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Read my book, TEACHING BEAUTY IN DeLILLO, WOOLF, AND MERRILL (Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming), co-authored with Jennifer Green-Lewis. VISIT MY BRANCH CAMPUS AT INSIDE HIGHER ED

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

UD's Site Feeds Have Moved 

UD's site feeds have moved. Please update your bookmarks to the site feeds with the following links.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


'A UT law professor and creator of one of the world’s most popular blogs has been named one of America’s 10 most influential legal scholars by the Social Science Research Network.

Glenn Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at UT, has published many articles on the SSRN, mainly on constitutional law, science and technology. The ranking is based on how many people read his publications.

“I got in the top 10 by having so much of my stuff downloaded and read by interested people,” Reynolds said.

The SSRN encourages early publication of academic research results so other readers may communicate with authors before the results are printed in academic journals, according to the SSRN Web site. Of the 44 faculty members in the College of Law, 15 are active on the SSRN, Reynolds said.

John Sobieski, interim dean of the UT College of Law, said, “(The ranking) means ... there is a great deal of interest in what professor Reynolds writes. That may be attributable, at least in part, to professor Reynolds’ blog, ‘Instapundit,’ which is one of the most popular blogs on the Web.”

Reynolds said he began the blog as a hands-on exercise for teaching Internet law. “I’m not sure why it’s so popular. I guess there are more people out there than I imagined who find my odd collection of interests interesting...”'

---university of tennessee student newspaper---

Typology of Irritating Professors 

From Jon Cogburn's blog.

'Professor I'm-a-Fraud-and-Pray-To-Jesus-That-No-One-Will-Figure-It-Out

Professor I'm-Above-This-Place-And-Should-Be-At-Harvard

Professor Rebel-Without-A-Clue

Professor Only-Teaches-His-G**d***-Dissertation

Professor Promising-Young-Man

Professor Couldabeena-contenda

Professor Exploits-Grad-Students-as-Cheap-Labor-in-his-Consulting-Business

Professor I-Have-Five-Stories/Jokes-So-Get-Used-To-Hearing-Them-All-The-Time

Professor I've-Got-A-Nobel-Prize-So-Go-F***-Yourself,-I-Can-Talk-About-Whatever-I-Want

Professor Midlife-Crises

Professor Old-Yellow-Notes

Professor Slum-Lord

Professor Tells-You-Everyday-How-Far-He-Is-From-Retirement

Professor Twenty-Graduate-Students-Do-All-My-Research

Professor Used-To-Be-Cool-But-Now-Viewed-With-Knowing-Bemused-Looks

Professor Uses-Tenure-To-Pursue-Hobbies-Or-Job-On-The-Side-Full-Time

Professor Wishes-He-Was-Rich

Professor Complains-About-Working-Conditions

Professor Drunk-Pants

Professor I-Could-and-Sometimes-Do-Recite-This-Lecture-in-my-Sleep

Professor Laughs-At-His-Own-Jokes

Professor My-Jokes-Aren't-Funny-But-They're-All-I-Have

Professor Only-Person-At-Tiny-College-To-Have-Ever-Published-A-Book-In-A-Printing-Of-More-Than-200

Professor Stared-Into-The-Void-And-The-Void-Stared-Back

Professor Your-Work-Will-Never-Be-As-Important-As-Mine

Professor Watches-Sports

Professor Wears-Clothes-With-Many-Holes-As-Though-That-Credentials-his-World-of-Ideas-ness

Professor Will-F***-Anything-Young-and-Naive-Enough-To-Admire-Him'

Fornicators, Whores, and Other Really Nasty Words 

A local news station describes a problem on the campus of the University of South Florida.

'It's a quiet day here on the USF campus, but students like Susie Demesmi say it's not always this serene.

"They're always in front of Subway in this grassy area," she says. "And they usually have really big signs about fornicators, whores, they have really nasty words on that."

Demesmi is talking about people preaching on campus. According to USF police, preachers have been causing problems for years, but they can't legally ban them.

On Oct. 31, police say they received a complaint that the preachers were causing too much noise and disturbing people inside Cooper Hall. While officers were responding to that call, a woman came forward with another complaint.

The USF student didn't want to be identified for safety reasons. She told us a preacher who was overtly aggressive toward her.

"He starting charging towards me with a closed fist and then right when he got within a couple of inches of my face, he was pointing and calling me a whore," the student says. She reported that incident to University Police.

