better if they featured actual physical details.]

At elite private universities and even at some public ones, students have nicer facilities and services than their parents could have imagined. That raises big questions about what we're teaching this generation and why.

Consider George Washington University in Washington [This is the Snapshots from Home bit in this post.], where incoming students receive engraved chocolates under their pillows during freshmen orientation. [Nothing's too good for UD's charges.] Or Ball State University in Ohio, which just opened a $36 million residence hall featuring mobile furniture, a digital music lab, and a dining hall that takes online take-out orders. [Isn't all furniture -- except for my new baby grand -- mobile?]

Plasma TVs? Got 'em. Refrigerators and microwaves? Check. Fitness center? Of course. Weekly housecleaning service? For an extra fee, it's yours. [The question and answer plus slangy language thing here is sort of lame.]

That's hardly the kind of luxury that Princeton president Woodrow Wilson envisioned a century ago, when he commissioned residential buildings. Wilson worried that too many students had moved off campus into "eating clubs," which separated them according to interests, tastes and wealth. Better that they live together in monasterylike brick or stone dormitories, sealed off from the world.

"A university was conceived as a place where the community life and spirit were supreme," wrote one Princeton architect in 1909, three years before Wilson entered the White House. "It was a walled city against materialism and all of its works." [Not sure of the wisdom of choosing America's most status-conscious, Social Registered university for your example of higher university values.]

After World War I, Harvard erected seven new dormitories along two sides of its famous yard. Featuring elaborate outside details but humble interiors, the dorms created a literal and symbolic divide between students and the surrounding city.

At new women's colleges, meanwhile, educators feared that off-campus boarding houses would lead innocent young women astray. So they took special care to construct solid but simple dormitories that would place all students under college supervision - and on equal economic footing. [He's muddying things here. Why bring in this now-unattractive paternalism? Does the writer want to go back to that, as well as to anti-materialism?]

"We have a chance to see what the human spirit can do when unhampered either by deprivation or by excess," the dean of Smith College wrote in 1919, praising a new set of dormitories.

The big boom in dorm construction occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, sparked by massive state and federal spending. In 1958, the University of California's nine campuses could house only 2,900 students; by 1970, they had residential space for nearly 20,000. Despite some new architectural styles, most of these dormitories were built in concrete or cinder block - functional, not fancy.

Fast-forward to the latest $22 million dormitory at Tufts University, offering suites with two large singles off a sunlit living room. Each has a dining room with a glass table and a kitchen with a dishwasher. "This is like going from Amerisuites to the Ritz-Carlton," a Tufts senior told the Boston Globe last month.

The dorm is a hotel, but it just got way nicer. That's bad news for anyone who cares about the future of the university. [Note the abruptness with which the writer now returns to the argument he introduced at the beginning of the essay. This is of course about the space constraint he's under. But it comes across as too sudden -- unprepared, unsupported.]

By providing really nice things for our kids, we're teaching them to expect such goodies as their due. And we're forgetting the older collegiate ideal, which prized the life of the mind over the lure of materialism.

Only a segment of students can afford the new luxuries, of course, which makes matters worse. More colleges now price dorms at different rates, depending on how many bells and whistles are included. So rich kids get the fancier residence halls and poorer students the older ones, which yields the economic divide Wilson and his generation wanted to avoid. [Again, it's not as if Princeton ever housed an economic divide.]

How did we get here? As government aid has declined, colleges chase the students with the most dollars, and the best way to do that is to offer really cool amenities. University presidents may not like catering to the whims of already-privileged 18-year-olds, but competing schools are doing it, so what choice is there?

During the Cold War, that kind of thinking was called "mutually assured destruction." At universities today, the era could be called "mutually assured consumption." And we're all impoverished by it. [Ask yourself: Is this a strong piece? I think the answer's no. And why is it not strong? Because it's sketchy. It's not able to gather its complicated and multifaceted subject matter into a concise little polemic. And the main reason for that failure, IMHO, lies in the writer's lack of an individual sensibility. The one crucial ingredient missing in this piece is an interesting consciousness. The writer might have, for instance, started in the first-person rather than the third, drawing on his own years of university life to give his argument a sense of emotional immediacy to go with its intellectual substance. Instead, his voice is that of a vague, disembodied, complainer.]'


Monday, October 22, 2007

UD's Calming Mandarin Bath Salts
and In-House Writing for the NCAA

UD takes baths. She's always experimenting with bath salts.

Despite a pretty empirical orientation to the world, UD notices that she actually seems to believe a certain combination of bath salts can have, as claimed on their containers, a "calming" effect on her, while another combination can have an "energizing" effect.

Each time she pours a new combination of bath salts in her bath, she lies still for a moment to see whether she's been energized or calmed.

Certain forms of writing are like calming bath salts. Their words soften in your brain and make it what Wallace Stevens, in his poem "Sunday Morning," calls "wide water, without sound."

Reading bath salt prose, you are calm, content, a cocotte into whom prose pours...

In-house writing, writing aimed at an already-captured constituency, is often bath salt writing. It doesn't want to be an astringent, argumentative, intellectually challenging sort of thing; it wants to confirm you in the preferences that made you a member of the constituency in the first place. Alumni magazine writing is usually bath salt writing. Article after article, what it really means to say is that of course you made the right decision to graduate from Grinnell...

A reader - Mike from Profane - sends UD/SOS a fine example of bath salt writing, from the in-house publication of the NCAA. The article appears in a section called NCAA News, but it's not a news article. To be sure, it's announcing something new, but only to assure NCAA members that, like all NCAA news, this is really good... not to worry... all for the best...

The first signal Division I’s dashboard indicators project [Cute name, and UD's just able to make out that it has something to do with cars.] has revealed is that the “check engine” light is on. Athletics spending is progressing at a rate three times that of overall university spending — a pace presidents and chancellors know is not sustainable in the long run. [The piece is about to announce a new service for member universities -- the NCAA will provide schools with comparative sports spending numbers from the other schools. Note that the piece does begin with a seeming acknowledgment of problems in bigtime university spending on athletics. But, typical of bath salt writing, it will do this only in order to calm readers' fears as the piece progresses.]

While the blinking beacon may be alarming to some, others are reassured [The calming process begins.] that the NCAA’s collaboration with the National Association of College and University Business Officers to produce a uniform data-reporting system and provide dashboard indicators that allow for peer comparison will serve as a financial GPS for big-time intercollegiate athletics. [Note the hokey playing out of the dashboard metaphor.]

The dashboards, which are expected to be finalized in spring 2008, are to fiscal responsibility as the APR is to academic reform. [This sentence exemplifies the to be verb problem in writing, about which SOS has written in greater detail here. In one sentence, the writer has given us four instances of is: are, to be, are, is. It makes for a dull and wordy sentence. Rewrite it something like this: The dashboards, due in spring 2008, are a kind of APR of fiscal responsibility. Your reader knows what APR means.] They are benchmarks developed on a by-campus basis that provide presidents, athletics directors and university CFOs the most comprehensive, accurate and comparable data to date that inform decisions about athletics spending.

That means Kent State can compare itself to its Mid-American Conference peers in its reliance upon university-allocated funds as a percentage of the total athletics budget. Texas Tech can see where it ranks among Big 12 schools in football revenues. Duke can run a comparison with other private institutions on athletics giving. Oregon can determine its percentile in revenues via ticket sales. Illinois can stack up against other traditional basketball powers in facility investment. A Football Championship Subdivision institution can see the investment it takes to reclassify to the Football Bowl Subdivision. [This is a good paragraph, with varied prose and rich examples. It mentions one of UD's favorites, Texas Tech, where four of every ten annual debt service dollars repays loans for athletics facilities. Texas Tech's program just emptied its reserve fund because of a multi-million dollar deficit.]

In other words, the dashboards can be all things to all schools. Simply put, it is the best customized financial data Division I has ever had, and the system is being applauded by those who will use it. [We're living in the best of all possible worlds. It's not as if many of the schools mentioned in this article are, like Texas Tech, ancient hulking sports factories with almost no interest in academics, schools who'll be made so anxious about this new data about what their rivals are spending that they'll add a few more catastrophic athletic expenditures to the ones they've already made. No -- things are great, and they'll be made greater by the dashboard indicators.]

“We do a lot of benchmarking at the institutional level,” said Michigan State University’s Kathy Lindahl, the school’s vice president for financial administration. “The dashboard project for athletics has tremendous potential in that it gives you instant validation as to whether you are ahead of the curve, behind it or in the ballpark. The data bring athletics to a level of sophistication that universities are accustomed to in other areas of the campus.” [Machine-generated prose, with an eerie manufactured enthusiasm thrown in... Oh, and here's another example of this sort of prose...]

... “Presidents are deeply engaged in benchmarking in every other aspect of our work — why not in athletics?” University of Cincinnati President Nancy Zimpher said. “We are creating a system for accountability for the value added of a college degree, a system about what students are learning from their general studies program and a system about the degree to which students are satisfied with their college experience. We are using national instrumentation to probe those areas, so the idea of a common data set for gauging the return on our investment in athletics is just as important.” [Gauging what's going on -- financially, legally, morally, academically -- in most of bigtime university athletics isn't about dashboards. It's about sledgehammers. Texas Tech doesn't need sophisticated instrumentation to know it's got its head up its ass.]

...“The kind of change we’re talking about will be more incremental than revolutionary,” said University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chancellor James Moeser, who as a Task Force member helped draft the white paper on the dashboard project. “But we are giving leaders the tools to make more informed decisions. It’s up to every president and chancellor to use them in their own situations.” [This overlooks the fact that presidents and chancellors, at many of these schools, have little to no power over athletics.]

...“There will be a lot more conversation between the athletics department and our vice chancellor for financial administration than there has been in the past, for example,” Moeser said. “And there will be more regular presentations by athletics to the budget committee.” [Uh-huh.]

... Task Force members acknowledge the possibility that the additional data may in fact fuel the perceived arms race in athletics [Note the word "perceived." It's not perceived. It's actual.] rather than douse the flame, but most of them downplay the concern [Bath salt prose. No cause for alarm! Keep doing what you've been doing!], saying that more accurate data beats little or unreliable information.

... Others, though, think the dashboards will prompt institutions in the upper echelon to hit cruise control and some in the lower half to step on the gas.

“Large governing bodies are guilty of that kind of behavior, and you can’t help it,” said Katie Hill, a senior associate athletics director at Clemson University. “You presume that everyone’s decision-making is based on the global good. It’s not. Does our government scale back spending because the national budget is out of hand? No. Does our national debt keep us from borrowing from China? No. We’ve heard the expression that all politics are local — well, all athletics decisions are local, too. It’s about what our universities, our athletics departments, and our fans and supporters expect from us.” [Writer sticks the truth of the situation at the end of the piece -- things like dashboard indicators hasten the trend in which schools like the University of Texas maintain obscenely over-funded sports programs, and smaller schools destroy themselves trying to keep up. The writer gives us another paragraph insisting this worry is groundless, and then he concludes the piece.]



'[Health and Human Services Secretary Mike] Leavitt and Michael Chertoff at Homeland Security are the first two members of President Bush's Cabinet who are blogging.

..."I've decided to wade in a little deeper into blogdom by writing one for the next month or so," Leavitt wrote in his first entry. "I'm going to see how I feel after that time period. I may continue; I may not."

Leavitt says he writes every blog entry himself, often late at night in hotel rooms when he is traveling. He is concerned that his entries are too long; on Aug. 20, he wrote 2,444 words about his trip to an orphanage in South Africa.

... Leavitt said his blogging experience has so far been positive. The blog has picked up almost 100 links, he pointed out. "I have no idea if that's any good," he wrote. "Maybe some of you more experienced bloggers can give me some perspective."'

That's good.

---associated press---

Roxana Astemborski]

"Heavy smoke
can be seen from the Cafe..."
"Defendant has and continues
to unlawfully hold in his
possession six pairs of
asparagus tongs manufactured
by Mappin & Webb, Birmingham,
1926, weighing 10 ounces total."

UD is enjoying reading about the Scaife divorce, and she trusts you will too. A really well-written Washington Post article.

Readers will recall UD's coverage of the new South Lake Union Trolley. In order to avoid the acronym, city officials insist it be called the South Lake Union Streetcar, but locals prefer it the first way, and have printed t-shirts that read RIDE THE SLUT, etc.

Now the Sioux City airport, after struggling with its acronym, has wisely given up.

'City leaders have scrapped plans to do away with the Sioux Gateway Airport's unflattering three-letter identifier - SUX - and instead have made it the centrepiece of the airport's new marketing campaign.

The code, used by pilots and airports worldwide and printed on tickets and luggage tags, will be used on T-shirts and caps sporting the airport's new slogan, "FLY SUX." It also forms the address of the airport's redesigned website -

Sioux City officials petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to change the code in 1988 and 2002. At one point, the FAA offered the city five alternatives - GWU, GYO, GYT, SGV and GAY - but airport trustees turned them down.

Airport board member Dave Bernstein proposed embracing the identifier.

"Let's make the best of it," Bernstein said. "I think we have the opportunity to turn it into a positive."

He noted that many airports, including some of the busiest, have forgettable three-letter codes.

"I've got buddies that I went to college with in different cities that can't even remember their own birthdays, but they all know the Sioux City designator - SUX," he said.

Mayor Craig Berenstein, who in 2002 described SUX as an "embarrassment" to the city, said he views the new slogan as a "cute little way" to make light of the situation.'

---associated press---
Sandblasting the Blog

As I leave you, I want you to know — just think how much you're going to be missing. You won't have UD to kick around any more, because this is my last post...

No, no... I think the doctored photo of Rose Mary Woods I put up the other day has me Nixon-crazed...

I'm not going to leave you. But University Diaries will soon look different. You won't be able to complain about my unalphabetized links list and my all-squished-together testimonials, etc. My niece, Carolyn, thinks it's time for a UD makeover. She'll do the work, and I'll do the anxious-resistance-to-all-forms-of-change.
"...[W]hat, they ask,
is the point of lectures
in which all academics
do is read out bullet
points of a PowerPoint
presentation and then leave?"

Students in British universities are beginning to get the picture.

Can Americans be far behind?
Snapshots from Home:

GW's New President
Already Saying
All the Right Things

'University President Steven Knapp said he plans to lower GW's tuition, saying it negatively impacts the University's image and leaves students piled in loans, in his first address to the Board of Trustees Friday.

"I am personally not happy with seeing this institution at the top of the list of price," Knapp said at the meeting of the University's highest governing body.

Without taking GW's fixed tuition policy into account, GW is the most expensive private institution in the country. Knapp spoke about the impact of negative media attention that linked GW's decreasing U.S. News and World report ranking with the University's increasing cost.

... "(The price) leads to the dangerous perception that we're costing more than we're worth," Knapp said.'

---gw hatchet---
Hard of Hearing


Users of impotence drugs, such as Viagra, may suffer sudden hearing loss, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

It's not clear that the drugs truly trigger hearing loss, but the Food and Drug Administration decided Thursday the drugs would bear a warning about the possible risk after counting 29 reports of the problem since 1996 among users of this family of medicines.

The impotence drugs Viagra, Cialis and Levitra will bear the warnings. So will Revatio, a drug for pulmonary hypertension, which contains the same ingredient as Viagra.

Viagra's label already mentioned hearing loss as a possibility, because a few cases were reported during initial testing of that drug. But given that hearing loss is a risk of advancing age and certain conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, that can lead to impotence, it wasn't clear if the link was real.

... The reports involve hearing loss in one ear, which in a third of cases was temporary.

FDA urged patients who experience any hearing problems — loss or ringing in the ears — to promptly call their doctors and stop taking the impotence drugs.'

-- Associated Press --
Man, I Know I Shouldn't, But...

...get a load of this guest list from the News Hour, October 11, 2007:

GUESTS: Tom Lantos Mark Parris Jimmy Carter
Ban Ki-Moon Margaret Soltan.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Poor Poshard's Almanack

A reader sends UD the latest evisceration of poor Poshard.

'...[N]ow they tell me -- they being the SIU seven member faculty investigating committee -- that Poshard's padding his paper with multiple paragraphs copied verbatim from other sources, without quotes or footnotes, was "consistent with the style used at the time by other graduate students." Apparently, I was too naïve to know I could have saved hours and headaches [on my dissertation] by simply copying thousands of words from already published sources to submit as my own.

The seven committee members, who work for SIU President Poshard, assigned no penalty, told him he may keep his job and to correct his dissertation. They justified their October 12th decision on the basis that SIU had no "definition" or "code of conduct" regarding plagiarism in the olden days of 1984.

... Are my ears not working right, or is this not the number one educator at a state university, echoing the same tired claims of countless students caught cheating in school over the years?

What is even more embarrassing to everyone else in higher education is the rationalizing of the SIU investigating committee.

...In Glenn Poshard's doctoral thesis about programs in education for the gifted, the committee found 14 passages copied from other sources without citations (presenting others' findings as his own), and 16 other passages copied and cited, but not placed in quotations (presenting others' words as his own).

Thousands of students in American schools have received F's for considerably less.

Glenn Poshard can keep his job, if SIU still wants him.

But his degree is another matter. Degrees and diplomas are supposed to be guarantees, and his does not guarantee the scholarship and integrity it's supposed to...'

Good idea. Take the degree away.

See if he can do it right this time.
Glamorous Pepperdine

...has been evacuated:

'A wildfire driven by powerful Santa Ana winds threatened a university and forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes in the Malibu Hills on Sunday, authorities said. Flames destroyed a church and several homes, one of them a landmark castle.

The blaze had consumed at least 1,000 acres and forced the closure of the Pacific Coast Highway, authorities said.

The evacuees included faculty and staff at Pepperdine University, a school spokesman said.

Students had been instructed to gather their belongings from their dorm rooms and report to the school's cafeteria and basketball arena.

Power is out at the university but both evacuation areas have generators, according to student and resident advisor Amanda Lewis, 21.

Helicopters dropped water on the flames dotting the hills above the campus. Palm trees smoldered on the campus glade that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

The erratic wind gusts could be seen pushing flames toward the Hughes Lab technology research campus about a mile north of the Pepperdine campus....'

---mercury news---
When to Claim
That You DID

'No wonder the Liberal Democrats are all over the place: one of the contenders for the party leadership once declared that opium could be “safely experimented with” and that LSD “holds no surprises”.

This weekend Chris Huhne is discovering, just as David Cameron before him, that his undergraduate days at Oxford can come back to haunt him. Last night Huhne, 53, was doing his best to disown an article he appears to have written in an Oxford student magazine about the benefits of illegal hard drugs.

