Wednesday, October 31, 2007
UD Has a Little|
...at 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 oaklandgoods.com]
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.)
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?
Q & A: Professor Lester Mitscher
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.
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.
...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.
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?
'COLLEGE FOOTBALL POWERS
PROVE ACADEMIC BONUS
'..."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.
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.]
'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.]
Seven South Carolina|
...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...
"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...]
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.
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?
The A-H Gene and|
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.
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.
The THES offers an example:
'...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.
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...|
...in 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.
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.
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
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...
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
"Are you okay?|
You haven't posted today!
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.]
The Frog Through the Door|
When she was growing up, UD had crushes on the following men:
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 ...is 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 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?
Diploma Mill Story
'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.
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?”
Snapshots from Home|
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.
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.]
'[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.
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.
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
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.
Hard of Hearing|
'FDA WARNS VIAGRA USERS
-- 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
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.
Good idea. Take the degree away.
See if he can do it right this time.
...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....'
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”.
--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..."
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).
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.
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.
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.
...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.
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.
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.]
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.
'...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.
---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.
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.
When, in the Course |
of Human Events...
...it 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.
My only problem with this: Over-educated?
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.]
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.”
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.
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.
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."
...at 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.
More Support for that Guy...|
...at 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.
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.
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."
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
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.'
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.
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...]
---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...|
...to my News Hour interview. It includes a transcript.
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
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.
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...|
...to 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.
"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:
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.
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.]
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.
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]
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.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
'...[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 news leader---
'The University of Oregon will not spend a dime of Phil Knight's $100 million donation on a basketball arena.
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.'
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.
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...
of the University
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.
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.
'...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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The paper prints only one positive letter. I don't know whether this reflects the numbers pro and con.
You Scan a
...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.
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.
'RILEY, TROY UNIVERSITY
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
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?].
Friday, October 05, 2007
Snapshots from Home|
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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
magazine [this site links
you to a live webcast]
for unusual and imaginative
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|
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.
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.
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
'“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.”
Harvard's Reichian Therapy|
Robert B. Reich tries to help Harvard come to grips with its endowment issues.
'IS HARVARD A CHARITY?
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.
Commentary Around Florida|
In Response to the Budget-
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]...
'...[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.
'...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
... Burmese Days,
Animal Farm and
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.