"He's more like a con artist," she says. "I feel like he's trying to provoke something out of anybody in order for him to get a lawsuit. He wants us to hit him, that's why he charged at me."

And now police have forwarded their report involving John Kranert to the Hillsborough County State Attorney's office. Kranert thinks this is a case of mistaken identity and says he isn't looking to sue anyone.

"Will I ever rarely single someone out? Specifically, like a girl that happens to be walking and say, 'Hey you're a whore.' No, we don't do that," Kranert says.

Kranert adds that he and others have a right to preach on campus.

"I don't think it's against the law to practice the First Amendment. And we have video evidence of the law being broken, but it's not us breaking the law."

However, Kranert does have a long criminal history dating back to the 90's. He was recently arrested last month for trespassing at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

But Kranert says he didn't do anything wrong then or now.

"[I] can be loud at times, but I'll be honest with you, Valerie, most of the time it's the students screaming in response," Kranert explains.

Students respond by saying they shouldn't feel threatened in the place where they expect to feel safe. University Police told us they can't keep the preachers off campus, because it's a First Amendment issue. Even if they call people names, it's not breaking the law.

They recommend students ignore the preachers.'


Excellent writing from a Syracuse University student about George Washington University's new puke-as-you-go policy. An excerpt from her consideration of the effects of such a policy at Syracuse:

'... [D]ozens of freshmen who live in South Campus' Skyhalls had no say in their housing arrangements. These students would be the victims of a puking policy solely because of their reliance on the buses to visit North Campus and enjoy the university's social scene.

They may drink just as much as their North Campus-residing classmates, yet they would be punished for vomiting on the bus ride home, while other freshmen could simply walk home and enjoy the luxury of puking alongside the sidewalk, instead of on a bus floor. [Delicious prose. SOS would only change one thing: She'd drop instead of on a bus floor. Read it aloud without that, and you'll see it's snappier.... Hm. And now that I do read it aloud, I'm thinking dropping side from alongside would be good, too. You've already got side in sidewalk...]

---the daily orange---

Getting Rich 

George Washington University's incoming president is unhappy about the fact that GW is the most expensive university in the country, and he plans to reduce tuition.

But without that enormous tuition, GW's outgoing president wouldn't have had a chance to scrape together a living.

His salary - close to a million dollars - didn't make him rich, he explains in a recent interview:

'Being a university president is a great privilege, and it comes with tremendous rewards. Getting rich is not one of them.'

Although many American university presidents are compensated, like Stephen Trachtenberg, in the million dollar range, and enjoy free housing, chauffeuring, corporate board money and retention perks, this fails to make them rich.

On the other hand, it has a terrific effect on faculty salaries: "If the presidents are paid well, it follows, or it should follow, that the professor will be celebrated and honored and also fairly compensated."

'Q. What aspects of the job justify paying presidents so much more than faculty members?

A. Well, faculty get tenure. That's worth something. Presidents don't get tenure. They serve at the will of the board. So there's a risk factor, and that ought to be worth some compensation. Secondly, faculty get sabbaticals. Presidents work 12 months a year, … and they don't conventionally get sabbaticals. If a sabbatical is good for a professor, why isn't it good for a president? Faculty generally get 20-percent time off for consulting. Conventionally presidents don't have 20 percent to give to consulting, although some do sit on boards of trustees and boards of directors of outside companies. That, properly done, is compensation — although I worry sometimes that that's abused. You'll see a president who is serving on six boards or eight boards, and that's crazy.'

Presidents get, or are given, faculty tenure, which means that they have a highly-paid university position waiting for them when they leave the presidency. No risk there.

Universities are desperate for presidents, so even the worst can get jobs elsewhere, as Trachtenberg acknowledges earlier in the interview, when talking about how the very competitive market for presidents has pushed up compensation.

Many university presidents get sabbaticals, or significant breaks that aren't called sabbaticals. It's something they negotiate in their contracts.

Most professors UD knows of work twelve months a year.

The board situation is a notorious scandal, with university presidents taking tens of thousands of dollars and squandering university time to go to corporate retreats and do nothing.

I SAID Sorry, Didn't I? 

'The University of Central Oklahoma has acknowledged numerous NCAA rules violations by its football team and has admitted the university lacks control of the program. [Well, it's Oklahoma, where the disconnect between any particular university and the game of football is total, where the university constitutes this teeny pointless thing on the periphery, and the football program constitutes everything else. Under extreme pressure, as in this case, you can get Oklahoma universities to admit this.]