The piece, which bears his name as an 18-year-old student at Oxford University in the 1970s, states that drugs such as opium, LSD, and amphetamines should be an “accepted facet of our society”.

Most notable is the author’s apparent familiarity with class A substances and their effect when taken. “Opium is available in Oxford and, in its natural form can be safely experimented with,” the article states. Opium and the class A drug heroin are both opiates. “Colours, movements and shapes are serenely beautiful, as beautiful as a dream and as realistic as George’s [a cafe frequented by students] at 7.30 on a Monday morning.

“Acid [LSD] is manufactured in the labs and is the only drug which is getting cheaper . . . The considerable number of students at this university who drop acid are well-balanced highly intelligent people . . . if one is able to live with oneself . . . then acid holds no surprises.”

The article was published in the university’s Isis magazine in February 1973 clearly bearing his byline. But this weekend the MP for Eastleigh was struggling, possibly through the passage of time, to remember it. He said that he could not recall writing it and suggested he might only have been compiling the thoughts of other contributors.

“To be honest I don’t have any memory of it,” said Huhne. He insisted that it was his private business whether or not he had taken opium or any other drug, but said “the views that were [expressed in the article] are certainly not my views as they are at the moment”.

... Huhne went to Magdalen College and won a first class degree in politics, philosophy and economics. He began writing for Isis soon after starting university and became its joint editor for a period.

The exposition on the benefits of hard drugs was published as part of a longer article on how to “escape” the trials of being a student at Oxford.

“There are a number of people who are open-minded about experimenting with drugs,” recorded the piece, which was accompanied by a drawing of a hand holding a syringe.

“This tolerance is welcome, and it is only with the aid of this tolerance that drugs can be put in their correct unsensationalist place as a social phenomenon with great and respectable antecedents.”

When asked about the article Huhne said: “I was basically putting together large hunks of that, so God knows who wrote it and did anything and I wouldn’t attribute it to me if I were you.”

When told that his byline was attached, he added: “I may have edited the piece but as I say I was just bringing together whole loads of stuff.” ...'

--the sunday times--

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Snapshots from Home

UD is on her way to campus on this gorgeous fall Saturday to get her photo taken for the GW Hatchet article about faculty who blog [scroll down a few posts for a description of my interview].

"It'll take about an hour," said the photographer.

"An hour? To take a picture for the paper?"

"Well, I'll take about two hundred..."


In a statement accompanying
the photograph, President
Poshard said: "It was a
long time ago. I was young.
I was in a rush. I had gender
issues. A phone call
distracted me just as I
was inserting quotation
marks in the document."

The Accidental President.


'Yes, our boss made "errors and mistakes" in writing his doctoral dissertation, said a faculty committee at Southern Illinois University. Yes, there were "many instances" in which "the words of others are present in a continuous flow" (although that doesn't constitute plagiarism).

But those "incorrect practices" -- 25 of them in a 110-page paper -- ought to be allowed to be fixed and SIU President Glenn Poshard should be able complete a new dissertation, the panel said. And the old document should be removed from the SIU Library and replaced with the "corrected" version.

In other words, Poshard gets a big, fat do-over; the president of the university is given a break from a group with an obvious conflict of interest that no one else would get. And Southern Illinois University's already diminished academic reputation takes another hit.

Who but the president of the university, a politically connected southern Illinois native, could get such a deal from a committee of faculty whose financial livelihood depends in part on how much money Poshard can schmooze from the Springfield power brokers who are his pals?'

---daily herald---
Intellectual Firepower

He's been teaching sociology at a local college for over a decade. His lawyer says that except for the "200 pistols, 100 shotguns, 50 rifles, 18,000 rounds of ammunition, 75 sharp-edged martial-arts weapons, more than a dozen manuals on the making of explosives, two grenade launchers, and four bulletproof vests" in his possession, he "seems like an otherwise peaceful man."

'Timothy L. Jacobs, charged Thursday with illegal possession of three assault weapons after police removed 350 guns from a house and barn on Highland Avenue last week, is an associate professor of sociology at Naugatuck Valley Community College.

He shares the property with his estranged ex-girlfriend and their 5-year-old son. The child's mother, Anne Marie Kelly Jacobs, has full custody of the boy. The couple's relationship broke down a year ago, and Jacobs had been living in the barn, where most of the weapons were found. The mother first called police Oct. 5 after finding six loaded handguns in a dresser drawer inside the house.

A spokeswoman for the state community college system did not immediately return a phone call Thursday afternoon seeking comment about Jacobs' job status. He has taught at Naugatuck Valley at least since 1994 and earns about $70,000 annually.

The 59-year-old Jacobs, a thin, slightly stooped man with collar-length, scraggly gray hair, was arraigned in Superior Court Thursday on three felony counts of possessing an assault weapon. It was illegal for Jacobs, formerly of the Moodus section of East Haddam, to have the weapons because he failed to obtain the required certificate of possession from state police and to register the guns, prosecutors said.

He was ordered jailed, with bail set at $75,000, and he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

His attorney, John Maxwell, argued for a lower bail, saying his client has had serious psychological problems for years, but was not a flight risk.

"He seems like an otherwise peaceful man," Maxell said after the court hearing. "Certainly, he has some issues. He apparently collected the guns."

In court, Assistant State's Attorney Craig Nowak said that the charges were serious and that possession of the illegal guns was highly troubling. Superior Court Judge Barbara Jongbloed refused to lower the bond, and she barred Jacobs from having any contact with the child or the child's mother if he were to make bail.

Maxell noted that the guns were safely stowed in the Middletown police property room, but that was of no solace to Kelly Jacobs' attorney, Heidi Alexander.

"I wouldn't trust this guy with chemicals for the lawn," Alexander said in court.

Nowak told the judge that federal authorities are also considering whether to seek an indictment against Jacobs for possession of a fourth illegal weapon - a "streetsweeper" shotgun with a revolving ammunition drum for quick loading. That firearm is illegal in the United States, Nowak said later.

After finding the six loaded, unsecured handguns in a dresser drawer, Kelly Jacobs told police she was concerned for the safety of her son, according to court records. That call led to the seizure by police of 350 weapons over a period of a week. Kelly Jacobs also obtained a restraining order against Jacobs.

The weapons cache included 200 pistols, 100 shotguns, 50 rifles, 18,000 rounds of ammunition, 75 sharp-edged martial-arts weapons, more than a dozen manuals on the making of explosives, two grenade launchers, and four bulletproof vests, city police said.

Nowak said after the hearing that Middletown police and federal agents were studying three additional assault weapons to see whether they were manufactured after a national assault-weapon ban was passed. If they were, it would be illegal for Jacobs to have possessed them.

Sgt. Scott Aresco, a Middletown police spokesman, said in a press release that "additional charges have not been ruled out."'

Friday, October 19, 2007

University of Oregon Athletics:
"It's Just A Money Bag."

'...The Ducks have blatantly said that the big-bucks donor has become more important to the athletic department than the athletic director, and it's naïve to think otherwise.

Even if you wanted to, you can't -- the Ducks hired a prominent donor to replace [former coach Bill] Moos. Pat Kilkenny is second to [Phil] Knight in money given to Oregon, and now he's running the asylum.

It's amazing, really. No, astonishing. A wildly successful businessman, Kilkenny, 55, is ex-CEO of Arrowhead General Insurance Agency in San Diego. He has donated nearly $6 million to Oregon athletics, which more than compensates for having no AD experience or a college degree. He also is said to have paid a large chunk of Moos' buyout, but this was before he was a candidate for the job.

According to a story in the university's student newspaper, the Daily Emerald, 92 faculty members signed a letter that ran in the Eugene Register-Guard complaining about the hiring and the imbalance of academics and athletics.

Professor Tom Givon was quoted as saying: "The business of letting a major fundraiser become the force of the athletic department is just the last straw. It's just a money bag. Excuse me, but I'm sick of seeing money bags creating this place into an athletic empire."...
I Don't Get It.

But I'm laughing my head off.

Excerpt from Bull City-in-Wonderland:

The strippers wouldn’t take no for an answer. While the boys drank Perrier and played chess while listening to The Very Best of Chopin, the dancers climbed through an open window into the bathroom. The boys, hearing a commotion in the lavatory, barricaded the strippers into the bathroom.

The blog's self-description:

A Blog Novel about the infamous Duke Polo Pony Bestiality Case. Three falsely accused student-athletes are declared innocent of sex crimes using DNA evidence the D.A. tried to hide. Racial politics, strippers and political incorrectness collide with a flawed judicial system to serve up a heap of Bull City injustice. If you thought you knew the sports and criminal justice story of the century, think again.

Before you attempt to read it, put on your Dada hat.
Way stern...

...thing in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about how you better watch out what you do with your university email account or you're gonna be in big trouble.

Good thing UD (scroll down a few posts) stopped using her university email account ages ago.

UD's friend Jeff sends her this strange item. UD, being UD, is less interested in the massage than she is in what the student means by loud.

'A massage may have led to the killing of a popular community college professor, sources said.

Richard Urdiales, 53, was found beaten to death on Sunday outside a house on North 55th Street.

Urdiales was an English professor at Blue River Metropolitan Community College in Independence, Mo., but he also made extra money as a masseur.

Students told KCTV5's Liana Joyce that Urdiales had a unique teaching style they could relate to. "He was really loud sometimes. And I liked it, because I'm really loud, too," said Lindsay Walker, a student at the school. She added, "He was one of my favorite teachers."'

UD Instablogs the First...

...of two midterms she's giving today.

She has a tradition of doing this on University Diaries, describing what it's like to stand up in front of a room of students (she's standing up because you can't sit down and use the computer) who race through the eight questions you've given them to choose among, and who then settle in to ye olde five-paragraph essay... UD's a fan of the five-paragraph essay. She's praised it in the past on this blog, but is too lazy to find the link.

A reporter from GW's student newspaper, The Hatchet, interviewed UD in her office yesterday about her blog. They're doing an article -- they do one every year -- about GW professors who blog. The reporter was a slim, genial guy who tapped out UD's answers on an elegant laptop he balanced on his knees. He seemed impressed by her daily hit number.

On the Metro this morning, UD apologized to the perky blond woman sitting next to her for spilling things here and there as she sloppily carried her books and papers... In this respect, this sloppiness, UD conforms, I guess, to professor typecasting...

The woman said "No problem! Don't worry! I'm a little disorganized myself today. I just got in from Phoenix - I'm visiting my daughter at George Washington University - and I stayed with my cousin in Baltimore last night. I was so tired when I got to her office from the airport that I slept under her desk! ... Do I get off at Dupont Circle? Do you know?"

"I'm going there. Just do what I'm doing. You want to transfer to the Blue line and get off at Foggy Bottom."

"Are you a student?" [No, no. She didn't say this.]

She looked at my books and papers. "Do you teach there?"


And we were off and running. Our last topic of conversation, before we waved goodbye as she went to the AddFare machine, was the sadness of having raised children so independent-minded that they won't even occasionally cling to us, or ask our advice about things. Her son's in Moscow learning the language and working; her daughter at GW studies International Relations and wants to be a diplomat.

So far a student has come up to me and asked how to spell rhythmic. Another approached and said: "It's a silly question, but some professors are picky... Can we use both sides of the page in the blue book?" Honey, UD is so not picky...
UD, Who Long Ago...

...stopped using her university-provided email system in favor of Google's much better one, notes that university systems in general are imperiled. Excerpts from two stories in Vanderbilt's student newspaper:

'Universities may change the way they manage their e-mail systems in the near future, as companies like Google and Microsoft seek to tap the college market.

Google recently convinced Arizona State University's 65,000 students to switch to Google e-mail services. And a number of other universities, including Vanderbilt, might make the switch as well...'

The complaints are UD's complaints:

'...Mailboxes often fill to quota with little effort and need to be cleared out several times a semester. Both the Web-based version and the recommended e-mail client Mulberry look like they may have been designed in the late ‘90s. And the program offers no additional services — such as a chat mechanism or a way to view which of your contacts are currently online. Even a task as simple as creating a mailing list seems insurmountable with Webmail. [UD would add that her university's system seems eager to time you out when you're writing a slightly longer than usual email.]

In essence, ITS spends an inordinate amount of time and resources maintaining a system that offers less than what students can get elsewhere for free. With more students switching to Gmail each year, it will eventually make very little sense for the university to sustain its own e-mail program.

Arizona State University has already made the switch for their 65,000 students; surely the transition would be even easier at a place with a significantly smaller student body....'
Laughingstock Revisited

From the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville faculty senate's discussion of SIU president Glenn Poshard, whose extensive plagiarism was judged by a committee made up of his own faculty to have been "inadvertent":

'[One professor remarked] that [President] Poshard "inadvertently remains" in office — a comment that drew chuckles from the group.'

The group went on to vote overwhelmingly in favor of his resignation.
Gold-Plated Island

'...Here in Columbus, the OSU athletic department is a gold-plated island in a region getting roiled by harsh economic forces. The lavish program is the most vivid example of how college sports have turned into a humongous business and created a parallel universe of high-living in the world of academia. OSU's athletic budget, which has grown 46% in five years, has expanded despite a prolonged downturn in the Ohio economy and several rounds of public-funding cuts to higher education.

...Last year, the issue of swelling athletic-department budgets was taken up in Washington by the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. In a strongly worded letter to NCAA President Myles Brand, former Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas criticized "highly paid coaches with no academic duties," and wrote that Division I football and men's basketball "more closely resemble professional sports than amateur sports..."'

---wall street journal---
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's
Faculty Leadership Votes Overwhelmingly For
Poshard to Resign.

'The faculty leadership group at Southern Illinois University's Edwardsville campus called Thursday for embattled university President Glenn Poshard to resign.

The 45-5 vote by the Faculty Senate comes a week after a separate faculty committee at the university's sister campus in Carbondale concluded that Poshard, who was found to have committed "inadvertent plagiarism" in portions of his master's and doctoral theses, should fix his work but remain as president...'

---chicago tribune---

Thursday, October 18, 2007



---headline, the appalachian, appalachian state university---
From the Boychoir
To a Heroin Overdose --

A Quick Life.

'A student at Rider University's Westminster Choir College has been charged over a fellow student's death, prosecutors said Thursday.

According to the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, 19-year-old Kieran Hunt of Piscataway sold heroin to freshman Justin Warfield and shot it up with him in the Princeton music school's parking lot on Tuesday evening.

Prosecutors said Warfield, an 18-year-old from Columbia, Md., had to be taken by ambulance early Wednesday to University Hospital in Princeton, where he was pronounced dead.

Hunt was arrested and charged Wednesday with being liable for Warfield's drug death, as well as selling him the heroin, prosecutors said. He is free on $100,000 bail.

Mercer County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio didn't immediately respond to an Associated Press e-mail sent to him Thursday; no phone listing was found for Hunt in Piscataway.

Warfield's death comes seven months after another Rider freshman, Gary DeVercelly Jr., died after drinking at a fraternity party on the school's main campus in Lawrenceville.

The case got widespread attention, partly because of the legal maneuvering that followed.

Three students were charged with aggravated hazing, as were two university officials. The charges against the administrators were dropped; two of the students were accepted into a program that could allow them to avoid prison time; charges against the third student are still pending.

The case prompted the university to establish strict new rules governing on-campus alcohol use.

People who knew Warfield back in Maryland told The Star-Ledger of Newark that he graduated in June from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, which is located between Baltimore and Washington. A drummer, he was a member of "The Getaways," a band that performed at venues in that area.

Steve Holmes, director of the Maryland State Boychoir that Warfield was part of, remembered a talented young man.

"He was very charismatic. Justin had a shimmering beautiful voice..."'
When, in the Course
of Human Events... turns out you're associated with a national laughingstock, it's time to declare independence.
Think UD's Over the Top?

John Feinstein writes about the Bowl Championship Series in the Washington Post:

Every single reasonable person in the country knows the BCS is the single worst creation there is in sports. It is the creation of a group of selfish, money-mongering college presidents who couldn't care less about what is best for the so-called student-athletes, couldn't care less about the fans who go to the games and, most of all, couldn't care less about fairness.

"Show Me the Money" is and has been the mantra of the BCS school presidents forever. What's both sad and ironic is that these over-educated, self-important frauds would actually make more money for their schools if they were willing to give up just a little bit of the absolute power they currently wield.

My only problem with this: Over-educated?
Laughingstock Speaks

UD has called Southern Illinois University, with its now-exonerated plagiarist president, a laughingstock. If you want to hear how a laughingstock sounds, read along with her the following opinion piece in the university's newspaper, written by two members of the committee that came up with the intellectually insulting designation "inadvertent plagiarism" for the intentional, and rife, plagiarism in the president's dissertation.

But before you do, note the student editors' introduction to the piece, which says that "Their [the faculty members'] words have not been altered in any way other than to correct grammar and style." If that's true, UD/SOS wonders what the thing must have looked like before the student writers corrected their professors' writing, since it's still an embarrassment.

Note also that one of the writers is a professor of speech communication.

We are writing in response to the "Our Word" editorial (including the cartoons) in Friday's DE, and Monday's "The P Word" editorial (including the cartoon), both which have occasioned a good deal of negative response on campus and in the wider community. We hope that you will explain what's puzzling about those editorials, as an initial contribution toward developing a reasoned and positive educational experience from what now is a sadly contentious episode in our university's life. [Beyond the vapid positive educational experience cliche, note that these two initial sentences are, well, puzzling. Does the word "puzzling," for instance, mean puzzling to the writers, or puzzling in the editorials? And already the tone feels condescending, irritated, defensive.]

What needs explaining is this: In Friday's paper, under the headline of [Drop of.]"Exactly what the doctor ordered," you say: "The committee has failed us. The Board of Trustees has failed us. Our university is a joke. And the Daily Egyptian is at a loss for words."

The initial question we ask is: What committee has failed you, and how? The first editorial appeared on the day that the review committee, charged last month by Chancellor Fernando Treviño, delivered its report to the chancellor, who in turn delivered it to the Board of Trustees. Yet the cartoons that follow those four sentences show a caricature labeled "blue ribbon committee" - an entity formed by SIU President Glenn Poshard, more than a year ago, which delivered its report last month. Both editorials confuse these very different committees.

These are different committees, chosen in radically different ways, and with completely different charges. We cannot speak for the "blue ribbon committee," and we certainly do not speak for the Board (any more than the Board speaks for us). Nor can we speak for President Poshard - or he, for us. However, we can speak as members of the review committee to what we have determined.

We ask that you, and all concerned persons [all concerned persons is police-speak] in our community, listen to the press conference and hear, for yourselves, that the chair of the Board of Trustees, in response to a specific question, said that "the Board does not feel that he committed plagiarism."

The chair of the review committee, however, responded to the same question by saying that the review committee concluded that "inadvertent or unintentional plagiarism" was the result of student Poshard's citation practices. (The Southern Illinoisan provides the audio: See their Web site under "Archives," Oct. 11.)

The report submitted by the review committee on the day that you published the first editorial does not consider plagiarism to be a joke. [Since it has treated it like one, it certainly does consider it a joke.] And the report submitted by the review committee on the day that you published that editorial does determine that plagiarism, understood within a particular definition of the many that exist [There aren't many definitions of plagiarism. These writers are obfuscating in an effort to get Poshard off the hook.], is present in the dissertation that student Poshard's committee approved. One item in the review committee's charge was to determine the "severity" of instances of incorrect citation. [It's clear that Poshard's dissertation represents severe plagiarism. Long verbatim passages from other places appear in it.]

Just as there is a spectrum of severity in a messy room, a case of poison ivy, a broken bone, or a misleading newspaper article, there is a spectrum of severity in plagiarism. Correlatively [Ooh, aren't we fancy. Correlatively. Throughout this piece, these two, who can't write, are talking down to students who can.], the law recognizes shades of severity in both civil and criminal cases - from negligence to intentional wrong doing; from manslaughter to first degree murder. People commonly accept that there are differences in the character of acts that make for differences in what decision is warranted. We determined that the category of "inadvertent plagiarism" was the most warranted in this case. [But why? In his remarks about the case immediately after the paper's discovery of it, Poshard himself seems to acknowledge that he was aware of what he was doing.]

Lastly, although we regret that the Board feels otherwise, that difference should suggest, at the very least, that we have acted independently in investigating the allegations and reaching our conclusions and recommendations. [What? Because you attached a bogus designation to your exoneration of him while the Board didn't bother to do this? That only makes the Board more honest than you.] Our report, listed as "Faculty Review Committee Report," along with the Board's statement and other statements and reports, is available for all to read at

The DE editorial board, as well as various commentators and letter writers, feel that because the review committee was composed of SIU faculty, it could not have remained objective because we were evaluating our boss. We believe that you should reconsider this presumption.

First, President Poshard is not our boss. We do not report to him directly or indirectly. We are all tenured faculty. [So? He determines your budgets, and is certainly, in a variety of other ways, in a position to make your lives unpleasant.]

Second, had the chancellor or we decided to convene an outside panel to review the allegations, this panel could not have been blind to the subject of the review (as is usually required in external, peer review). [I don't understand this sentence.]

Third, had that committee come to the same conclusion that we did, we're sure that the DE editorial board would have found many ways to discredit them, such as accusing us or the chancellor of cherry-picking panel members. To avoid any appearance of cherry-picking, the chancellor named this committee on the basis of our already being in elected positions of leadership in the Faculty Association, Faculty Senate and Graduate Council. [This is a sweet one. Choose institutional insiders to make sure the committee isn't made up of insiders.]

Fourth, we knew from the beginning that our findings would be highly scrutinized by both President Poshard's distracters [The student editors missed this one. Or did they -- as UD hopes -- non-inadvertently retain it, in order to display the semi-literacy of professors who feel comfortable condescending to students about their writing?], and his supporters. Moreover, we have our academic colleagues around the world looking over our shoulders. These concerns kept us in check, and kept us honest in our attempts to reach a fair conclusion.

Finally, as teachers and researchers, we suggest that reading our report and listening to the press conference might alleviate your sense of being at a loss for words. In the light of reading and listening to the relevant evidence, we, as members of the review committee, ask that you reconsider the belief that you have been failed, in light of reading and listening to the relevant sources of information and considering the following: [Dizzyingly circular sentence full of light.]

Had the review committee not followed due process, as set out in established university policies (specifically, in the Student Conduct Code) for investigating allegations of academic misconduct, we would have failed you.

Had the review committee not applied thought, deliberation, and analysis, and instead relied solely on plagiarism software technology to reach our conclusion, we would have failed you.

Had the review committee not gone further in our analysis than is indicated in recent media reports - which, in some cases, are misleading or inaccurate - we would have failed you.

Had the review committee not fully investigated the context and circumstances in which the alleged plagiarized text was prepared, we would have failed you.

Had the review committee not concluded that the attribution style and other errors resulted in inadvertent plagiarism, we would have failed you. [Dayenu.]

Would you want any current, former or future SIU student accused of academic dishonesty to not be treated with due process, as we have treated this former student?


Commercial Self-Conception
in the American University

'[...C]ontemporary business schools increasingly see themselves as business organizations, not educational institutions. Over the past decade, the apparent dominance of market logic in how business educators think about their enterprise has become evident in their discourse. Business schools make a “value proposition” to students, who are now commonly described as “customers.”

A 2002 ... report titled “Management Education at Risk,” heavily laced with business jargon, described the increased “segmentation of consumer markets” for business education and explored its implications for “strategies to deliver educational and research services” on the part of business schools. Nowhere in this report, authored by a committee consisting mostly of business educators, was there any discussion of education as a mission, management as a profession, or the risk to the integrity of university business schools from an uncritical adoption of a commercial self-conception. This view has become part of the institutional character of business schools and indeed, as many have recently argued, of the American university itself.

While administrators at the elite business schools undoubtedly cringe at the notion that diplomas are merely market products, signals for employers, and induct students into elite networks, a cursory examination of business school Web sites and marketing material will highlight that the same administrators have nevertheless continued to promote their schools as a means of access to benefits clearly ancillary to education, in particular a valuable credential associated with a high “return on investment” and access to elite networks.

One reason that business school deans and administrators may have been reluctant to face up to the reality of the changes unfolding before their eyes is that these changes, examined closely, can be seen to carry implications that severely undermine the intellectual and social foundations of the university-based business school itself, calling its very reason for continued existence into question.

The ideas of shareholder primacy and managers as the agents of shareholders, which now is the staple of most M.B.A. curriculums, stripped the occupation of management of any last vestiges of professional identity, self-respect, or responsibility that had been attached to it through the efforts of business school founders, leaders, and faculty going back over a century to the birth of the university business school itself.

This raised the question, among others, of whether business schools were actually “professional schools” if business management itself was indeed not actually a profession. And if they were not — if, instead, business schools were highly sophisticated trade schools that existed to prepare students, by and large, for careers dedicated to the sole purpose of creating private wealth, for themselves as “agents” as well as for shareholders as “principals” — another question that arose was whether business schools remained aligned with the mission of the university to preserve, create, and transmit knowledge to advance the public good.'

These comments, from a question-and-answer session between Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Education and Rakesh Khurana, a Harvard Business School professor, go to the heart of the sorts of things University Diaries is about.

How to distinguish between a university and a trade school?

A university exists to create and transmit knowledge in an atmosphere of neutrality, ethical integrity, intellectual independence, and curiosity for its own sake. Further, as Khurana writes, there's always a "public good" orientation at universities, in which questions of social value are insistently posed.

A trade school is a passive adjunct to a particular form of work -- if you want to learn how to fit pipes in order to get a pipe-fitting job, it'll show you how that's done. If you want to sell real estate, it'll show you how that's done. It will not ask questions about the personal and social morality of selling houses to people by encouraging them to take out loans they can't repay; it will not ask questions about the history of domestic architecture, or about the aesthetics of McMansions. It'll show you how to move property.

A university law school, on the other hand, will do much more than prepare you for professional exams. It will not portray you as a mere adjunct of corporations.

To be sure, there's a vast intellectual range among law schools. Yale will offer a spectacularly high-level scholarly experience, while less burnished, more local law schools will be more vocational in nature. Yet even those local law schools will pride themselves on offering students a sense of the history and majesty of law itself. They will ask their students to think about justice, the evolution of courts, the nature of concepts like harm, etc.

Khurana argues that MBA programs in universities shouldn't, for the most part, be in those universities, because they are actually trade schools, passive adjuncts to America's commercial markets. His arguments help explain the absurdity of trying to inject personal morality into business school curricula (see this UD post). Since the business school itself has little to no interest in thinking about the relationship between business activity and the public good, students quite reasonably don't see why they should have any interest...

This post's subject is closely allied to the post just below (and to that post's comment thread). Both go to basic definitional questions. What is a university? How is it different from a football training camp with a couple of books thrown in? How is it different from a vocational school?

UD'd like to begin answering this enormous, and enormously important question with the following simple suggestion: Universities are overwhelmingly about reflection, not action. They involve rigorous reading, analytical writing, thinking, and discussing much more than they do dancing, creative writing, playing football, singing, and sculpting. They feature higher-level thought about things much more than they feature the activity of those things.

They feature that thought because they believe that if students are able to put into historical, moral, social, and global perspective certain human pursuits, students will be able to clarify and improve those pursuits, or will be able to clarify our thinking about those pursuits. Yale wants its law graduates not merely to keep clients out of jail and corporations out of court; it wants its graduates to contribute to our culture's thought about its laws in general, and perhaps to change some of those laws for the better.

Similarly, Khurana argues, if business schools are going to be university rather than trade school phenomena, they need to found themselves on reflection about markets as such. The scholarly outcome of that reflection should, like all scholarship, promote the public's interest in understanding the nature of the world.

If business schools don't have room for both ground-level vocational training and meta-level intellectuality, Khurana's suggesting, they should move their digs off campus.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coaches Should be Professors,
and Football Should Be One of the Arts

Frank Deford, at NPR, writes.

SOS inserts.

'Sport is not considered art. Instead, it is invariably dismissed as something lesser — even something rather more vulgar — than the more traditional performance activities. [Not considering something art is not the same as diminishing it. Most people don't diminish sports relative to the arts. They put the two things in different categories. And some sports are violent -- their very nature is violence -- which is not the same as vulgar. I don't say football, for instance, is vulgar. I say it's primarily violent, and that it appeals not to the aesthetic but to the violent sensibilities of its audience. If military strategy and battlefield skill with weaponry is an art, football is also an art. Singers and dancers aren't trying to move a ball down a field by injuring the person in their way.]

Now Gary Walters, the athletic director at Princeton, has spoken out that sport should be granted equal educational prestige with the likes of drama and art and music. [Getting a little foggy already. What does "art" mean in that list? Painting? Painting's not a performance art.]

"Is it time," he asks, "for the educational-athletic experience on our playing fields [to] be accorded the same ... academic respect as the arts?" [Here the significant distinction is between simple daily life, which incorporates into it all sorts of experiences we can call educational, and the forms of education which are specific to universities. The sort of education you get playing a game has nothing to do with the sort of education universities provide. This is one reason we call sports extra-curricular.]

Walters validates his advocacy with unique credentials beyond the Ivy League. He went to the Final Four as playmaker on Bill Bradley's last team. He was chairman of the national Division I basketball committee this year, the maestro of March Madness. This is all to say that he brings the broadest perspective to college sports, and it mightily irritates Walters that sport is only considered a "distant cousin" to the arts. [Nothing in this paragraph is relevant to the argument Walters and Deford are trying to make. What is Walters' educational background? Does he have a degree in art theory?]

Well, apart from simply being so sweaty, I think that sport has suffered in comparison with the arts — or should I say: the other arts — because it is founded on trying to win. Artists are not supposed to be competitive. [Not true. Artists are both supposed to be competitive,and are competitive. Architects compete for commissions. Writers compete for subsidies. Singers and instrumentalists are always competing for prizes.] They are expected to be above that. We always hear "art for art's sake." Nobody ever says "sport for sport's sake." [We never hear art for art's sake. That went out a century ago.]

I also believe that sport has suffered because until recently, athletic performance could not be preserved. What we accepted as great art — whether the book, the script, the painting, the symphony — is that which could be saved and savored. But the performances of the athletic artists who ran and jumped and wrestled were gone with the wind.

Now, however, that we can study the grace of the athlete on film, a double play can be viewed as pretty as any pas de deux. Or, please: Is not what we saw Michael Jordan do every bit as artistic as what we saw Mikhail Baryshnikov do? [An instant replay of a move an athlete's coach told him to make in one particular moment in order to gain two points is not the equivalent of a dancer interpreting a ballet.]

Of course, in the academic world, precisely that place where art is defined and certified [It's not in academia that art is defined and certified. Art pre-exists academia, and has evolved its own traditions, forms, and meanings. Academia elaborates on these, certainly, and chooses among artworks -- finding some more valuable than others -- but transforming football into an art is not a matter of finding a bunch of professors who'll agree to say that it is.], sport is its own worst enemy. Its corruption in college diminishes it so and makes it all seem so grubby. But just because so many ersatz students are shoe-horned into colleges as athletes and then kept eligible academically through various deceits, the intrinsic essence of the athlete playing his game should not be affected. [Why not? We respond to the artistic expressions that we have. Those that seem corrupt and inauthentic, those undermined by their intrinsic falseness, are rightly rejected in favor of those modes of art that seem to us authentic. Just because we can imagine an ideal Division One football game unshadowed by squalor doesn't mean we should enshrine that ideal as an art. Admiring our inexistent ideal football team is not art appreciation. It's mental masturbation.]

As Walters argues, "Athletic competition nourishes our collective souls and contributes to the holistic education of the total person in the same manner as the arts." [This vacuous language tells you all you need to know about Walters' ability to argue his case. Holistic, total, and totally holistic. Oprah Winfrey Show here we come.]

Certainly, there remains a huge double standard in college. Why can a young musician major in music, a young actor major in drama, but a young football player can't major in football? That not only strikes me as unfair, but it encourages the hypocrisy that contributes to the situation where those hidebound defenders of the artistic faith can take delight in looking down their noses at sport. [We don't look down our noses, and we're not hidebound. We are awed by a billion dollar industry exclusively devoted to entertainment which has installed itself on our university campuses.]

So, yes, Walters' argument makes for fair game: Is sport one of the arts? Or, just because you can bet on something, does that disqualify it as a thing of beauty? [Does sport intend to be beautiful? Artistic activity is aesthetic activity. It intends beauty. Does football?]'

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Do All Professors
Wonder About This?

UD does. What if I keeled over while teaching? Not necessarily keeled over dead, but, you know, keeled over? Lost consciousness?

One of my students this semester was for a time a paramedic, and I'll admit I've enjoyed the thought that at least in that class, someone would act quickly, know what to do, etc.

But what about my other class?

And what of the trauma to my students? If I were a nineteen-year-old, sitting there dreamily, and my professor fell to the floor, I'd be way upset... Which is why I wonder how the freshmen at Rider must have felt a few days ago, when their political science professor keeled over dead:

'David P. Rebovich, the tell-it-as-it-is scholar of New Jersey politics, died Friday while teaching class at Rider University in Lawrenceville. He was 58.

Rebovich was instructing a freshman political science course when he apparently suffered a heart attack, said Mordechai Rozanski, president of the school. He was pronounced dead at Helene Fuld Hospital in Trenton.'

What did they say? What did they do? The main image I have is everyone shakily taking out their cell phones and doing a 911... A few of them rushing into the hallway and yelling at people to help them... A few level-headed types approaching him, checking his pulse, calling his name...
Runaway Train II

There's a "a widespread cynicism among professors over the growth and impact of the $8 billion-a-year college sports business," writes the Philadelphia Inquirer in its coverage of the Knight Commission meeting.

Faculty responses to a recent survey suggest that professors "resent the multimillion-dollar salaries paid to football and basketball coaches, believe sports decisions are driven not by college administrators but by the entertainment industry, and feel that athletics get priority over education."

Despite the dangerously out of control nature of big-time university sports,
"[N]o one [at the meeting] appeared convinced that [anything faculty or the Commission might do] would have any significant impact on a college-sports scene increasingly marked by explosive spending increases, an arms race in facility construction, and concessions to television networks."

The academic and commercialization problems "are going to have to be solved at the national level," said Gary Roberts, dean of Indiana University's School of Law. "No one school is going to put itself at a strong competitive disadavantage. No school is going to change unless they all change."
Elia Powers... Inside Higher Ed provides an excellent summary of the Knight Summit on university sports and university faculty that took place at the National Press Building the other day, down the street from UD's George Washington University office. He rightly notes that the Roberts/Tublitz exchange was central:

Gary R. Roberts, dean of the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, said that when it comes down to whether to play a football game on a Thursday night, faculty won’t have the final say.

“It’s not the faculty’s job to run athletics programs,” Roberts said. “The faculty is not going to be allowed to do anything to interfere with big-time basketball and football programs…. At the end of the day, faculty don’t have much of a role to play in the entertainment business. We shouldn’t have any illusions that we can change the system.”

Tublitz challenged Roberts, saying “there’s no reason for most of us to be here if we think that way. Faculty are gatekeepers. Every decision made has to keep in mind academic quality and what’s best for students. Unless we draw a line and say this is our value system and we’re going to maintain that, we’re finished.”
More Support for that Guy... the Knight Commission meeting who thinks coaches should be professors:

'It was unclear Monday what, if any, discipline Baylor University officials will hand down to an assistant football coach cited early Sunday for allegedly urinating on the bar at a watering hole frequented by Baylor students.

Eric Schnupp, Baylor’s offensive line/tight ends coach, was issued a citation at 2:20 a.m. for disorderly conduct-reckless exposure at Scruffy Murphy’s, 1226 Speight Ave., said Waco police spokesman Steve Anderson.

The citation was a Class C misdemeanor, carrying a $258 fine, according to a Waco Municipal Court spokeswoman.

The alleged incident happened around closing time, as employees were getting patrons out of the bar, said bartender Danny Severe, who was working at the time.

Severe said an employee witnessed Schnupp urinating on the bar, and a manager told police, who were already at the bar for an unrelated matter.

“While we were kicking everybody out, he apparently thought that nobody was looking and whipped it out and (urinated) on the bar,” Severe said. “He tried to deny it, but there was definitely a puddle and there was no one else around him.”

Severe said Schnupp had taken several shots of hard liquor, most bought for him by other people. Severe said bartenders had not directly served any liquor to Schnupp between 1 and 2 a.m.

Baylor associate athletics director Nick Joos said Monday morning that a call from the Tribune-Herald was the first time Baylor officials had heard about Schnupp’s citation.

After discussions with athletics director Ian McCaw and head football coach Guy Morriss, Joos said, “We are aware of the situation involving Coach Schnupp and discipline will be handled internally. Since this is a university personnel issue, neither Coach Morriss nor Baylor Athletics will comment further on this situation.”

Joos wouldn’t say what disciplinary measures are being considered, but said “I can tell you that Coach Morriss is taking this issue very seriously.”

Schnupp [from the German, "to breathe heavily"], in his first year as a Baylor coach, played football for the University of Miami from 1995-2000 and previously coached at West Texas A&M University.

He traveled with the team to Lawrence, Kan., where they were defeated by the Kansas Jayhawks, 58-10, Saturday afternoon...'