The acknowledgment appeared in the Division II school's response to an NCAA notice of allegations. The university sent the response to the NCAA earlier this month, and The Associated Press obtained a copy Monday through an open records request.

"We regret that any violations occurred and remain committed to operating a model athletic program," the university said in its response, noting the "violations occurred in specific and limited areas of operation relating to UCO football." [I have questions about the sincerity of UCO's regret. Don't you?]

It also said "the institution regretfully agrees" with the NCAA's finding of lack of institutional control "only with regard to period of time this Notice of Allegations encompasses." [Regret again.]

The NCAA says Division II Central Oklahoma paid more than 80 athletes to attend remedial classes at Rose State College in Midwest City, and provided free housing, food, transportation and use of facilities to football players who were not full-time students. [Just get your ass over there! We'll pay you!]

The NCAA also alleged that the university paid $4,772 for a surgery in January 2005 for an athlete who later enrolled at the school.

In its response, Central Oklahoma acknowledged the surgery occurred but argued that the surgery didn't directly enhance the program, because it was provided to a prospective student-athlete. [We paid for the surgery because we are philanthropic.]

In another part of the response, Central Oklahoma agreed its football coach, Chuck Langston, "failed to ensure absolute compliance with NCAA legislation within the sport of football between January 1, 2003 and September 2006." [Langston's among the dirtiest university coaches UD has seen, and she's seen a lot of university coaches.]

Central Oklahoma's response will be considered by the NCAA Division II Committee on Infractions during its meeting Dec. 7-9 in Indianapolis.

The university noted in its response that it already has imposed penalties upon itself. Central Oklahoma has said it would forfeit two full football scholarships, limit the number of transfer students recruited and reduce the Bronchos' maximum number of football players from about 100 to 90 per year.

Earlier this year, as a result of the allegations, Langston served a two-week suspension, which caused him to miss the Broncos' season-opening upset of nationally ranked Abilene Christian (Texas). [Note that they haven't fired Langston. Central Oklahoma might be full of regret that their coach runs a filthy program, but you can't expect them to, you know, fire the guy...]

sporting news

Monday, November 12, 2007

Good Advice. 

From an Esquire Magazine writer:

'He bore her away in his arms,
The handsomest young man there,
And his neck and his breast and his arms
Were drowned in her long dim hair.

That's Yeats, dude -- William Butler Yeats, from a poem called "The Host of the Air," from The Wind Among the Reeds, published in 1899, when Yeats was 34 years old.

Why tell you this? To get you laid.

I'm not saying you can't get laid without aid from Yeats, who couldn't get himself laid at age 34 with Warren Buffett's cash, Brad Pitt's dick, and a keg of Guinness. But I want you to get laid right. If it's merely dipping your wick, Yeats can't help. But I have learned the difference between just having sex and diving into the shadowy pool [1] of high lonely mystery [2] between a woman's legs. I prefer the latter. So should you.

Google the poem. Print it out. Read it -- aloud and slow -- then write it down for yourself. Sweet Jesus, don't ponder the goddamn thing -- let it in. Make it a part of you.

Say, "I can't get this poem out of my head." Share the stanza above. If you blush or stammer and feel like a fool, good. If you've just met, great. She knows you? Even better. She'll know that you are growing, heart and soul, as a man, and she wants that. Wanting that, she wants you -- warm and close and now.

Don't thank me. Read Yeats.

1 Stolen from a Yeats poem.

2 Also stolen from a Yeats poem.'

Enslaved to the Machine 

Andrew, a reader, tells UD of a recent announcement sent to students at Oberlin College (via Gawker):

'Poop in the Adam Joseph Lewis Center toilets [in the Environmental Studies building] anytime between Saturday, November 10th and Friday, November 16th and sign up to receive a quarter per poop.'

In a comment, an Oberlin student explains:

'[T]he poop is to feed their "living machine," which filters waste water with bacteria and plants and stuff. The building isn't that highly trafficked and if the bacteria doesn't get enough poop it dies. I remember once during a deserted winter term they had to feed the thing a tray of donuts from the cafeteria to keep it going...

[I]t's on the honor system. They put up a bulletin board outside the bathrooms and you write your name, your mailbox, and self-satisfied message about the dump you just took.'

Another NYU Suicide? 