There's your explanation, smack dab in the last sentence. A man can only take so much humiliation 'fore he whips it out.

UD's the same way. Nothing takes the sting out of a setback like squatting on top of a bar with a few slugs in her.

Monday, October 15, 2007

In the Aftermath...

...of the Knight Commission, it's business as usual in American university football.

Nebraska, having just renewed its AD's contract a few months ago, now suddenly changes its mind and decides to fire him -- at enormous cost to the university.

'Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson was fired Monday, two days after the school's once-mighty football team was rocked with its worst home loss in nearly a half-century.

... [It will] cost at least $2.2 million to buy Pederson out of his contract.

At the end of July, Pederson's contract was renewed for five years...'

They're getting all nostalgic at Nebraska about the glory days before Pederson, when the university basked in the coaching work of Frank Solich.

Solich was fired from Nebraska. Ohio University now basks in his drunk driving arrest, and his cultivation of one of the most criminal teams in university sports.
Sex as a Recruiting Tool

"So then it looked as though my university, the University of Colorado, was using sex as a recruitment tool."

UD's now at a smaller Knight Commission session devoted to particularly sordid sports disasters on particular campuses.

Scott Adler's taking us on a trip down memory lane, as we recall events a few years ago at Boulder, when scandals bloomed like wisteria...

Then a guy from Duke rehearses the details of the lacrosse mess, which "generated so much deep emotion," with its elements of race, sex, sport, and privilege. Things have changed a good deal on campus, he says. For instance, "the university's effort to treat student athletes like other students made it hard to identify patterns of behavior" among the players that should have alerted Duke to a problem in the making.

Now Nathan talks about the University of Oregon. But he starts with some general stuff. "Tens of thousands of Division One athletes fail to graduate. Faculty is ignoring its responsibility to educate." Here's what faculty has to do:

1. Admit that there's a problem.

2. Use Colorado and Duke as models of how problems can actually be solved. (UD's own problem with this is that she doubts either campus has really solved much. Things are different here and there, but she assumes little has really changed.]

3. There needs to be academic disclosure. Faculty has to have access to details of courses and grades for all athletes, so that academic fraud, of the sort Auburn specializes in, can be avoided. "We faculty have to police ourselves."

The Duke guy, though, sums up the real problem for faculty involvement. "A lot of faculty think this whole athletics thing is totally corrupt."
Runaway Train

Last night, at a restaurant in Union Station, UD shared a plate of spicy calimari with Nathan Tublitz.

Today, at the annual meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, she'll watch him and other panelists talk about "Crises Spurring Faculty Involvement" at various big sports schools.

The whole meeting's about the relationship between faculty and university sports. UD has already, at Inside Higher Ed, discussed this subject, and she's looking forward to hearing many other people discuss it.

Right now, she's on a metro car hurtling toward the National Press Club, where the Commission's meeting.

A woman across the aisle from UD reads a book titled The Millionaire from Nazareth: His Prosperity Secrets for You!


"Faculty have thrown in the proverbial towel."

This is the first statement at the big morning gathering of the Commission that strikes UD. Which proverb features towels?

It's an ugly woody underlit room in the National Press Building, and the people in it are mainly white men in excellent suits. Most have Southern accents.

One of the reasons for the towel-throwing is that there's always vapid rhetoric to keep things hopeless. Can't do anything about it, says one speaker, until we solve this nation's race and gender inequities. It's all about facilitating communication among stakeholders, says another. UD reaches for her bubbly water and considers leaving...

Then Scott Adler speaks, and she perks up a bit. "Here's what all faculty gotta understand. Sports on your campus is gonna cost you. It's not going to make money. And there's no data to support the idea that athletics, when it does occasionally bring in money, brings it in for anything other than more athletics."

A couple of people in the audience who don't understand the difference between a singular example and a trend protest that at their school sports makes money hand over fist. Adler explains the difference to them.

His basic point is that athletics and faculty are two totally separate worlds. They can't even talk to each other, let alone work together.

Another guy on the panel asks: "Can we articulate and measure the academic value of college sports? If not, then we're making it very hard to justify the enterprise."

Adler says that university athletics has "spun out of control. We're just running to catch up and patch the holes. [He's talking off the cuff. I'm not going to fuss about mixed metaphors.] It's a runaway train."


But then it gets depressing again. A guy from a local university gets up and says coaches should be professors. "I'd love to see them join the faculty. They have so much to offer." UD packs up to leave...

Oh, but the session's over. People are clustering in little groups now, chatting about who's working where -- professional gossip. While they do that, UD recalls how she evolved into a blogger who writes a lot -- has to write a lot -- about bigtime university sports.

When she began University Diaries, she thought she'd write mainly about intellectual conflicts on campuses. She gradually realized that sports is a humongous university crap-making machine and must be attended to, whether she likes it or not.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I've added to the 'UD is'... thing up there ^ some very generous words of appreciation from Tenured Radical (see link list to the right) about University Diaries.

UD's politics, as Tenured Radical notes, are mysterious.

UD asked Mr. UD about it.

"You are," he said, "a fascist populist."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It's Not Plagiarism, But...

... Steven Pinker should certainly have mentioned the source for the phrase in the middle of this sentence. The phrase appears in an article he wrote for the New Republic about naughty words:

'Plain speaking about sex conveys an attitude that sex is a casual matter, like tennis or philately, and so it may seem to the partners at the time.'

The phrase is from Tom Lehrer's song, Smut:

Who needs a hobby
Like tennis or philately?
I've got a hobby -
Rereading Lady Chatterly.
Oral's Ogle Ogles

'The lawsuit [filed by three fired Oral Roberts University professors] claims that Vice Provost Jeff Ogle sexually harassed a professor, who was allegedly forced to resign while Ogle was promoted. Ogle has refuted the harassment claim.'

---tulsa world---
From a Boston Globe Article
About the Inauguration
of Harvard's New President

CAMBRIDGE - Drew Gilpin Faust, who will be officially installed as Harvard's first female president today, should use her new bully pulpit to push for a more diverse faculty and administration and to unify a school often split by competing fiefdoms, professors and students say.

"I want her to both celebrate and promote Harvard's diversity," said Charles Ogletree, a law professor since 1985. "She is symbolic of the fact that it is a new day at Harvard." [A-fucking-mazing. Reporter starts article with self-righteous statement from Harvard's Number One faculty plagiarist.]

...[Professor Orlando] Patterson said that most of all he wanted Faust to emphasize the importance of teaching and to improve the student-to-teacher ratio.

"This is the richest university in the world," Patterson said, "and we really ought to be able to say that the ratio of students to teacher should be no more than 12, and every effort should be made for professors to be able to meet with students in a meaningful way."[That should read richest university in the universe.]
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

'Past generations of Arizona's football and men's basketball teams wrote the headlines, but when essay assignments arrived, your high-profile athletes took a hit in the loss column. [The reporter for the University of Arizona newspaper is a freshman who writes pretty well. Naturally, though, SOS has some suggestions...] [...For instance, generations would be better than past generations. Past is implicit when you refer to generations. And while SOS is about to notice and more or less admire the flamboyant language throughout the piece, she will also issue a caution about overuse...]

Both teams held the worst graduation rates in the Pacific 10 Conference from 1997-2000, according to the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate report released Oct. 3. For the third year in a row, Arizona football occupied the Pac-10 cellar with a 41 percent graduation rate of players earning a degree within six years of enrollment.

This year, the men's basketball team joined the basement party with a backboard-shattering 25 percent graduation rate - less than half of the national average of 61 percent. [Basement party's nice, and backboard-shattering's great, but when you put them together you get a mixed metaphor.]

The McKale male ballers may have grabbed plenty of rebounds in March, but when it came down to snagging a diploma on the hardwood, three of four players shot the air ball in May. [Peppy, peppy. But a little over the top with all the sports metaphors.] Wonder if 25 percent from the free-throw line would be an acceptable performance on the court? [Very good. But I'd tighten it a bit: Would 25 percent from the free throw line look good to you? Something like that.]

Then again, look who's laughing now, sitting pretty with multi-million dollar bankrolls. [Look who's laughing now is a walloping cliche... But SOS has pointed out before on this blog that sports writing is cliche writing, so there may be no way out of this...]

"For the elite-level kid, basketball is everything," said Josh Pastner, a UA men's basketball assistant coach. "Why do you think Mike Bibby came here? He came here to get ready for his chosen profession."

Pastner believes the NCAA data is skewed, since the numbers penalize student-athletes who leave school to turn professional. [Um, in what way is this skewed? It's exactly what the numbers mean to reveal.] The percentage also fails to credit former players like Mile Simon, who left Arizona in 1998 but returned to finish his degree outside of the designated six-year period.

Can you blame current NBA superstars Bibby, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Terry for walking away from Tucson to cash contracts combining for hundreds of millions?

"Make Gilbert Arenas stay four years - I want to hear how they're going to do that," said Jim Rosborough, UA special assistant to the athletic director.

In his 18 years as an assistant coach for Olson's Arizona men's basketball program, Rosborough ensured his players attended class. But since the new mindset in athletics drastically evolved into dollar signs, academic priorities evidently fell down the ladder. [Rewrite this sentence, getting rid of drastically and evidently, and choosing between dollar signs and ladders for your images.]

Through the eyes of an elite athlete, turning professional is a continuous fixture [Continuous is redundant. And I'm not sure fixture is the best image. How about saying fixation?] from youth basketball up through high school. Rosborough said those attitudes develop from parents' pressures to become great.

And as Pastner said, "In the NBA, they don't require you to have a degree."

The debate boils down to one simple argument: stay for an education or leave for financial freedom. [That's two simple arguments.] Eat at Which Wich, or own a Which Wich franchise? [Nice example.] In senior cornerback Antoine Cason's case, his education remains priceless.

Despite opportunities to enter last year's NFL draft and prognosticators pegging him as a first-round pick, Cason believes his tough decision to stay was a "gut check," showing dedication to finish out something he started. [Writer did well to highlight "gut check." It's a good phrase.]

"You can't duplicate your college experience," Cason said. "Graduation is one of my goals, and that's what I want to do."

Rocky LaRose [Great name!], a UA associate athletic director, believes being last place in the Pac-10 is irrelevant, due to the diversity of public and private schools in the conference. [Huh?] She compares athletic graduation rates to the entire UA rate, which she said has exceeded the school percentage in the past. [Confused sentence. Problem starts with the word which. Rewrite for clarity.] The recent decrease, however, dips athletes below the university percentage.

LaRose, who forecasted such a downfall, seeks an optimistic future after the football program went through four head coaches in five years between 2000-2004, leading to multiple player transfers. [Futures can't be optimistic. Only people can be optimistic. Find a better word.]

The academic unit now reports to the university side, rather than the athletics department.

More changes include a revamping of the C.A.T.S. program that Pastner describes as "the best in America" and the MVP of McKale Center. From life skills to academic help, C.A.T.S. provides athletes with the proper resources to succeed in the classroom.

Pastner stresses the significance of the term "student-athlete" over the common mindset of an athlete-student.

Hopefully Wildcats today and beyond bear down and take that to heart. [Hopefully always comes across as a bit awkward - and a bit rhetorically weak - when used in this way. It's particularly limp in the context of what's just been written. Most of the staff has just told him they don't give a shit whether athletes graduate. So the hopefulness seems exclusive to the reporter.]'

---the wildcat online---


Snapshots from Home

The blog GW English News posts the latest items (invited speakers, faculty and student publications, etc.) from UD's department. It's an excellent way to get a sense of who teaches there, who studies there, and what daily life's like.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Handier Link... my News Hour interview. It includes a transcript.
Mysteries of
Ivy League

From the New York Post:

'...[Josh] Drimmer [above,
walking naked in Times Square]
is a playwright
and Yale alum from Greenpoint,
Brooklyn. In 2003, he earned
a byline in the Daily News
covering a funeral story.

"He was a strange guy," said
a man who lived in Drimmer's
Yale dorm during freshman year.
"He would do weird things.
He would eat scraps of food
people left around for a
couple of hours." ...

The strip show ended when
the police showed up.

"You got ID on you?" one
cop asked Drimmer.

Someone brought over a pile
of Drimmer's clothes - which
included plaid boxers, a blue
polo shirt, and brown ankle-high
boots - but he refused to put them on.

Drimmer was taken to Bellevue Hospital
for evaluation, police said.

"I have no knowledge" of why this
happened, his father said from his
Chicago home.'
The PBS Segment...

... on Lessing, which ends with UD's interview, is here. Go to the right side of the page, and look for the Doris Lessing piece.
Awards Week

Gore gets Nobel
to go with Oscar.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

There Was a Moment...

...a rather long moment, on the George Washington Parkway, when UD despaired. The cabbie was sure we'd get to the WETA studio on time, but we were stuck in thick slow traffic and had a way to go.

The News Hour producer shared my worry. He called every five minutes wanting to know our exact location. "We're at Key Bridge... Traffic's moving pretty well..." "We'll keep our fingers crossed."

The driver told me harrowing stories about his long 9/11 afternoon, when he went back and forth to the Pentagon taking injured people, people in shock, to the hospital.

"Okay, looks as though you'll make it," said the producer in his last phone call. "I'll be standing outside the building with the makeup person... It's all going to have to happen very fast."

So UD was whisked, with five minutes to go to our segment, to the makeup room ("Can I...?" "Do whatever you want with me."). As UD was powdered, she chatted with her interviewer about how it'd go.

Under big lights and cameras, UD fixed her stare 'pon her interviewer, as per instruction, and felt oddly calm. It occurred to her that if she'd gotten there a half hour early and had to listen to everyone giving her advice and shit, she'd maybe have been nervous. But the rush of it all was kind of fun, and she was so delighted to have gotten there on time, and after all she admires Doris Lessing and wanted to say why...

In short, as close to a piece of cake as you can get when it's live and in front of millions...
Having Tried and Failed... find a world historical figure to talk about Doris Lessing, the Lehrer News Hour has settled upon UD. No shit. Check it out. I'll be on around 6:45.
Committee Composed of His Employees
Praises Boss to the Skies

'Glenn Poshard should correct citations he missed in two academic papers he wrote more than 20 years ago, but he will remain president of Southern Illinois University with the full support of the board of trustees.

That's the verdict from an announcement university officials made Thursday afternoon, following the board's review of plagiarism allegations lodged against a 1984 doctoral dissertation and a 1976 master's thesis Poshard wrote as a student at SIU Carbondale. The crux of the assertions came from the fact Poshard failed to use quotation marks around material cited from other sources in his paper. Poshard contends the way he wrote the paper was appropriate according to the professors who graded it and has said any uncited passages in his work was purely a mistake, not intentional.

SIU board of trustees chairman Roger Tedrick said the board wants Poshard to continue as president, despite recent calls for his resignation over the allegations.

"Dr. Poshard will remain our president with full board support. His integrity is unquestioned and his energy, passion and commitment to this university unsurpassed," Tedrick said. "He continues to be the right man to lead the SIU system."

SIUC Chancellor Fernando Treviño requested a seven-person faculty review committee investigate the anonymous plagiarism allegations against Poshard in September. Engineering professor and SIUC Faculty Senate President Ramanarayanan Viswanathan led the panel.

"This review must be understood in its historical context," Viswanathan said. "Our examination of some theses and dissertations completed in Dr. Poshard's department in the same general time period found that the citation style he used appears to have been commonly accepted by different committees in his college."

However, the style used then is not recommended today, Viswanathan added. The committee is recommending Poshard publicly recognize "incomplete citation errors" and correct them using currently acceptable practices.

Poshard said he would honor the committee's wishes.

"The members of this committee are individuals of integrity and credibility, and I appreciate their service to the university," Poshard said. "I have read the committee's report and I accept its recommendations. I take full responsibility for the inadvertent errors that I made 23 years ago."'
Lessing's Statement

"I've won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one....I'm delighted to win them all, the whole lot...It's a royal flush.... People who have never even heard of me will now go out and buy my books. It's a very nice thing. So now I'm going to earn some money."
Snapshots from Home

UD just got off the phone with a producer at the Lehrer News Hour who asked for some background on Doris Lessing, and for names of novelists and scholars they might interview about her.

UD suggested Joyce Carol Oates, who long ago wrote an intriguing appreciation of Lessing. Excerpts:

'...Doris Lessing is direct, womanly, very charming. She wears her long, graying black hair drawn into a bun at the back of her head; her face is slender and attractive, exactly the face of the photographs, the "Doris Lessing" I had been reading and admiring for so long. Meeting her at last I felt almost faint—certainly unreal—turning transparent myself in the presence of this totally defined, self-confident, gracious woman.

...[S]he met Kurt Vonnegut, "a bloke I got on with very well," whose writing she admires immensely. This struck me as rather surprising, since to me Doris Lessing's writing is of a much more substantial, "literary" nature than Vonnegut's; but their similar concerns for the madness of society, its self-destructive tendencies, would account for her enthusiasm. She spoke of having heard that Vonnegut did not plan to write any more—which I hadn't heard, myself— [Nor did it turn out to be true.] and that this distressed her; she thought he was very good, indeed. She mentioned Slaughterhouse Five as an especially impressive book of his.

Less surprisingly, she felt a kinship with Norman Mailer, and believed that the critical treatment he received for Barbary Shore and The Deer Park was quite unjustified; "They're good books," she said. I mentioned that the exciting thing about Mailer—sometimes incidental to the aesthetic quality of his work—was his complete identification with the era in which he lives, his desire to affect radically the consciousness of the times, to dramatize himself as a spiritual representative of the times and its contradictions, and that this sense of a mission was evident in her writing as well.

... I asked her if she might [want] to teach full-time, but she said she would hesitate to take on a position of such responsibility (she had been offered a handsome job at City College, which she declined with regret), partly because she considered her own academic background somewhat meager. "I ended my formal education at the age of fourteen, and before that I really learned very little," she said.

It struck me as amazing: a woman whose books constitute a staggering accomplishment, who is, herself, undisputably a major figure in English literature of the twentieth century—should hesitate to teach in a university. It is rather as if a resurrected Kafka, shy, unobstrusive, humble, should insist that his works be taught by anyone else, any ordinary academic with ordinary academic qualifications, sensing himself somehow not equal to what he represents. Perhaps there is some truth to it. But I was forced to realize how thoroughly oppressive the world of professional "education" really is; how it locks out either overtly or in effect the natural genius whose background appears not to have been sufficient.

...Never superficially experimental, Mrs. Lessing's writing is profoundly experimental—exploratory—in its effort to alter our expectations about life and about the range of our own consciousness.

Her books, especially the Martha Quest series, The Golden Notebook, and Briefing for a Descent into Hell, have traced an evolutionary progress of the soul, which to some extent transforms the reader as he reads. I think it is true of our greatest writers that their effect on us is delayed, that it may take years for us to understand what they have done to us. Doris Lessing possesses a unique sensitivity, writing out of her own intense experience, her own subjectivity, but at the same time writing out of the spirit of the times.'

UD mentioned as well that the News Hour might want to track down Gore Vidal, who, also years ago, wrote a pretty funny take on one of Lessing's science fiction novels, Shikasta. Excerpts from that:

'...[S]he is an old-fashioned moralist. This means that she is inclined to take very seriously the quotidian. The deep—as opposed to strip—mining of the truly moral relationship seems to me to be her territory.... At best, Lessing's prose is solid and slow and a bit flat-footed. She is an entirely "traditional" prose writer.

...Shikasta is the work of a formidable imagination. Lessing can make up things that appear to be real, which is what storytelling is all about. ..

...Although Lessing deals with opposites, she tends to unitarianism. She is filled with the spirit of the Sufis, and if there is one thing that makes me more nervous than a Jungian it is a Sufi... Lessing [in this novel] rather lacks negative capability. Where Milton's Lucifer is a joy to contemplate, Lessing's [devil] is a drag whose planetary agents sound like a cross between Tolkien's monster and Sir Lew Grade.

...Lessing's affinity for the Old Testament combined with the woolliness of latter-day Sufism has got her into something of a philosophical muddle.Without the idea of free will, the human race is of no interest at all; certainly, without the idea of free will there can be no literature. To watch Milton's Lucifer serenely overthrow the controlling intelligence of his writerly creator is an awesome thing. But nothing like this happens in Lessing's work. From the moment of creation, Lessing's Shikastans are programmed by outside forces—sometimes benign, sometimes malign. They themselves are entirely passive. There is no Prometheus; there is not even an Eve.

...Obviously, there is a case to be made for predetermination or predestination or let-us-now-praise B. F. Skinner. Lessing herself might well argue that the seemingly inexorable DNA code is a form of genetic programming that could well be equated with Canopus's intervention and that, in either case, our puny lives are so many interchangeable tropisms, responding to outside stimuli. But I think that the human case is more interesting than that. The fact that no religion has been able to give a satisfactory reason for the existence of evil has certainly kept human beings on their toes during the brief respites that we are allowed between those ages of faith which can always be counted upon to create that we-state which seems so much to intrigue Lessing and her woollies, a condition best described by the most sinister of all Latin tags, e pluribus unum.'

Plus, UD talked about various controversies Lessing's lately been involved in -- particularly, her dissing feminism as anti-male.

Maybe one of UD's readers will watch the show tonight and put on this post's comment thread something about whether any of this stuff made it to the small screen...

'...The NCAA Enforcement Staff alleges that [Florida International University] lacked institutional control by placing inadequate systems and resources related to advising, monitoring the eligibility of student-athletes, and applying for NCAA financial aid and legislation. [Well. That covers just about everything.]

Vice President of Enforcement David Price sent a "notice of allegations" to University President Modest A. Maidique Oct. 1 detailing that the institution violated several bylaws allowing 40 ineligible student-athletes to compete during the 2002-2003 through 2006-2007 academic years. [Not ten, not twenty, not thirty, but forty.]

The University investigated and self-reported the transgressions to the NCAA.

"The problem is that FIU lacked the resources, manpower and adequate personnel," said Athletic Director Pete Garcia. [Then why do you have an athletic program? If you can't run one?]

The University has hired three more compliance officers along with the Student-Athlete Academic Center doubling the number of tutors from seven to 14 along with purchasing new computers this year. Also more opportunities exist for student-athletes to take summer courses. FIU has invested about $250,000 towards improving the SAAC and its resources.

"This is a huge setback for the whole University," Garcia said. "The only good thing is that we've put in the right systems to move forward." [Fantastic use of a passive formulation. Not "We've done something horrible. We did it before." (See below.) "We've done it again. We're ashamed."]

The NCAA reported that FIU violated bylaws concerning full-time enrollment, the five-year rule and progress-toward-degree requirements.

Thirty-seven student-athletes, who enrolled prior to Aug. 1, 2003, competed while ineligible by not completing enough credit hours to fulfill the progression-toward-degree requirements.

Fourteen of those 37 student-athletes from various sports did not complete an average of 12 semester hours in their Fall and Spring semesters or a total of 24 hours since the previous fall term.

During the 2004 football season, a student-athlete competed for a sixth year of eligibility exceeding the five-year rule.

In addition, FIU incorrectly applied NCAA financial aid legislations from the academic years of 2004-2005 through 2006-2007 resulting in men's soccer, women's soccer and women's golf exceeding NCAA financial aid limits. Thus, FIU violated NCAA bylaws that stipulated that each specific sport has a financial aid award limit.

An infraction report from Aug. 25, 2005 showed that FIU broke NCAA rules. Therefore, the recent allegations are the second record of FIU violating NCAA bylaws and [it] is now subject to penalties under repeat violators, which may include the prohibition of some or all outside competition in the sport involved for one or two sports seasons. [They just keep doing it.]

"We are resilient and confident that we can overcome this," Garcia said. "President Maidique has been in constant communication with NCAA President Miles Brand." [Again, note the surreal language. As if their own repeated indifference to the rules is a disability they're resiliently going to overcome.]

FIU is required to send a written response with the necessary records to confirm or disprove the validity of the allegations by Dec. 4.

The NCAA also requests all information on other possible violations discovered by the institution as result of its findings. Some of the records include enrollment dates of student-athletes at FIU and any other two or four-year institution and the reasons behind the NCAA violations.

FIU must provide a detailed description of any corrective or disciplinary actions against current and former athletics department staff members.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions may decide to terminate the employment of all staff members who knowingly engaged in or condoned a major violation.

"It was nobody's intent to violate the rules of compliance," Garcia said. [The Official Orwellian Statement.]

The NCAA Committee on Infractions is set to review the response through an in-person hearing Feb. 15, 2008 and Feb. 16, 2008.

The NCAA will notify Maidique of the official hearing date where he is required to attend.

Select University representatives including Garcia, Faculty Athletics Representative Stephen Fain and Sun Belt Conference Associate Commissioner Rick Mello who served as athletic director from June 2000 through October 2006 are also mandated to attend the hearing.

The bulk of the violations occurred while Mello served as athletic director. He declined to comment on the matter. [Totally understandable.]

Presently, the allegations are major violations but the University may send evidence within the written response to reduce the allegations to secondary violations.

Self-disclosure is considered when determining the penalties issued. Every sport except tennis and softball was involved in at least one allegation.'

---the beacon---
Doris Lessing

From an interview, a few years back.

I'm always curious about people who are fascinated by writers' lives. It seems to me that we're always in our books, quite nakedly. I wonder, too, does the private life really matter? Who cares what is known about you and what isn't? Even when you make public something that's been private, most people don't get it - not unless they're the same generation and have gone through more or less the same experiences. So, in a sense, we're all private, by definition.


I don't share the widely held admiration for the 1960s. I was in London, "Swinging London," as it was called, and I saw a lot of suicides and a lot of people who ended up in loony bins. There were a great many casualties. The 1960s was a dangerous decade - though, of course, the politics of that time was very attractive. Nothing is more attractive than people playing at being revolutionaries.


[F]eminism has been turned into a religion with dogmas and churches. I certainly don't envy men in American universities. But this phase is about to pass. It can't go on much longer. America can be a very hysterical country intellectually and very Puritanical, too. You probably have fun in private, but to the rest of the world you seem to hate fun - to be big on agendas and short on spontaneity. The image you present is one of appalling conformity.
The prose of writer Doris Lessing...

...captures Sweden's highest blessing.

I was thinking about a
passage in a Lessing novel
a couple of days ago,
while brewing some Marco
Polo tea. It's from
The Golden Notebook,

her best-known work, and
it has the book's narrator,
Anna Wulf, a British woman,
recalling the time
she bedded a stranger -- an
American doctor she'd just
met on a plane.

She quotes him saying, at the
moment of truth, things like
[UD doesn't remember
the exact quotation]
"Hey wow!
This is really great!
I mean, ma'am, this is

...that these will be the conclusions of the Southern Illinois University faculty committee as to whether their university's president plagiarized.

The committee's report will be released today.

If the following is wrong, UD will delete the post and deny she ever wrote it.

I Poshard plagiarized but did not mean to.

II Poshard is a fine gentleman.

III All is forgiven.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Varieties of


'...[A] Staunton [Virginia] man ... filed court papers last month in general district court demanding the city supply him with a list of words that trigger City Hall's filter software, a system that blocks e-mails containing words deemed offensive.

The "war of words" [No need for quotation marks.] began in August when Adrian Riskin, a mathematics professor at Mary Baldwin College, sent an e-mail to a friend working for the city. The e-mail contained the "F" word, was rejected and sent back to Riskin.

"This intrigued me," Riskin said Tuesday morning during a telephone interview. [Sign of a professor. We don't, as a rule, get angry. We don't get much of anything emotional. We get intrigued.]

The city has refused to supply Riskin with the list of forbidden words. After numerous e-mails from Riskin, where he tested various words that would trigger the city's software filter, City Hall finally blocked his e-mail address.

"I was just playing around," said Riskin, who said he was genuinely curious as to what words would slip through. [Again, no anger, no fighting city hall shit. He's curious.]

In the Sept. 27 court filing, Riskin said the city's rejection of his request for the list of offensive words is a denial of his Freedom of Information Act rights.

The city's filtering system is performed by the software program MailMarshal. The city claims the software is proprietary and excluded from the Freedom of Information Act. In his court filing, Riskin argued that the software can be edited and said if the city has altered the list it is no longer proprietary. Riskin further argued that if the city left the software as is, "it cannot possibly be proprietary since the software vendor provides it for a free download from their Web site."

In one of his e-mails, Riskin told the city that he is forming the organization of "Fathers for Uncensored Communicational Knowledge." The e-mail was blocked. [UD is falling in love.]

"Essentially, I'm just hounding them because they have no sense of humor," Riskin said.

City spokesman Doug Cochran, named in the court filing along with City Hall, said the MailMarshal software is in place to protect city employees from harassing e-mails and to control spam. Asked why the city wouldn't release the list in question, Cochran said licensing rights prevent the city from doing so.

Cochran also said the list of words that prompt the software to block e-mails was not altered by city officials.

"The list has not been edited," Cochran said.

A hearing in Staunton General District Court is scheduled Oct. 25.'

---the news leader---

'The University of Oregon will not spend a dime of Phil Knight's $100 million donation on a basketball arena.

Instead, it will borrow the $200 million cost of the arena using state bonds and pay back the money with arena revenues and annual donations from fans, Oregon officials say.

The plan means that rather than private donors financing the bulk of construction, as was planned a few years ago, taxpayers will bear the arena project's financial risk.

...[S]ome UO faculty members already are worried about the university borrowing such a huge sum and skeptical about the latest projections for the arena's revenue.

"I will say that we're concerned," UO senate president Gordon Sayre said. "And we're trying to get all the information in its latest form from the athletic department so that we can look at it with a critical eye."

...Although revenue projections still are being finalized through donor surveys and other studies, [the athletic director] said recently that he was "comfortable" in saying a new arena could generate $16 million annually -- about what the University of Arizona's basketball program makes. That sum would more than cover the $11.2 million [he] estimated Oregon would pay each year on 40-year bonds.

But Oregon's latest arena revenue forecast is higher than a projection done a few years ago by an outside firm it hired to research the arena project.

In 2003, sports-facilities consulting firm CSL International projected that a 13,000- to 15,000-seat Oregon arena would generate $6 million per year in a "moderate" scenario and $8.6 million in an "aggressive" scenario, before any bond payments were made.

...Sayre called the arena financing plan "possibly risky," given that new, more expensive priority seating for basketball will compete for many of the same donors already paying for priority seating at Autzen Stadium.

"Lots of people come from all around the state on Saturday to watch football, right? So they get season tickets," Sayre said. "But are people really going to come on a foggy night in December from Portland and Medford for a basketball game?

"Can we rely on a large pool of season-ticket holders who will pay higher prices? Those are some of the questions we need to answer."

...The Oregon arena, if it uses $200 million in bonds, would be the largest single bonding project in the history of the Oregon University System, said Bob Simonton, OUS capital construction director. It also would more than double the University of Oregon's debt load for the type of bonds used for revenue-generating projects such as parking structures and dormitories.

Oregon's current load of XI-F(1) bonds is $178 million, with 3.3 percent of the university's total annual operating budget being used to pay back those bonds. State guidelines recommend a cap of 7 percent, which Oregon would nearly reach if the current arena financing plan went forward.

That's before the university launches a planned overhaul of its dormitories, which could require as much as $450 million in debt, Sayre said...'

---the oregonian---
Snapshots from Home

'GW to Fine Students Who Vomit on Shuttle Bus

...School officials say it applies only to students who are drunk -- not those who are actually sick.'

---wtop news---

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Snapshots from Home:

In a few days, UD will attend the annual meeting of the Knight Commission, which bills itself as a watchdog organization keeping an eye on university football and basketball. The Commission, far as UD can tell, never really does anything (a significant number of members are presidents and other executives from some of the most scandalous programs). It issues extremely well-produced reports full of good ideas that never go anywhere.

UD attended the group's annual meeting last year, when it was held at George Washington University, where she teaches. Here's what she wrote then.

While the Knight Commission seems to UD to have had little practical impact on bigtime university sports, it's rhetorically impressive. The reports are full of eloquent outrage about graduation rates, recruitment, commercialization, violence and all of that...

But, as with the remarks below by Commission member Hodding Carter, it really is all just words. Big scary words, to be sure, but words only.

'The [University of] Maryland men's basketball team's 0 percent graduation rate for players entering school from 1997 to 2000 is "an atrocity," a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics said yesterday.

Commission member Hodding Carter III, a public policy professor at the University of North Carolina, said he was concerned not only about Maryland's graduation rate, but also about men's basketball programs around the country whose rates lag behind those of other sports.

The overall rate for men's basketball players who graduated within six years was 61 percent, lowest among 18 men's sports, according to NCAA data released this week. That compares to 77 percent of athletes in all sports who enrolled from 1997 to 2000.

"Too many schools treat them [men's basketball players] essentially as disposable mercenaries as opposed to students," said Carter, a former U.S. State Department spokesman who taught journalism at the University of Maryland in the 1990s. He is a member of the Knight Commission, a college sports watchdog group comprising college presidents and others.

Carter said men's basketball players often seem to make unspoken deals with their colleges. "It's, 'I'm going to come give you a couple good years, and education is not the point of my involvement,' " he said. "It's a betrayal of the kids' long-term interest."

Asked about Maryland's rate, Carter said: "That's an atrocity, man, and the atrocity is being committed against the kids. What's bothersome is this doesn't seem to bother an awful lot of people unless the team is losing."

But another professor said it might be too soon to determine whether Maryland is on the wrong course. Duke law professor Paul Haagen, co-director of the Center for Sports Law and Policy, said it's hard to make assumptions based on basketball teams' graduation rates. That's because the teams have relatively few players, particularly compared to football, and statistical samples are relatively small, Haagen said.

"At Maryland, this could be a series of relatively discrete events that don't amount to much," Haagen said. "If it happens for very long, it's clearly a problem."

Maryland's 0 percent figure means that none of the starters or top reserves on the Terps' 2002 national championship team graduated within six years of entering school. In a news release, Maryland noted that all 10 freshmen and transfer basketball players measurable by the graduation success rate scores left school to pursue professional careers. "These people are very successful people," Maryland coach Gary Williams said.

A year ago, the NCAA calculated the men's basketball team's graduation success rate at 18 percent, ranking it at the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The rate was listed at 30 percent in 2005, also last in the conference.

Maryland officials said this week that even the latest data doesn't measure the current climate. Last year, four of the six Maryland seniors graduated, and both current seniors on the roster are on pace to graduate in four years, Williams said.

Maryland's football program improved its graduation success rate from 64 percent in last year's figures to 69 percent. The university said 10 of its teams had rates at 80 percent or above.

Haagen said top men's basketball players face unusual pressure to leave school early.

"The ethos in basketball is if that you don't leave early, the assumption is there's something wrong about their game," Haagen said.'

---baltimore sun---
Glenn Poshard Isn't the Only...

...high-ranking, plagiarizing academic likely to get off scot-free. Two other blatant offenders -- Yale's Ian Ayres and the University of Sydney's Kim Walker -- will also probably avoid sanction.

UD discusses the ongoing scandal of unpunished plagiarizing professors and heavily punished plagiarizing students here and here, at her branch campus, Inside Higher Education.
Yet Again, Varieties of Beardedness

Is there a correlation between professorial beardedness and a tendency toward, er, non-standard behavior? UD seems to spend a good deal of time reading about bearded professors running amok...

Michael Sanders,
of the University
of Cincinnati,
won the university's
2002 George B. Barbour
Award "for the promotion
of excellent student-faculty
relations." Which rings a
little ironic now.

'A University of Cincinnati professor is under investigation for an incident at a Tri-State park.

University police reported that Michael Sanders and some students were detained by Hamilton County park rangers at an unnamed park.

Sources told News 5 that the incident involved filming a nude woman dancing near a fire.

While police would not confirm those details, Sanders is a professor of electronic media at U.C’s Blue Ash campus.

School officials said Sanders has not cooperated with the investigation.

No charges have been filed.'

Not cooperated. That's real bearded of him.

A couple of other details about the guy, from a university profile:

"As a child, I would lead the other kids in the neighborhood on science projects."

As for teaching, Sanders congratulates himself that "I let my bias hang out. I don't hide behind objectivity in the classroom."

Poor cowardly UD. She's always hiding behind objectivity in her classroom.

Plus she's pretty sure she's too scared to film naked people dancing in front of fires in public parks.
Panic in the Streets

Even the most blindly adoring Penn State football fans are beginning to get the picture. They're upset.

From a couple of fan websites:

'The good news just keeps flowing like sewage to the treatment plant. Apparently there was a fight on campus ...last Saturday night. [Another website] is reporting several football players were involved .... I can't wait for the details from this to come out.

Can someone please take control of this team? Where are the captains? Where is the leadership? I wish I could say the coaches need to buckle down on them, but how can you expect the players to act like gentlemen when the head coach is supposedly running innocent people off the road in his vehicle because they are driving too slow? [It's still in the rumor stage, but the rumor is that sainted coach Paterno lost it the other night... after running people off the road, he reportedly shrieked at them: "Do you know who I am?"...] This entire season is a complete disaster. ...[T]here is absolutely nothing I like about this team. They had all the promise in the world and they are throwing it away with their drinking and fighting on Saturday nights.