Gothamist reports:

'A sophomore at New York University was found dead in his Water Street dorm room on Friday night. The Washington Square News reports that other residents were told about the death on Saturday and that the university did not send out an NYU community-wide email per a request from the deceased student's parents: "The family has asked that they be accorded the utmost privacy, and the university will do its best to honor its wishes and urges the media to do the same."'

A History of Violence 

'Student government leaders are urging University of Massachusetts at Amherst students to skip classes Thursday and Friday to protest a range of grievances they say university administrators have consistently ignored.

The two-day student strike is intended to pressure administrators into heeding student complaints about increased student fees and aggressive police patrols of dormitories.'

The Globe fails to mention a likely reason for that uptick in police patrols.

Last December, U Mass students rioted in spectacular fashion:

'...100 and 125 windows had been smashed with bricks, rocks and chairs, and police had been pelted with bottles and pieces of concrete. ...[C]harges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, failure to disperse in a riot, minor in possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana, breaking and entering, mistreatment of a police horse or dog and destruction of property.

...About 60 campus, town and state police officers in riot gear were needed to squelch the riot that drew more than 1,800 students to the plaza of the Southwest residential area. Students threw bottles, cans, bricks, pieces of concrete and other items at the officers and yelled obscenities.

At least two officers were slightly injured from being hit with objects. O'Connor, who was on site during the riot, said someone threw a gallon jug of liquid from a high-rise dorm that missed her by a few feet.

"If it hit me, it would have killed me," O'Connor said.

O'Connor said two officers immediately read an order of dispersal to the mob, which responded by throwing items at them.

"You could tell right away they came out with malice in their hearts. They were bent on destroying things," O'Connor said. "They were assaulting us."

An estimate on damages had not been completed as of yesterday, but O'Connor said it's "going to be quite high." O'Connor said between 100 and 125 dorm and dining common windows were smashed with chairs, bricks and rocks, with a price tag of $250 to $1,000 per window.

Police used pepper balls, sting balls, flash bangs and smoke to disperse the crowd, at a cost of between $2,000 and $5,000, O'Connor said.'

Leiter Notes UD Title 

Brian Leiter, whose blog is Law School Reports, links to UD this morning.

He liked her ironic headline about his recent career move (Another Academic Career Destroyed by Blogging).

Among scholars who've "helped themselves greatly by blogging," Leiter mentions a colleague of UD's at George Washington University:

'Orin Kerr ... consistently posts informative items about cases and issues in his areas of scholarly expertise. His political opinions are well within the spectrum of unoffensive opinions, and they also don't play a particularly large role in what he writes about. Experts in criminal procedure would, of course, know about Kerr anyway (indeed, as data I will release shortly shows, he is among the twenty most-cited scholars writing in criminal law and procedure, and the youngest on the list). But because of his blog work, he now has a much higher profile as a respected expert in these areas.'

Leiter, who's about to take a spectacular job at the University of Chicago, concludes with some reflections on his own blogging:

'I venture no opinion on the topic that has, by now, occurred to at least some readers, namely, the effect of my own blogging on my professional prospects. It won't surprise anyone to learn that I haven't approached blogging with that in mind, though I've been pretty fortunate, indeed, in the professional opportunities I've had nonetheless. I certainly run afoul of many of the cautionary notes remarked on above. [He has in mind in particular a caution about blogging political opinions out of the mainstream.] Although I rarely blog about scholarly topics, my political opinions are, on most issues, well outside the familiar spectrum. I also don't suffer fools gladly which, given their over-representation in the blogosphere (for an obvious reason: there are no meaningful barriers to entry), makes me prone to be a bit more abrupt and direct than is the norm in the pseudo-egalitarian blogosphere. (In real life--e.g., in the context of academic debate and academic hiring decisions--anti-egalitarianism is the norm, at least at the better schools.) So maybe I'm a counter-example to the cautionary notes sounded above? On the other hand, I had a decade of teaching, publications and scholarly presence before I did any blogging, which means the evidential base for informed judgments was far greater than it would be for someone newer to the academy. I am inclined to think that is significant in all cases, which is yet another reason for students and junior faculty to be very cautious about blogging.'

If you're visiting from Leiter and would like a taste of UD on legal matters, here's an early post about another of UD's GW colleagues, Jeffrey Rosen.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Theater of Cruelty 

I'm in downtown Silver Spring (well, I was in downtown Silver Spring yesterday... but this you-are-there use of the present-tense is fun, so let's go with it...) in the Roundhouse Theater.