Pack it in for 2007 folks. This program needs to be purged. Any player or coach that causes another disturbance needs to be booted from the team. That includes the guy at the top. We cannot stand for this. I would rather lose with dignity than win with this. I am calling on the University and coaches to weed out the bad apples right now. I don't care if we only have 60 guys on scholarship next year. We cannot have this type of team if we hope to achieve the goals we all set for this program.'


'...At the very least, a sizable number of football players seem to be out of control at times. While it ain't Oklahoma under that rollicking, gun-toting Barry Switzer, "lack of institutional control" is a phrase that comes to mind. And I don't mean NCAA violations, just that the football team seems to have a collective mind and will of its own, and sometimes it seems to me that the coaches are asleep at the wheel.

I realize that "boys will be boys," but at what point do they grow up? How many brawls will it take? How many police blotters will have to be filled? Coaches can't hold their hands 24/7. Is it the babying these players get from their first steps? Is it the enabling behavior they receive from being treated like gods because they have a talent for a GAME?...'


Hard to keep up. This just in.

'Police are investigating a sexual assault on the Penn State, University Park campus. Police said a Penn State football player is the prime suspect. His name has not been released.

The woman who filed the report said she was raped in a Nittany Dorm Complex room early Friday morning. Penn State police confirmed that they have a suspect and that alcohol was a factor. Police have released few other details.

Police said the woman knew the man and reported the rape immediately Friday morning.'

Monday, October 08, 2007

I Don't Get These Guys Either

A couple of California professors defend shutting down the speech of Lawrence Summers.

'Even though duck season hasn't opened yet, The Bee fired off both barrels at the faculty members of the University of California who objected to having former Harvard President Lawrence Summers address the UC Board of Regents. Hundreds of faculty members objected to the invitation that had been extended to Summers, and then Chair Richard Blum retracted it [Meaning Blum caved to numbers? What happened to principle?]. The Bee suggested that Summers had been "censored" in a manner that infringed on academic freedom.

This controversy has nothing to do with academic freedom. [Borrowing language here from another free speech-challenged U Cal person, Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake, who tried to fire the new dean he'd just hired when he decided the new dean would be too free in his speech... Drake too came out with these blanket statements denying the censoring had anything to do with censoring.] Blum invited Summers to address the regents at a private dinner in Sacramento -- away from an academic campus -- where there would have been no opportunity for any meaningful public scrutiny or debate. Blum invited Summers without consulting the university community, and secrecy was maintained when Summers was not listed on the agenda or any other public document. [So the faculty gets to vet all invited guests? UD'd be interested in hearing more about this rule.]

In short, Summers' appearance before the Regents was stacked in such a way that no debate or discussion was possible, violating a bedrock principle of academic freedom. Summers was to be given privileged access to the governing body of one of the world's premier public educational institutions without any public accountability. [So no private meetings between the trustees and guests may take place? All meetings have to be open to the entire university community?] When Blum learned that many faculty members objected to this arrangement, he retracted the invitation, as he had every right to do. [Faculty expressed no objection to the arrangement. They expressed, in terms strong and direct, an objection to Lawrence Summers.]

If Summers had been part of a public forum on campus, rather than speaking at a private dinner in Sacramento, his views would have been put on sale in the "marketplace of ideas." Despite the insulting and uninformed opinions he expressed about women scientists in a 2005 speech in Boston, we doubt that there would have been objection to a public discussion featuring Summers. [Are you following the logic of this? Why object to a private rather than a public appearance of this man? What sort of a cabal do these people think he and the trustees represent?]

Blum has indicated that at the private dinner Summers would have addressed "the ability of UC to compete with private universities such as Harvard and Stanford." Given the contentious nature of Summers' tenure as president of Harvard, and his early exit from the presidency, the entire UC community has a vital stake in any advice he is providing to the regents. [Again, there are vast leaps of logic here that I just don't get. Most presidents have contentious tenures. Summers was extremely popular with Harvard students, among other constituencies. But however you characterize his tenure, why does this have anything to do with how many people get to watch him talk about competitiveness? Note again: The "entire UC community" has to be there whenever Summers speaks.]

The UC faculty did not in any way depart from the principles of academic freedom. [Pure Orwellianism.] Summers remains entirely free to present his views to university audiences and to the public at large [But he's not allowed to give private talks.], and we will defend his right to a public discourse, at the University of California and elsewhere.'

If this is how professors in the California system reason, they really do need advice -- from Summers, and from everyone else.
I Don't Get Nicholas Von Hoffman.

Not that I mind competition in the Pour Scorn on Bigtime University Football business. But Von Hoffman always seems a day late and a field goal short in his snarly outings for The Nation. A sample:

The all-time topperoo is takeover artist T. Boone Pickens' $$165 million gift to gussy up the T. Boone Pickens football stadium at Oklahoma State. According to ESPN the gift, "'. . . isn't just about football or basketball or our major sports,' athletic director Mike Holder said. . . 'It's about every sport, giving every coach here and every athlete here the opportunity to strive for excellence.'" And the more excellent they get at OSU the larger are their necks and the smaller are their heads. What those pinheads should do is change the name of the dump to T. Boone Pickens U and kick out all the losers who can't make varsity.

The whole thing is like that - pinheads, dump... Nowhere does Von Hoffman say anything about why it's not a good idea for universities to be dominated by football; he just says over and over again that places so dominated are dumps for pinheads. If he wrote like Mencken I guess he could just go that far and we'd be thrilled anyway. But his writing is irritable, tired, flat, unfunny. The energy's gone out of it. Ad hominem, argument-free palaver is no threat to the bad guys.
Georgia Tech:
The Perfect Wreck

Its football team's losing its games.

And it's dead last in graduation rates:

'...[T]he Yellow Jackets ranked last in the ACC. I’ve heard and read all the arguments about graduation rates, that Tech doesn’t have an easy major in which to hide athletes, that Tech is a difficult school for all students, that Player X went on to make a lot of money in the pros so who cares if he graduated? Frankly, none of those arguments hold water.

If Tech doesn’t have an easy major in which to hide athletes, it still has the responsibility to recruit athletes who can compete in the classroom. If that leads to more of a competitive disadvantage on the field, so what? Are you willing to buy victories at the price of your academic mission?

Sure, Tech is a difficult school for students at large, not just athletes. But if Darryl Richard can graduate in three years, is it asking too much that Tech find other athletes who can graduate in six? And it’s a myth that athletes are doing poorly but doing a lot like other students.

... The anecdotal arguments that say grad rates aren’t important because some pro players make a lot of money without earning a degree has two serious flaws. First, a very small percentage of Tech’s non-graduates go on to pro careers. Second, and I know some of you will disagree with me on this, college isn’t about helping people make money, it’s about helping people get educated. Tech isn’t supposed to be like those guys on TV telling me how I can make millions in real estate buying houses with no money down. It’s supposed to have a higher purpose than that.'

--atlanta journal-constitution--
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

Hope it's not too early in your day for a higher-level consideration of bad writing.

By bad writing here, I don't mean full of grammatical errors or stylistic faults. I simply mean writing that doesn't work, writing whose clear desire to move the reader in a certain direction intellectually and emotionally meets with resistance and failure.

Consider this opinion piece in this morning's New York Times.

Terror and Demons [Weak title. Too vaguely portentous. The entire piece is vague and portentous.]

History happens, but only just. The lives of individuals, as of nations, may hinge on a millimeter’s difference in the trajectory of a bullet, a road not taken on a whim or the random spray of shrapnel. But there is no undoing what is done. [This first paragraph introduces the problem. It's a string of ominous but vacuous cliches -- road not taken... undoing what is done... It suggests a smug writer who thinks himself full of life wisdom. It's preachy.]

Nothing, for example, can bring back the life of Carol Ann Gotbaum, 45, whose terrible end in a holding cell at the Phoenix airport was chronicled in a Times report by Eric Konigsberg. [Little is yet known about this woman and the way she died. The author nowhere acknowledges this. Instead, he spins a still-mysterious story his way, and that feels to the reader like manipulation.] Depressive and fighting alcoholism, Carol missed a connection by minutes. [Was she fighting it? We don't know. Maybe she wasn't fighting it, or wasn't fighting it very hard. And note the use of her first name. This creates a false sense of intimacy. The writer doesn't in fact know her, and he knows almost nothing about her. He intends, early in the piece, to make us sympathize with her, first names creating a greater sense of vulnerability and particularity, I suppose, than last. In fact it comes across as condescending.] She became hysterical and was subdued, handcuffed, shackled, abandoned and found dead with the shackle across her neck. [The writer unfairly slips in the incendiary word abandoned. She was, it appears, not abandoned.]

All this happened fast. We can hear her cry: “I’m not a terrorist. I’m a sick mother.” [We. We can hear her cry. You have seen their faces. Bad writing is about emotionality forced upon us. Readers tend not to like this. It's alienating. No one enjoys being manipulated. The effect of the writer's portentous and histrionic language is to push us away from his point of view, not to bring us into his mental world, where he'd like us to be.]

We can see the heavy-handed police officers, their sense of mission redoubled by the alcohol on her breath, muscling Carol to the ground. [How come the police officers don't get first - or even last - names? Monsters don't get names.]

In their zeal — for American airports are now temples of zealotry — they would not have imagined her three young children, her distraught husband, much less the dislocated life that had put her en route, alone, to an Arizona addiction-treatment clinic. [This is contemptible writing. Fuck the pigs, the author tells us, because in subduing an out of control person they failed to imagine the fact that she has ... not children, of course, but young children... a distraught husband (who, according to the Times account, put a woman like this on a plane by herself)... and a dislocated life... Let me pause a bit on the dislocated business, okay?

I love the NYTimes, but never was there a louder public address system on behalf of special pleading for the rich. The woman in question lived in unimaginable opulence -- unimaginable, I mean, for the police whose ugly job it was to deal with her shouted threats and profanities (We can hear her cry... Why doesn't the writer tell us what else we heard before she was subdued? Because the saintliness he's sketching would get fuzzy if we heard her fucks and shits.) No doubt this woman suffered from clinical depression, but it's clear from the newspaper account that her life was a glorious one by any standard. As a result, the only aspect of it the writer can glomb onto in order to convince us of her miserable existence is the fact that she moved from one city to another when she got married, and therefore felt displaced.]

As it happened, on another perfect New York morning redolent of the endless summer of 2001 (a time when sunlight mocked pain), I was particularly affected by Carol’s story; and here I am writing about her, rather than brave monks in Burma, because certain signals are too powerful to ignore. [As with the opening sentences of this piece, this sentence is just a mess. A mess. What the hell is he saying? Is there a reference to 9/11 in there? What's the temporality of this sentence? Was he moved by this woman's death in 2001, years before it happened? That's how the sentence reads. And note again the stilted writing ... brave monks... redolent... endless summer... These are dead words.]

In many particulars — her South African upbringing, her uprooted life, her acute postpartum depression after the birth of her last child, her hard-working and often absent husband, her radiant smile overlying pain and her powerlessness before her own self-destructive urges — Carol resembled my mother. [Forget the cliches -- radiant smile, etc. Just note again the use of inappropriate words that mean to rev your emotional engines. For instance, the word "uprooted." This woman had an international background, moving from one city to another in search of a good education, a good job, and then a good family life. This ain't uprooted, a word that suggests involuntary removal.]

So having read about Carol, my head filled with her disoriented rage before punitive officialdom [Again, the writer prejudges the police response.], I did something I rarely do. I went back and read my mother’s suicide note of July 25, 1978.

The note reads in part: “It’s as though I’ve turned to stone. I can’t relate, I can’t communicate and I can no longer bear the pain and gloom I cause to those I love most. I feel I’ll never completely throw off this mood and hopelessness and depression. I know I have everything to thank God for and be thankful for, which only makes my ordeal worse and worse.”

In conclusion, my mother asks if “my body — any part of it — can be used for research.” With that, she downed valium, antidepressant drugs and gin.

That was almost the end of the story, or the start of a different tale of anguish, but my father, a doctor, found her just in time. Her life hung in the balance and was salvaged. [Wretched cliches.] Other suicide notes would follow — one of June 15, 1982, says: “I’m just too tired to fight anymore” — but never again was the attempt so serious.

Technology leaps forward. Medicine advances. Lives grow longer. Diseases are vanquished. But the brain, and in particular the vagaries of mental illness, present mysteries as deep as the elusive enigma of life itself. [Straight out of a cheesy public tv documentary.]

When Carol, raised in Cape Town, had her postpartum depression after the birth of her now 3-year-old son, she was a relative newcomer in New York. When my mother, raised in Johannesburg, had hers after the birth of my sister in 1957, she was new to London, with its chill postwar pall.

What happened to my mother in the 1950s — insulin shock therapy, electric shock treatment, hospitalization in harrowing wards; things about which she could never speak without a shudder — were of that time. Nobody would have treated Carol’s despair, or anybody’s, like that today.

But the riddle remains, etched in radiant mothers’ faces clutching laughing children, faces that seem to mock the very idea of panic, delusion and suicidal self-hatred, but contain them nonetheless. [Radiant mothers in whose faces are etched... Bugger me. This is unbearably bogus writing.]

You can look at Carol’s end in many ways: as an innocent’s devastating encounter with terror-obsessed police, as a ghastly but haphazard event, as a death foretold. [Beyond pompous. Offensive in its facile dismissal of the complexity of police-work. Self-congratulatory in its lazy lifting (death foretold) of talented writers' formulations.]

In the days of the Irish Republican Army’s terrorism in London, my mother was thrown into what amounted to a holding cell at Fortnum and Mason, the department store, after she left a bag unattended. Under questioning, she became hysterical, confused, unhinged — and was locked up. There was no shackle, however. [This last sentence is just funny. Amid an absurd campaign to paint two women as political prisoners, the writer does feel compelled to note the absence of shackles ...]

Thus do the affairs of the world intersect with individuals’ pain. The upshot then rests on a razor’s edge. Lives veer into a vortex. [What can UD say at this point about this sort of prose that she hasn't already abundantly said? Bad writers try to invest their dead writing with life by lists of brief portentous cliches. Sometimes this leads them to the sort of crisis point in which upward shots come to rest on the edge of razors.]

Carol Ann Gotbaum and June Bernice Cohen are dead. Cancer took my mother in 1999; she viewed the illness as a trifle beside depression. Her favorite book, unsurprisingly, was Anna Karenina. Her favorite line was from Othello: “What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” [What does this mean? What is the writer trying to say? Nothing much, actually. He's emoting.]


As Goes Florida,
So Goes Texas.

You could replace every reference to a Texas university in this article in the El Paso Times with a reference to a Florida university and it'd be just as true.

It's odd to UD how, in articles like this one, no one says the obvious: Rich big states like Texas and Florida ain't got, and don't want, no culture. They're happy to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on university sports, as at the grotesquely engorged University of Texas football program, but they don't get why you'd want to spend real money on academics.

So both of these states can talk, in their legislatures and newspapers, about flagships and excellence and research opportunities and shit, but until they get the faintest idea what a university is, they can forget it.

'A report to Gov. Rick Perry about higher education found some disturbing trends.

The Governor's Business Council, a group of Texas business leaders that advise the governor, report that 25 to 34 year olds in Texas were less educated than the two preceding generations. And minorities, whose populations are increasing fastest, were getting the fewest degrees.

Among several recommendations in the report, the business leaders said Texas should emphasize both teaching undergraduates, especially minorities and those with low incomes, and increasing research capabilities.

The report stops short of specifically outlining how the state should realign universities but calls for reorganization where there is population growth and focusing on regional economic needs.

Texas has not handled the challenge of building top-tier universities well, said University of Texas System Chancellor Mark Yudof.

While Texas has two so-called flagship universities -- typically those with more than $100 million in federal research grants, selective admissions, low student-faculty ratios and competitive salaries -- California has eight such public institutions.

"We're a bit behind," Yudof said.

The seven universities hoping to move that number up for Texas are the University of Texas at El Paso, UT San Antonio, UT Dallas, UT Arlington, Texas Tech University ["[At] 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."], the University of Houston and the University of North Texas.

The schools are striving for more research dollars and building their academic offerings.

But achieving top-tier status will require more investment from the state so that the schools can hire more faculty, increase salaries and purchase equipment.

"Some would hope there could be a funding mechanism that could elevate more flagships into tier-one status," Texas Tech University regent Rick Francis said. "But that is going to elicit jealousies."

Legislators, he said, often have trouble supporting additional funding for a university in an area other than their own.

They "like to bring home the goodies so to speak," Francis said.

That makes it difficult to find consensus on which universities get the financial boost to achieve top-tier status.

If and when legislators decide to invest in creating more top-tier universities, UTEP President Diana Natalicio said her campus is prepared to take on the challenge.

The research budget at UTEP has increased from about $7 million in 1990 to $45.7 million in 2006.

The number of doctoral programs at UTEP has grown from two in the 1990s to 14 today.

By 2015, Natalicio said she expects that lagging graduation rates at the school will improve and that the research budget will grow to $100 million.

"We're ready to go now," she said.

Yudof said UTEP is a strong competitor for top-tier status and having the new Texas Tech University medical school in El Paso helps.

But, he said, the school also must figure out how to maintain its mission of educating a largely low-income Hispanic population with many first-generation college students while increasing its quality and selectivity.

For any of the top-tier competitors, he said, change won't happen quickly even with an infusion of state dollars. Texas, he said, would be fortunate to create two to four such schools in the next 10 to 20 years.

"If you want to hold the bar that high, you have to be realistic about how much it's going to cost and how long it's going to take to get there," he said.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, leads the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education.

Legislators, she said, have seemingly little appetite to take on the controversial subject of higher education reorganization.

Those who want to bring to their communities the prestige and economic development that top-tier universities generate should pressure their local lawmakers for more investment in all of the state's institutions and in student financial aid, she said.

Texas, Zaffirini said, cannot have great higher education without both quality undergraduate education and world-class research.

"We have to do both," she said. "That's what excellence is all about."'

Sunday, October 07, 2007

They're Not All Nutters

Excerpts from reader responses to the Austin American-Stateman's series [background here] on University of Texas athletics:

'My father, former U.S. Rep. J.J. “Jake” Pickle, loved the University of Texas and Longhorn football, basketball and baseball.

While in office, he used his considerable influence to negotiate legislation favorable to the university, including the “Pickle amendment” allowing tax deductions for donations to buy football tickets. He could not have foreseen the consequences of this legislation to “his” university 20 years down the road.

I’ve been following the articles about the university’s powerful sports programs, Longhorn football in particular. Every time I drive by the expanded Royal-Memorial Stadium, I wonder on what other educational uses those millions of dollars could have been spent.