I'm the youngest person in the audience.

When you retire in America, it's community theater all the way.

The tiny stage is a scruffy bit of football field; game-day music tinkles behind us.

I'm here to see Red Shirts, a play about bigtime university sports.

"How many people here was a real football player?" A codger two rows down addresses us as we wait for things to start.

A tinny old lady answers: "Were you?" Belligerent.

He doesn't hear her. Like everyone in the room except UD, he wears a hearing aid.

Who knew so many Americans abused Viagra?

UD's basically impressed by the play, but she agrees with the reviewers who say that the author tried to pack much too much - plot, character, idea - into it. Slimmed down, it'll be a strong treatment of a serious subject, one that an opinion piece in today's New York Times gets at too -- the exploitation of often culturally and economically disadvantaged college athletes because of the absurd conceit that they're all college students. We pretend, writes Michael Lewis, that these people are

students first, and football players second. They are like Franciscan monks set down in the gold mine. Yes, they play football, but they have no interest in the money. What they're really living for is that degree in criminology.

And they're really keen on English lit too. The funniest scene in the play -- and it's a smart, well-written play -- is a poetry-analysis practice session with coach, when the guys try to make sense of Emily Dickinson:

My nosegays are for captives;
Dim, long-expectant eyes,
Fingers denied the plucking,
Patient till paradise,

To such, if they should whisper
Of morning and the moor,
They bear no other errand,
And I, no other prayer.

The many ways the guys say what the hell? are hilarious, and UD loved it.

The English professor is a thankless role in this sort of drama -- if she doesn't care, she's contemptible; if she does, she's a scathing schoolmarm destroying the school and the players' prospects. As this character pursues sanctions against team members for cheating, one of them says to her: "You think the coach is gonna let a pissant professor knock out his game? He makes two million dollars a year."

Just as thankless is the learning specialist who tries to explain the English professor to the players: "She wants to know that you can assert and defend a position on a poem." But, says a player, "Nobody gives a shit about Paradise Lost."

The play concludes a bit awkwardly -- its plot meanders and never finds enlightenment -- so that UD doesn't leave the theater with the aesthetic payoff she'd have liked. But the heart of the thing is pure, with a pure appraisal of the inhumanity at the heart of Division I university football.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


"Soltan is profane, incisive, and snotty, a delightful combination."

Panic in Year Zero

Gore Vidal on Norman Mailer 

"Mailer is forever shouting at us that he is about to tell us something we must know or has just told us something revelatory and we failed to hear him or that he will, God grant his poor abused brain and body just one more chance, get through to us so that we will know. Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist. He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements.”

The Writer and the University 

'I discovered [at Harvard] that people could speak of poetry without an apologetic grin. They could be dead serious about listening to classical music. You know, I came from Brooklyn and you were lower than a sissy if you took music seriously, if you took poetry and so forth. That wasn't there. The game was on the streets. I don't mean by that that I was a tough kid out on the streets and such, but we all were slightly tough. You know, we learned to play touch football jeering at cars when they occasionally went by because they interrupted our game. That was as tough as we got, but nonetheless there was an attitude of machismo even though we didn't fulfill it. And so going to Harvard where culture was important was the key shock.'

Norman Mailer: 1923 - 2007

Norman Mailer Has Died. 

It was a summer during my high school years, and I was unhappily camping in the Pyrenees with Catalan friends of my family and a bunch of other camping Catalans. It was hellishly hot. I hated setting up tent, standing in line for mashed beans, shitting in the woods.

While everyone put on their big boots and went for mountain hikes, I holed up in my tent, reading Norman Mailer's novel, The Naked and the Dead. He wrote it when he was absurdly young. It was about his war experiences.

I remember being lost in the powerful narrative momentum of the thing -- remember a description of a man pissing himself in terror as his group of soldiers is drawn into a bloodbath by a malign commander...

Around the same time, late 1960's, as UD marched with her high-school boyfriend on the Capitol, it was Mailer's Armies of the Night that helped her figure out what she was doing (her only memory of the march is her boyfriend massaging her feet afterwards).

I doubt UD understood then what Mailer meant by "the overpsychologized loins of the liberal academic intelligentsia." Does she ever now.

"It is a work of personal and political reportage that brings to the inner and developing crisis of the United States at this moment [1968] admirable sensibilities, candid intelligence, the most moving concern for America itself," wrote Alfred Kazin in New York Times.

This Just In! 

'Do you know which federal legal holiday is observed on Nov. 11?

Here are the choices:

1.) Veteran’s Day

2.) Veterans’ Day

3.) Veterans Day

Retail stores are having Veteran’s Day sales this weekend in time for what many calendars tell us is Veterans’ Day.

And, according to the federal government, this Sunday also happens to be Veterans Day.

Grammatically, any of the above versions could be correct, which is perhaps why the answer, resting on the placement (or nonuse) of a single apostrophe, remains open for debate.

Professor Pat Okker, chair of the MU English department, said the aforementioned holiday “is a great example of the power of punctuation,” because each of the variations connotes a different meaning.

Here’s where things get a bit complicated, grammatically.

* The first variation, “Veteran’s,” uses the singular noun in its possessive case, suggesting that the day ‘belongs’ to each veteran.

* The second variant, “Veterans’,” is the plural noun in the possessive case, which suggests that the day belongs to all veterans.

* The third variation, “Veterans,” is attributive, meaning the word functions as an adjective rather than a possessive noun.

By Professor Okker’s measure, No. 3 is the superlative choice.

“Since the first example (Veteran’s Day) would refer to only one veteran, that seems not to be the best choice,” Okker said.

Okker thinks Veterans’ Day is a “viable option” but ultimately favors “Veterans” because it not possessive.

“It suggests that it is a holiday that belongs to all of us to honor veterans,” Okker wrote in an e-mail. “To me, that is the appropriate meaning: Veterans Day isn’t a holiday just for some Americans; instead it is a national holiday for us all to honor veterans. The absence of the apostrophe, then, says a lot,” Okker wrote.

Matthew Gordon, associate chair of the English department at MU, is a linguist by training. “That means I spend more time worrying about why people use the language the way they do than worrying about what forms are supposed to be correct,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Nonetheless, his reasoning resembles Okker’s.

“Here, the question might be whether the holiday is about veterans or somehow belongs to them. It seems to me that either interpretation is defensible, but I like the first one and thus ‘Veterans Day,’” Gordon wrote.

“Also I tend to regard the apostrophe as an overrated piece of punctuation, but that’s a personal bias,” he added.

George Justice, associate dean of the MU English graduate school, also favors “Veterans” but eschews mechanics in offering his explanation.

“There’s no grammatical reason why it should make sense, but it’s common practice, and here (as in many cases) what is easy and works takes precedence over logic,” Justice wrote in an e-mail.

This common practice has historical roots.

During World War I, a temporary cessation of fighting between the Allies and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of Nov. 11, 1918.

On Nov. 11 of the following year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first commemoration of Armistice Day; and in 1938 Congress passed legislation to declare Armistice Day a legal federal holiday.

Following World War II and the Korean War, President Dwight Eisenhower signed a proclamation in 1954 giving the holiday a more encompassing name: “Veterans Day.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (no apostrophe) continues to promote the attributive version, and offers the following explanation on its Web site: “Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an ‘s’ at the end of ‘veterans’ because it is not a day that ‘belongs’ to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”'


Grinnell Student Blows Hillary's Cover 

'Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s campaign admitted Friday that it planted a global warming question in Newton, Iowa, Tuesday during a town hall meeting to discuss clean energy.

...According to a report on the Grinnell University Web site, the Clinton campaign arranged for some of the questions for the candidate to be asked by college students...

[A]ccording to Grinnell College student Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff ’10, some of the questions from the audience were planned in advance. 'They were canned,' she said. Before the event began, a Clinton staff member approached Gallo-Chasanoff to ask a specific question after Clinton’s speech. 'One of the senior staffers told me what [to ask],' she said.

"Clinton called on Gallo-Chasanoff after her speech to ask a question: what Clinton would do to stop the effects of global warming. Clinton began her response by noting that young people often pose this question to her before delving into the benefits of her plan.

"But the source of the question was no coincidence — at this event 'they wanted a question from a college student,' Gallo-Chasanoff said."

The tape of the event shows that the question and answer went as follows:

Question: "As a young person, I'm worried about the long-term effects of global warming How does your plan combat climate change?

Clinton: "Well, you should be worried. You know, I find as I travel around Iowa that it's usually young people that ask me about global warming."...'

UD's Blogpal, Mary Beard... featured in a Guardian article:

'...Beard is now a professor at Cambridge and the best-known classicist in Britain. Her new book, The Roman Triumph, is keenly awaited, and she has been asked to give the prestigious Sather lectures at Berkeley...