Our sports programs have become so powerful and autonomous, they eclipse the purpose of the University of Texas when it was founded in 1883, and which should be our purpose now: to provide the best education.

If the time has come to repeal or amend the “Pickle amendment,” then we should do it.

Why don’t most of our colleges and universities use some of their profits from sporting events to support their academic programs?

That would not only save taxpayers money but could help lower tuition rates.

If they can afford to pay their coaches $2 million a year, then they can sure spend a little of that money on academics.


UT athletics’ spendthrift addictions are revoltingly beyond ostentatious.

It would not be socialism to use some of sheik DeLoss Dodds’ chump change to enhance the quality of education and the number of kids educated.

What a national embarrassment - a rich club where the justification for buying anything and everything is having the means.


I cut UT out of my will more than a year ago as my way of protesting the excessive emphasis on sports. I don’t care if the sports department is self-financing. If a university president can’t see that $8 million to $12 million for a football scoreboard is absurd, then I can’t trust him or her with my hard-earned life savings.

And to UT sports donors, aren’t you a bit ashamed that you aren’t doing anything more meaningful with your money than buying luxury recliners and flat screen TVs for pampered college football players?

With many students coming out of college today carrying a crushing student loan debt, the flawed priorities of UT supporters astonishes me.


...[The] articles expose the sad fact that the actual expense of those programs is not merely steep - it’s obscene. Adding to the insult is the athletic department’s shameless reluctance to share its bounty with the university’s academic departments.

Starting today, I’ll not pump one more dollar into UT athletic programs. I can live without sports tickets, Longhorn clothing or club memberships. Instead, I’m going to find a better way to give back to the university, one that promotes the university’s true purpose.


The timing of the series could not have been more appropriate, given the drubbing the football team took Sept. 29 from Kansas State.

Has it occurred to anyone at UT that the opulent facilities and the pampering that these athletes receive might be generating a sense of inflated self-worth and entitlement that’s not exactly conducive to a winning football team?

The environment they live in (buses to practice to avoid traffic) won’t foster the hunger and drive that are key to a championship team.

The paper prints only one positive letter. I don't know whether this reflects the numbers pro and con.
You Scan a
Brief University
Article, and...

...its brevity freezes into elegy.

'San Marcos — A former West Texas football and track star who was found dead on a balcony at the Texas State University apartment complex died of a drug overdose.

University police received the autopsy report on Friday from the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, said UPD investigator Manuel Hernandez.

“The result was a heroin overdose,” Hernandez said.

The body of 20-year-old Zachary Evans was found Aug. 13 on a third floor balcony of Bobcat Village, 1201 Aquarena Springs Drive and a university spokesman said at the time it had apparently been there a couple of days.

Evans graduated from Kermit High School in 2005, where he excelled in track and football. He had attended Texas State between fall 2005 and spring 2007 but, his parents later told this newspaper, his life’s dream had been crushed when physicians with the U.S. Air Force Academy, which had granted him a scholarship, discovered he had a heart murmur.

His parents said he had moved back to the tiny town of Wink and gotten a job in an oilfield; and that they believed he had come back to San Marcos to reconcile with a girlfriend who lived in Bobcat Village but had recently moved out.

Hernandez said Evans’ car, which was parked at the complex, has been released to his family.

“I feel sorry for them. I’ve got kids that age too.”'

R.J. O'Hara of the Collegiate Way first told me about the new State Department blog, Dipnotes (an absurd name, about which other bloggers have complained... but UD finds the absurdity attractive...). People seem to find it generally disappointing, with its user-unfriendly black background and sometimes stilted entries from various SD personnel around the world. People also note the difficulty it's going to have avoiding mere restatement of official positions.

But UD's inclined to be patient on the matter of new blogs -- all new blogs. She's a codger who recalls how long it took for her own blog to assume focus and identity. She took flak from readers whom she now considers to have been too quick to attack. Looking back, what they complained about were things that UD needed extra time to understand or install, as she slowly went about doing this new thing.

Even institutional blogs like Dipnotes deserve a little time to establish their own, er, protocols.
They Can Start
With the Name.


The Messenger,
Troy Alabama

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Not That I'm

to podcast yet
(I'm getting there),
but I thought I'd
use this photo

to announce each
new podcast. A
kind of early
warning system.
Look for it.
Just as the Priscilla Slade Trial
Ends, Richard Roberts Appears,
To Pick Up the Thread.

It always makes UD nervous when life behaves like a terrible novel. She averts her eyes. But Blog Post Imperative is written all over a recent badly conceived, badly written university development.

UD will therefore endure flat characterization, unfunny farce, exhausted plot structure, and predictable outcome for the sake of this her chronicle, University Diaries.

'... Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts [Toward the end of her tv-watching life, UD found herself mesmerized by televangelicals -- the bumptious Bakkers, the robotic Robert Schuller, and the blow-dried, condescending Richard Roberts.] says God is speaking again, telling him to deny lurid allegations in a lawsuit that threatens to engulf this 44-year-old Bible Belt college in scandal [Why is God telling Richard Roberts to lie?].

Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay. [An ounce of creative energy relative to the loot's disposition in these sorts of cases would be great. Never happens.]

She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males." [It does get more interesting than usual here. She controlled scholarships? And the underage male thing has potential.]

At a chapel service this week on the 5,300-student campus known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands [What would this sort of sculpture look like at Alexander Portnoy University?], Roberts said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion." [The Deity graduated law school.]

San Antonio televangelist John Hagee, a member of the ORU board of regents, said the university's executive board "is conducting a full and thorough investigation."

Colleagues fear for the reputation of the university and the future of the Roberts' ministry, which grew from Southern tent revivals to one of the most successful evangelical empires in the country, hauling in tens of millions of dollars in contributions a year. The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS.

Oral Roberts is 89 and lives in California. He holds the title of chancellor, but the university describes him as semi-retired, and his son presides over day-to-day operations on the campus, which had a modern, space-age design when it was built in the early 1960s but now looks dated, like Disney's Tomorrowland.

Cornell Cross II, a senior from Burlington, Vt., said he is looking to transfer to another school because the scandal has "severely devalued and hurt the reputation of my degree."

"We have asked and asked and asked to see the finances of our school and what they're doing with our money, and we've been told no," said, Cross who is majoring in government. "Now we know why. As a student, I'm not going to stand for it any longer."

The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by three former professors. They sued ORU and Roberts, alleging they were wrongfully dismissed after reporting the school's involvement in a local political race.

Richard Roberts, according to the suit, asked a professor in 2005 to use his students and university resources to aid a county commissioner's bid for Tulsa mayor. Such involvement would violate state and federal law because of the university's nonprofit status. Up to 50 students are alleged to have worked on the campaign.

The professors also said their dismissals came after they turned over to the board of regents a copy of a report documenting moral and ethical [UD's never clear on the difference between these two words.] lapses on the part of Roberts and his family. The internal document was prepared by Stephanie Cantese, Richard Roberts' sister-in-law, according to the lawsuit. [Is Stephanie a satanist? What motivated her?]

An ORU student repairing Cantese's laptop discovered the document and later provided a copy to one of the professors. [Sounds as though Stephanie set things up to play out this way... ]

It details dozens of alleged instances of misconduct. Among them:

_ A longtime maintenance employee was fired so that an underage male friend of Mrs. Roberts could have his position.

_ Mrs. Roberts — who is a member of the board of regents and is referred to as ORU's "first lady" on the university's Web site — frequently had cell-phone bills of more than $800 per month, with hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to "underage males who had been provided phones at university expense." [Are we talking desperate late-night phone sex?]

_ The university jet was used to take one daughter and several friends on a senior trip to Orlando, Fla., and the Bahamas. The $29,411 trip was billed to the ministry as an "evangelistic function of the president."

_ Mrs. Roberts spent more than $39,000 at one Chico's clothing store alone in less than a year, and had other accounts in Texas and California. She also repeatedly said, "As long as I wear it once on TV, we can charge it off." The document cites inconsistencies in clothing purchases and actual usage on TV.

_ Mrs. Roberts was given a white Lexus SUV and a red Mercedes convertible by ministry donors.

_ University and ministry employees are regularly summoned to the Roberts' home to do the daughters' homework.

_ The university and ministry maintain a stable of horses for exclusive use by the Roberts' children.

_ The Roberts' home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years....'

Friday, October 05, 2007

Snapshots from Home
La Peste

Georgetown University newspaper:

'Students around campus say that rats have been out in higher numbers this year, particularly near garbage areas between nighttime and the early hours of the morning.

Numerous students said they have been bothered by the unwelcome rodents. Ian Villeda ... said that he often sees that at night, anywhere from New South to New North. Martha Koroshetz ... said she sees plenty of rats near Village C.“If you sit on the Village C patio at night, you will literally see 20 rats go past,“ Koroshetz said.

Rats have been seen in particularly high numbers behind White-Gravenor Hall, where multiple dumpsters in the rear of the building seem to account for the concentrated rat habitation. Students also say they’ve noticed a high frequency of rats in areas near New South, Lauinger Library, Red Square, Copley Hall and Harbin Hall.“I haven’t seen any in past years, but I’ve seen some this year, mostly really late at night,“ Jared Boddum ... said.

Several maintenance workers also said they’ve noticed the number of rats on campus increase. Karen Frank, vice president for facilities and student housing, could not be reached for comment.

The growing rat problem is not limited to Georgetown’s campus. Several people reported seeing rats in the surrounding neighborhood in even larger numbers than on campus.“I would say that there are more rats off campus that on,“ said Mallory Goodman.... '
Two Women at A Rally
in San Francisco...

... the other day, for Burma.

Robert B. Livingston]
University of Texas:

'Fans of rival schools gleefully poke fun at Texas' recent issues. "Book 'em Horns" T-shirts are trendy in College Station and Norman, Okla.... ... When the Longhorns played Rice last month, the Owls' famously irreverent band performed an on-field skit that spoofed Texas players' legal problems.'

On the other hand...

'"What's happened at Texas could certainly be considered startling," [one observer] said. "Unless you looked at it in respect to what's happened around the country, which is that so many athletes have gotten in trouble in sort of a concentrated kind of way."'
Scathing Online Schoolmarm
Anatomy of an Unworked Poem

An English professor at Virginia Tech who had the killer in his class writes a weak poem about it.

So I know

He put moisturizer on the morning he shot
thirty-three people. That stands out. The desire
to be soft. I could tell the guy from NPR
that's what I want, to be soft, or the guy
from the LA Times, or the guy from CNN who says
we should chat. Such a casual word, chat.
I'm chatting to myself now: you did not
do enough about the kid who took your class
a few buildings from where he killed.
With soft hands in Norris Hall killed.
This is my confession. And legs I think
the roommate said, moisturizer in the shower,
I don't know what I could have done
something. Something more than talk to someone
who talked to someone, a food chain of language
leading to this language of "no words" we have now.
Maybe we exist as language and when someone dies
they are unworded. Maybe I should have shot the kid
and then myself given the math. 2 < 33.
I was good at math. Numbers are polite, carefree
if you ask the random number generators.
Mom, I don't mean the killing above.
It's something I write like "I put my arms
around the moon." Maybe sorry's the only sound
to offer pointlessly and at random
to each other forever, not because of what it means
but because it means we're trying to mean,
I am trying to mean more than I did
when I started writing this poem, too soon
people will say, so what. This is what I do.
If I don't do this I have no face and if I do this
I have an apple for a face or something vital
almost going forward is the direction I am headed.
Come with me from being over here to being over there,
from this second to that second. What countries
they are, the seconds, what rooms of people
being alive in them and then dead in them.
The clocks of flowers rise, it's April
and yellow and these seconds are an autopsy
of this word,

Here's a poem that's sincere and emotional and unable to be poetic. Unable to control itself emotionally and express itself artistically. People will say a poem like this one makes artistic sense because its rush of messy lines and words, its lack of linguistic interest or beauty, adequately reflects a traumatized consciousness struck speechless -- or at least hobbled linguistically -- by atrocity.

But a poet only has words, powerful words powerfully shaped to convey any number of things, including in cases like this one the failure of words under pressurized circumstances.

Look more closely. The moisturizer detail is intriguing but empty. The writer finds it intriguing but does little with it metaphorically or conceptually. He himself, he says, like the killer, wants to be "soft" -- that is, to avoid the hard business of coming to grips with violence in the world? Avoid the hard words that might truly convey what has happened? What precise parallel is the writer suggesting here between his softness and the killer's? It's left unsaid -- but not interestingly, allusively, unsaid. The moisturizer, and the idea of softness, isn't explored. It's simply stated.

Then the guys show up - the guys from the paper, the guys from tv. These lines - like the rest of the poem - are prose, not poetry. No lilt. No larger sense of meaning in any of the words used. Just his thoughts as he scribbles.

He now calls this poem his "confession." He says he should have done "more than talk to someone / who talked to someone, a food chain of language/ leading to this language of 'no words' we have now." Food chain is a perplexing and weak metaphor. Our empty no words keep us alive? But they are empty, unsustaining. The "maybe we exist as language" and are "unworded" at death line comes across as a somewhat pretentious effort to be philosophical, mainly because it's dropped in and then dropped for good, given no context.

And after all, isn't the point of the poem that we are much, much more than language, and that the poet feels guilty precisely because he's remained too comfortably within a kind of soft-language-only setting? That would seem to call for a poem of much more formal and linguistic toughness. As it stands, the poem is another softball, an instance of the fallacy of imitative form, which Ivor Winters describes as "the procedure by which the poet surrenders the form of his statement to the formlessness of his subject-matter." To convey emotional and linguistic debility, you write a debilitated poem.

The poet describes a world in which "we're trying to mean," which sounds just right; but surely a poem is something which tries to mean more successfully than the rest of us do as we chat with each other. The poet's defense of his impulse to write poetry so soon after the event inspires a clunker of an image: "I have an apple for a face" when I write, instead of "no face." Yet how is apple meant? A face that's an apple is a rather comic image, and that can't be meant in this context. And an apple is an exceedingly overdetermined symbol. The poet needs to make its significance precise, or the reader's mind will go all over the place with it.

Now he moves from apples to flowers, "the clocks of flowers" expressing the turn of the seasons, the way the blooming of the flowers in spring marks the forward motion of time through the seasons. Okay. But he muddies his metaphorical structure once again by throwing an autopsy at us: "these seconds are an autopsy of this world/ suddenly."

Actually, in itself this final autopsy line is great, and the poet should have started the poem with it, then explored backwards, perhaps through its morbid idea that time moves in a deathly way in the aftermath of such an event, and that the difficult part of the response to such events is simply moving forward, simply convincing yourself that life goes on.

As in many weak poems, it's as if the poet at the very end chances on what he really wants to say, and the right words in which to say it. UD's suggesting here that this poem is really a first draft, the poet's first gust of emotion as he takes on his subject. Perhaps he retains the poem in this inchoate form because he thinks its messiness is authentic, an authentic snapshot of his feelings at a particular moment in time. Yet good poems are worked, no matter how ambitious they may be to capture spontaneity. This poem isn't worked. And as a result, it doesn't work.


More Student Testimony
(As If More Were Needed)
On Professors Who Use

'I think every college student knows what it’s like to sign up for a class at the beginning of the semester and get excited at the prospect that it could really be an interesting, informative and maybe even fun experience.

Then you get into that class only to realize the professor has no desire to teach, only to hold you hostage for an hour and 15 minutes, or more, and talk at you.

That’s right - not with you or even to you, but at you.

I’m not asking for my professors to bring sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll to class every day. All I’m saying is that there is no stronger sedative than when all I have to stare at and listen to for over an hour is a 52 slide PowerPoint presentation, with my professor sounding less interested in the topic than their students are.'

It occurs to UD that a sort of perfect culmination of current classroom technology is the PowerPoint professor and his laptop student, one hunched over his slides, the other hunched over his screen, each unaware of the other's existence.

Makes for a nice quiet classroom.
Australia Honored

One of its own won this year's Ig Nobel for Literature. The Australian Broadcasting Company reports:

'It is a small and often neglected word. But the word 'the' has just won Australia's Glenda Browne international recognition in the form of an Ig Nobel prize.

The Ig Nobels, parodies of the real Nobel Prizes, are awarded annually to applaud achievements that make people laugh, and then make them think.

Browne, a professional indexer who once worked in the field of biotechnology, is this year's winner in the literature category.

Her award honours a scholarly article addressing a tricky question. Where should names starting with 'the' appear in indexes?

While contemplating this issue, she looked through indexes filled with names like The American Journal of Psychiatry, and The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics on one hand, but British Journal of Pharmacology and Journal of Microscopy on the other.

Browne's work involves creating alphabetical lists of key terms that appear in books, so readers can find the material they want. So the 'the' question is crucial to indexers like her.

But throughout her 18-year career she grew increasingly aware that the humble 'the' was a problem.

"I don't know why I started thinking about it," she says from her home in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

"In indexing, we follow rules but sometimes the rules don't make sense and that bothered me."

The conundrum with 'the' is deciding how to index names or titles that include it, she explains. Should 'The Who' be indexed as 'Who, The', or 'The Who'?

The key question is finding a method that would make the index easiest to use, Browne says.

Her deceptively simple solution was published in 2001 in the journal The Indexer.

Index entries for names with 'the' in them should be indexed both with and without the 'the', so to speak, she says.

"I decided, look, people think in different ways, so let's put it in the index in two places."

It was a win-win solution, and a logical conclusion.

"Similar arguments apply to 'a' and 'an', but these are beyond the scope of this article," she notes in her paper.

Browne says the indexing skills she needs to resolve issues such as the 'the' dilemma are similar to those needed for scientific endeavour.

"I think they both have a mix of the analytical and the creative," she says.

"You need to focus very carefully, but you also need to be able to take a broad point of view."'

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ig Nobel Update

They're going on even as we speak. So far, among the announced prizes, this is the most intriguing to me:

'Linguistics -- Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles, of Universitat de Barcelona -- for a study showing rats sometimes fail to distinguish between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards.'
Talk About
Varieties of

One of UD's early,
now-classic, posts categorized
senior male professors in terms
of beard type.

This is Professor
Robert L. Birmingham
of the University of
Connecticut Law School,
and UD is speechless.

No, no, not really. She's never speechless. Birmingham's been asked to take leave right in the middle of the semester because something he did -- these stories are always a bit vague, which is why UD wasn't going to blog about this one, but she couldn't resist the photo -- offended his students so much that the university decided to ditch him for the moment. He showed a film that included some naked women in it... He said something about the slave trade that might or might not have been outrageous... Go here for the newspaper account, and for the fifty or so comments after it, some of them by students in the class (most of whom support Birmingham and are pissed off on free speech and pragmatic grounds... the pragmatic bit being that they're out of a course...).