...The subject of her Sather lectures will be "laughter in Rome", but before she writes them, she is due to finish a book about Pompeii, which will, in part, try to think about the experience of tourists wandering around the ancient town: "What do they look at? And how do they look at it?"

Pompeii has long been a site of mass tourism and, like Hollywood blockbusters, offers itself up to an interpretation combining scholarly expertise with a willingness to be populist. Beard has had an enthusiastic response to her blog, which ranges from discussions of America as the new Rome to a list of "10 things the makers of [the film] 300 got right."'

UD, whose mother worked with Wilhelmina Jashemski, an expert in the gardens of Pompeii, at the University of Maryland, looks forward to Mary's book.

Because UD went to Pompeii with her mother, who knew everything about the place (and about Herculaneum, down the street), UD's experience of the town was not touristic. It was excruciatingly meticulous.

On the other hand, because of their Jashemski connection, UD and her mother were able to see some off-limits plaster mummies.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Blogger Writes to Governor Corzine 

'I was stunned and dismayed to read that you intend to help fund the expansion of Rutgers University's stadium -- by some estimates, to the tune of $30 million.

One reason that figure caught my eye is because, if memory serves, that was precisely the amount by which the state decreased the budget for higher education for 2007.

The upshot of that budget cut, you may remember, was that Rutgers was forced to cancel 451 classes, lay off 185 employees and impose a tuition increase on its 50,000 students.

In addition to those cuts, you'll also recall, the university eliminated a number of "non-revenue sports." Today, any Rutgers student who wishes to participate in heavyweight or lightweight crew, men's or women's fencing, swimming and diving or tennis can do so only at the club level.

Club-level sports, however, don't draw students who have spent years immersed in a sport. So they'll now choose schools where they'll find coaches and budgets and a higher level of competition, where they'll have a shot at being Olympics contenders, All- Americans, NCAA medalists and team and individual champions -- all of which those Rutgers teams produced in the past.

If $30 million is lying around for an upfront payment on football stadium luxury boxes, why was it impossible to find even a small fraction of that amount to save six sports that have served thousands of students over the years?

Well, okay, I know the answer: The football stadium project, we're told, may "pay for itself." Except these things almost never pay for themselves, especially if you start adding up the ancillary costs of going "big time" in football. All those extra cars already tie up New Brunswick for hours on game days and require hundreds of officers for traffic control -- and the only apparent solution for this problem is to spend tens of millions more on parking facilities.

We're also told that a stadium expansion is a necessary part of the larger football upgrade that will increase general interest in Rutgers -- and it does seem that last year's football success has helped draw greater interest among college- bound students around the coun try.

I just wonder if these potential applicants have been told that they'd be coming to a school with fewer classes, fewer professors and fewer sports.

Granted, some -- or even many -- applicants may be interested in Rutgers because it has a winning football team. But does a student really select a college on the basis of knowing that on six Saturdays a year he can go to a football game and paint his face red?

And if such a student exists, what university that cares about its academic ranking is scheming to get him?

I do understand, by the way, that a school's sports program and budget are separate entities from its education program. But it's hard to mentally separate them when one of those programs is contemplating a $100 million expenditure, with perhaps 30 million taxpayer dollars up front, while the other is under enormous financial stress. And if $30 million is lying around to ensure football stadium luxury boxes, why wasn't a fraction of that amount available when Rutgers was cutting those 451 classes or yanking those six sports out from under students who went to Rutgers partly to participate in them?...'

Donald Bren!!!! 

'Signs on [University of California Irvine] law school buildings [funded by billionaire Donald Bren] must read "Donald Bren School of Law" and be at least twice the size of the building name. Bren's must be the largest and most prominently displayed name on the building, according to the agreement.'

Kind of like
university diaries

---los angeles times---

An Emeritus Professor... 

...of sociology goes where no man has ever gone before: He actually reads the fucker.

'In its report to Chancellor Fernando Treviño, the review committee weighing plagiarism in Glenn Poshard's 1984 dissertation indicated it had "investigated the academic culture in that period, in the Department of Higher Education, and specifically, by [sic] Dr. Poshard's immediate peers and adviser."

Yet in restricting its focus to the question of plagiarism, the review committee ignored broader issues about that culture that are raised by the character of Poshard's work itself.