Birmingham seems to have written himself quite the Wikipedia page. It begins with the following comment from Wikipedia:

This article reads like a news release, or is otherwise written in an overly promotional tone. Please help rewrite this article from a neutral point of view to be less promotional.

... and... what are we to make of the sunglasses? The big big sunglasses?

On their way to the Grosvenor Metro station this morning, Mr. and Ms. UD pondered this. Or rather Mr. UD shrugged (It was very early. He wasn't really interested.) and Ms. UD came up with the following theory: "Of course, it's possible he has a health condition of some kind. But say he doesn't. ... Maybe the university has a requirement that you provide a photo for your webpage. Maybe this guy is a privacy fanatic. Maybe this is his protest. He gives them the photo, sure, but he puts big anonymous-making shades on... Plus... look at that shirt! It's buttoned to within an inch of its life! It's all about withholding his identity from ... whatever..." (Here UD ran out of steam.)
Ig Nobels Awarded

'[R]eal Nobel Laureates
... hand out the Ig Nobels,
awards given out by the
Annals of

Improbable Research
magazine [this site links
you to a live webcast]
for unusual and imaginative
scientific discovery.

Previous honorees - many of whom actually show up to accept the dubious distinction - have included people who invented a grizzly bear-proof suit of armor, studied a locust's reactions to watching "Star Wars" or timed humans swimming through syrup....'

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Snapshots from Home

Strange Developments
at George Washington University

'Recovering from minor heart surgery Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney stunned both the medical and political establishments when he mysteriously began to experience love for the first time in his life, sources reported Tuesday.

It is believed to have been the first recorded incident of Cheney exhibiting compassion for his fellow man.

Calling the vice president's sudden ability to love "mystifying" but a possible medical breakthrough that could aid other Americans who suffer from acute mulishness and generalized misanthropy, Dr. Jonathan Samuel Reiner, Cheney's cardiologist, said in a press conference at George Washington University Hospital that the vice president exhibited a series of unexpected side effects almost immediately after regaining consciousness following his surgery.

"The vice president broke free from the straps that secured him to the bed and lurched at me as he customarily does following a heart procedure," said Reiner. "But instead of trying to strangle me, he wrapped his arms around me in a hug."

According to Reiner, Cheney left the hospital under his own power, but returned minutes later complaining of unfamiliar chest palpitations and sensations of warmth for others regardless of political affiliation or income. A test of the replacement defibrillator showed that the device was functioning properly, and an examination of Cheney revealed no physical abnormalities.

"The vice president's eyes had an unfamiliar gleam in them, and he didn't sound like his usual self at all, so we checked for signs of a stroke, but found none," Reiner said. "His voice was atypically soft, and his hands felt warm to the touch."

Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice president, told reporters that her husband was "doing fine" upon release from the hospital, but acknowledged that he had exhibited some peculiar traits.

"When he came home, he did not characteristically stomp into the house and grumble about how the 'stupid American people should just be shot,'" Mrs. Cheney said. "Instead, he bent down to scratch the dog behind his ears instead of kicking him, and kissed me off-camera for the first time in 10 years."

Mrs. Cheney added she has not ruled out the possibility that her husband's blood- thinning medication may have been switched, unintentionally or not, with a CIA mind-control drug.

Over the past two days, various White House and Capitol Hill sources have also reported bizarre behavior by the vice president. Cheney was back at work Monday, and, according to incredulous eyewitnesses, greeted each of his staff members by name. Later that afternoon, he canceled his regular weekly meeting with Halliburton executives, then kicked off his shoes, rolled up his pants, and strolled around barefoot on the White House lawn.

Attending a Monday evening GOP fundraiser at the Washington Convention Center, Cheney was accompanied by David Gillian, 6, a young boy he had previously crippled, and by a small fawn who had followed him to the event. Mounting the podium as the featured speaker, he told supporters he had cast aside his planned speech on the counterinsurgency in Iraq's Anbar Province in order to "tell the real truth."

"If the events of Sept. 11 have taught us anything, it is this: We need to learn to love one another," Cheney said. "We are all entwined in an unbreakable braid of human brotherhood. Each of us has something good and special to offer. If we work together, we can make the world into a most wonderful place where we can turn our attention to the truly important things, like snuggling."

During a C-SPAN-televised appearance at the Senate Tuesday, Cheney, in his role as Senate president, announced he had brought doughnuts for everyone, and encouraged the legislators to be more sensitive to one another's feelings.

"I've wasted so much of my life on a mindless quest for power and outright destruction," an increasingly emotional Cheney said. "What about all the sunsets I've missed?"

"What are these things you call 'tears'?" added Cheney, as Senate ushers politely escorted him from the chamber.

Despite his miraculous turnaround, doctors are calling Cheney's condition unstable and, if left untreated, possibly fatal. On Friday, Cheney will return to George Washington University Hospital to have the defibrillator removed, as it is feared that prolonged exposure to love could overwhelm his already shrunken and ulcerated black heart.'
More On Allegations of
Match Fixing at the
University of Toledo

From the Wall Street Journal.

'... The NCAA, the top body in collegiate sports, has long worried about gambling's pernicious influence. Between 2000 and 2004, the NCAA publicly supported Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona in a failed bid to ban betting on all college sports. That left relations with Las Vegas strained, says Rachel Newman Baker, the association's director of agents, gambling and amateurism since 2005.

In 2003, the NCAA issued a report suggesting that gambling was widespread among college athletes and that more needed to be done to stop it. The association convened a task force to study how to counter the negative effects of gambling on college sports.

...[O]ne gambler, who identified himself to them as living in the Midwest, cast repeated wagers against Toledo ahead of its Sept. 17, 2005, meeting with Temple University. One bet was for about $20,000, more than four times the size of a typical big wager on a Mid-American matchup. MGM Mirage says the gambler correctly bet that Toledo would fail to beat the point spread.

Toledo's next game, on Sept. 27, attracted a wave of money as well. MGM Mirage eventually removed the team's events from its boards.

...According to federal documents, ... Toledo football and basketball players [were offered] cash and goods to influence game scores. [Match fixers]... attempted to influence the score of the GMAC Bowl, between Toledo and the University of Texas at El Paso, the affidavit says, and allegedly offered one player up to $10,000 to sit out particular games. In all, the scheme ran from fall 2003 to winter 2006, according to the documents. Federal officials say the investigation continues...'

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Gevalt. Not enough that she's got her own domain name now ... that her blog is described as "well-read" (meaning much-read) in the Chicago Sun-Times... No, now she's got to go and podcast herself...

But, well... UD was walking on the beach in Rehoboth couple of weekends ago, and she thought, "I spend my life listening to all these Teaching Company guys drone on about the world's religions and how to appreciate great music and shit like that on those tapes Mr. UD's always buying... Yet I have a better speaking voice than those guys, am known for my sparkling wit, and certainly can think of something to say..."

So all day today, with the help of her trusty niece Carolyn, UD's been setting things up for podcasting. She hasn't completed the process, but has so far successfully recorded herself singing, in imitation of Joan Baez, the first verse of Wagoner's Lad. Ne quittez pas.
Professor/Student Affairs
and the New Gentility

In today's New York Times, David Brooks complains about "the new gentility, the rules laid down by the health experts, childcare experts, guidance counselors, safety advisers, admissions officers, virtuecrats and employers to regulate the lives of the young. ... If Sal Paradise [Jack Kerouac's loose-living hero in On the Road] were alive today, he’d be a product of the new rules. He’d be a grad student with an interest in power yoga, on the road to the M.L.A. convention ..."

This sense of cultural tightening, of what the journal Salmagundi a few years back called the New Puritanism, is still much-talked about today, especially in the context of sexually repressive university campuses, where, for instance, it's now against the rules at many schools for students to have affairs with their professors, even if their professors are graduate teaching assistants. A recent book protesting this rule, Romance in the Ivory Tower, has generated a lot of outrage, and it's not even out yet (release date, October 31, 2007).

UD's skeptical of cultural generalization -- has Brooks read Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons? -- and she wonders whether a certain cranky gentility out and about in the country doesn't have as much to do with the fact that, with the exception of stalwarts like Norman Mailer, many of our established novelists, documentarians, and essayists, though by no means reducible to virtuecrats, have gotten old and bitter (Wolfe, Philip Roth, Joseph Epstein).

In any case, UD thinks it's time for specific experience and reflection upon it to take the place of theorizing and sermonizing on the subject of these affairs. Enough of feminists on the left, moral majoritarians on the right, and litigation-phobic administrators in the middle talking about these affairs when they haven't -- most of them -- she presumes -- actually had them.

When she was an undergrad, UD had three.

Who you gonna believe?

The first thing to note about UD's repeated exposure to evil older men on campus is that she seems to have survived. No, let's take that a step further. She seems to have thrived. And part of the reason she has thrived is because of those very nasties.

The second thing to note, before we jump to the prurient details, is that UD's experience is not universal, and she's certain some undergraduate women back in her day, and today, emerge scathed from these things. She offers her testimony not because her experience is univerally generalizable, but because it's no doubt somewhat representative.

In all three cases, UD was the aggressor. Each professor was... well, a professor: a befuddled, shambling, well-meaning, cerebral character caring far more for historiography, literary theory, and... who was the third? UD loses track... Oh yeah: Latin American history than dashing about after women. UD had to do most of the work.

She didn't mind. She was always conceiving intellectual/sensual passions for her teachers. Some of these passions were bizarre in the extreme. When she was a senior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland, UD was eerily intense about Miss Baker, her obese, ancient, Rapid Learner English instructor. As a sophomore at Northwestern University, UD fell in love with Erich Heller, a gay professor in his sixties who disliked women.

So how can UD be even modestly representative? She's just weird.

Well, but eventually UD managed to point her passion in the direction of more appropriate objects... And after all, even if those initial crushes were off the grid, what underlay them wasn't eccentric: It was something like what David Brooks talks about when talking, today, about Jack Kerouac -- a supercharged, youthful energy for it all: intellectual clarity, sensual delight, adventure, freedom. The desire was for a living synthesis of these things, these things embodied in a particular mind and body.

The only thing slightly strange here was the intellectual bit. UD always panted after intellectual energy, and was extraordinarily attracted to people who seemed to possess it.

For a male-on-male version of this, see Saul Bellow's novel, Ravelstein, in which the main character explains that his attraction to Ravelstein is in large part about his long-established attraction to people who have evolved a coherent and powerful world view. For a real-life version of it, see Susan Sontag's adoration of her University of Chicago instructor, Philip Rieff, whom she married a week after meeting (she was seventeen years old). For exactly not what I'm talking about, see Dorothea Brooke's idiotic attraction to dessicated Mr. Casaubon in George Eliot's novel, Middlemarch.

UD learned a lot from all of the professors with whom she dallied. She learned a good deal about their specializations, to be sure, and this was valuable; she learned tons of other things in long freewheeling conversation with them. But what she really came to understand -- what she was, rather selfishly, in pursuit of -- was the nature and indeed the strength of her own peculiar personality. She came to understand what Strether in Henry James's The Ambassadors describes as the "small sublime indifferences and independences" that constituted her individuality: a rebelliousness, a deep curiosity about the way powerful minds work, and, to be sure, a tendency toward paganism...

Outlaw these campus affairs and today's headstrong types will still have them. The act of outlawing them probably makes them more attractive.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Attitude and

'“It gets confusing when the New York Times starts launching a ton of blogs, and the Huffington Post starts offering news,” said Jonah Perretti, a 26-year-old MIT graduate who is the [Huffington Post's] resident tech whizz [Make that whiz.]. “Things start to blur.”

... Like a standard newspaper, Ms Huffington insists that her contributors maintain accuracy. All errors must be corrected within 24 hours, lest bloggers have their posting privileges withdrawn. Yet she argues that one of the blog’s strengths is an attitude and immediacy that distinguishes it from the mainstream media’s sometimes-tortured attempts at objectivity. “None of this ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’," she says. “You have to believe that there is a truth to be ferreted out.”'

---financial times---
Harvard's Reichian Therapy

Robert B. Reich tries to help Harvard come to grips with its endowment issues.


... This year ... the U.S. Treasury will be receiving about $40 billion less than it would if the tax code didn't allow for charitable deductions. (That's about the same amount the government now spends on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is what remains of welfare.) Like all tax deductions, this gap has to be filled by other tax revenues or by spending cuts, or else it just adds to the deficit.

I see why a contribution to, say, the Salvation Army should be eligible for a charitable deduction. It helps the poor. But why, exactly, should a contribution to the already extraordinarily wealthy Guggenheim Museum or to Harvard University (which already has an endowment of more than $30 billion)?

Awhile ago, New York's Lincoln Center had a gala supported by the charitable contributions of hedge-fund industry leaders, some of whom take home $1 billion a year. I may be missing something, but this doesn't strike me as charity. ...

It turns out that only an estimated 10% of all charitable deductions are directed at the poor. So here's a modest proposal. At a time when the number of needy continues to rise, when government doesn't have the money to do what's necessary for them and when America's very rich are richer than ever, we should revise the tax code: Focus the charitable deduction on real charities.

If the donation goes to an institution or agency set up to help the poor, the donor gets a full deduction. If the donation goes somewhere else -- to an art palace, a university, a symphony or any other nonprofit -- the donor gets to deduct only half of the contribution.'

Next stop, the University of Texas sports-industrial complex.
Our Educational Mission:
TV, Naming Rights, Shoes.

'...As the business of intercollegiate athletics has ballooned, the IRS repeatedly has identified some sports revenue as unrelated to education and thus subject to income tax. But universities employ a battery of attorneys, lobbyists and tax specialists to convince the government otherwise.

They have been overwhelmingly successful. "Everything's pretty much gone the universities' way," said James Musselman, a professor specializing in tax law at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. "There are some pretty serious benefits, and (the schools) have pretty much gone unrestrained."

Thirty years ago, when athletics departments started earning big money from the televising of their football and basketball games, the IRS argued that the income wasn't linked to the universities' educational mission and should be taxed. But after resistance from colleges arguing that the money was essential to athletics — and athletics was a part of education — the government backed down.UT athletics earns about $5.2 million per year from TV rights.

In 1991, the IRS proposed taxing the millions of dollars that athletics departments were receiving for the sale of naming rights to football stadiums. The agency again reversed course after a storm of protest, and in 1997, Congress passed a law exempting from income tax the money that colleges receive from corporations for naming rights — about $275 million a year, according to the NCAA.

University Federal Credit Union is paying UT $13 million to place its name on the Longhorns' baseball field. Texas Tech University has deals totaling $30 million from AT&T and United Supermarkets for football stadium and basketball arena naming rights.

Most recently, the IRS tried to tax the growing income that big schools were receiving from shoe and apparel firms but dropped the idea. Adidas pays Texas A&M University $1.4 million annually in cash and gear. UT gets about $2.6 million a year in apparel and cash from Nike....'
Commentary Around Florida
In Response to the Budget-
and Education-Destroying
Football Stadium Just Approved
by the Trustees of a University
With Very Little Budget and
Very Weak Academics

'[At] FAU, where trustees have given provisional approval for a 30,000-seat football stadium, more money for academic programs [is what's needed]...

FAU's stadium largely is driven by the university's ill-advised jump to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's top division, I-A. Yet nearly half of I-A schools lose an average of $2.5 million a year on football, reports the News & Observer of Raleigh. No Division II school makes a profit on athletics, evidenced in the $745,000 average deficit for football.

Rather than making money, college football is costing money - including higher student fees, often with students' approval. The schools' motivations range from enhancing the college experience by providing more social activity and sense of community, as at traditionally commuter FAU, to attracting more and better students. Those dividends are hard to measure.

...[A]dd the budget cuts pending in a legislative special session, and the determination to move ahead with a stadium on the Boca Raton campus seems all the more inadvisable.

...Officials say the university "is proceeding cautiously and prudently to develop an appropriate, conservative, feasible plan." FAU's feasibility study, however, assumes not only operating revenue and $700,000 from naming rights, but $750,000 in corporate and community fund-raising annually for at least 10 years. Before signing off on any athletic deal, in an academic environment in which students are not always the priority, FAU trustees must ensure that it all will be done for, not paid for by, students.'


'...[I] have a radical suggestion for FAU and every other university ... [W]here to allocate limited resources? Where should they spend [large sums of money]? I propose they... set up a large scholarship fund that would give significant scholarships to students majoring in math and science. America is not producing enough math and science majors. America is producing enough football and basketball players.

With this money plus the scholarship money now going to football and basketball players, the school could provide a $10,000 annual scholarship to between 300 and 600 students annually, depending on the earning of the endowment fund.

Florida and Palm Beach County are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to attract high-level science jobs to the area. Maybe FAU could work in that same direction ...'


'...FAU President Frank Brogan is selling a men's football stadium under the guise of an "Innovation Village," a hub of sports, student housing and retail to create a "traditional American college experience." Don't buy it. The true modern college experience should be in the classrooms on the other side of campus. ...'

UD thanks Mike for telling her about it.
"As the local joke goes,
George Orwell wrote not
just one but three books
about Burma:
... Burmese Days,
Animal Farm and
Nineteen Eighty-Four."

A petition.
Pulitzer Material

Against an institution staunchly indifferent to academic and moral values, the student newspaper at Southern Illinois University Carbondale stands firm. The Daily Egyptian is an inspiration. I hope it's on the short list for some journalism prizes.

'...The Board of Trustees has [suggested] that it has known about these plagiarism accusations for some time. Not only were they not forthcoming, they took it upon themselves to determine whether the allegations were true.

Their method? Plugging the dissertation into, a popular database educators have used in recent years to see if content within a paper matches up with published works.

Now, we may just be a bunch of gangly, fledgling student journalists, but common sense tells us, "Duh, you're not going to find anything because the books Poshard used in his dissertation are way older than a database born in the 90s."

The DAILY EGYPTIAN even put the dissertation through's sister database, iParadigm, and had the same results. The sites' owner said the disputed works might not exist in his database.

Yet the BOT accepted its findings as fact and swept it under the rug.

...The committee Poshard charged with developing a working definition of plagiarism submitted its review Sept. 21. Its report stated that plagiarism can be unintentional, and a sloppy regard for citation style could be one way such an allegation could occur.

Poshard has said such a mistake may be the correct way to categorize what he did.

Yet the DAILY EGYPTIAN ... found such "mistakes" at least 30 times during its investigation. In many cases, there were no citations or quotations.

We don't know about you, but we're thinking that's a lot of mistakes for someone who was deemed a doctor of his field.'