His dissertation reports the results of re-administering a survey of programs for gifted children conducted statewide by the Illinois State Board of Education six years earlier. Though he suggests that his interest is both descriptive and interpretive, he gathered no information upon which to base interpretations of his data. Thus, the dissertation is entirely descriptive.

What scholarly contribution might Poshard have hoped to make through this project? None, it seems, because his topic was not of academic interest. His results could have let the ISBE know whether gifted programs in the south of the state were expanding, contracting or changing in other ways, but were this of concern to the IBSE, it would have contracted for the research. The results would not merit dissertation treatment because they didn't allow for the sophisticated analysis which normally is required for a Ph.D.

This means Poshard's project never should have been approved by his dissertation adviser and committee. Indeed, it could only get him into trouble. For instance, there was no way to write a proper "literature review," since there was no literature bearing directly on his topic; hence his review meanders through the general topic of gifted education without focus, and inserts, among its 40 pages, nine from the "executive summary" of a national study.

If we subtract the 25 pages of tables and graphs from the 107-page dissertation, the inserted executive summary is 11 percent of the entire written work.

Further, a purely descriptive dissertation would allow no interesting conclusions to be drawn, and none of those Poshard arrived at were either interesting or much related to the data he obtained.

For example, Poshard writes on page 105: "It can be concluded that increased Gifted Area Service Center efforts to bring local districts into compliance emphasizing program articulation across all grade levels has resulted in the increased size of programs in many districts."

But this statement is not related to any of his research questions or findings. Most of the conclusions come out of thin air and seem geared primarily to applaud the efforts of the local Gifted Area Service Center, by which Poshard was employed at the time.

Reading Glenn Poshard's dissertation gave me some sympathy for his effort to shift blame to his dissertation committee, if for a different reason. Had its members held him to substantive standards of scholarship, he would have developed a more extensive research project and produced very different work. His plagiarism was only one aspect of the low scholarly standards for advanced degrees in SIU's Department of Higher Education.

The character of Poshard's dissertation helps us understand why he has appeared so clueless about academic standards in responding to the discovery of his plagiarism. How could he appreciate such standards when he had never been held to any, nor apparently developed them on his own? This also helps explain why it was possible for the review committee to see his plagiarism as comparatively blameless.

It appears, then, that Poshard participated in a defective academic culture, and has, these many years later, become its victim. The response to this by SIU's Board of Trustees, one of whose members hails from the Department of Higher Education, may suggest it simply does not see that culture as much of a problem.

Alternatively, it could indicate a worry that guaranteeing academic standards, both retrospectively and prospectively, is too massive and too threatening an endeavor for SIU's trustees to initiate.

The character of Poshard's dissertation raises more and weightier questions than any new plagiarism policy from SIU will answer.'

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Swastika Girl Revisited 

It now looks as though she drew all of the swastikas on her door.

Snapshots from Home 

Mr. UD attended Harvard with Benazir Bhutto.

UD used to see a little of her years back, when she made trips to Washington.

She recalls Benazir, not yet in office, sweeping into a French restaurant on Capitol Hill, where she met up with les UD's and other Harvard friends -- I think this must have been UD's first glimpse of her. She wore an amazing fur coat -- UD could impress you more with this detail if she were able to differentiate among pelts -- and took immediate command -- a tall, insanely intense woman -- of the table. As soon as she arrived, small talk ended. Everything was about her recent pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, her father's imprisonment and death, her brother's death.

UD saw her in a more relaxed mode at the Capitol Hill house of a mutual friend. This would've been at least fifteen years ago. She was funny. She complained good-naturedly about the woman who was writing her autobiography. One of the guests was recently divorced, and Benazir was hilarious on the subject of various unsuitable cousins she was going to toss at him for his next wife.

After Benazir took office, les UD's went to a very formal gathering that was supposed to be a very informal gathering, welcoming her to Washington as part of a state visit. The event was at Blair House, across the street from the White House, and the guests were, again, Harvard friends of hers. UD remembers lots of group photos being taken; she remembers being dazzled by Benazir's sister, a gorgeous woman in a sari whose shimmering glow gave her the aura of one of the major saints. She remembers a longish chat with Benazir's husband, a genial, self-deprecating man who spoke mainly about polo.

There were other formal events, including a state dinner at a Washington hotel, where Dan Quayle toasted Benazir and Benazir toasted Dan Quayle and UD's eyes flickered from VIP to VIP to VIP...

UD's all about private life, or mainly about private life, so people fully committed to public life are enigmatic to her. Their destinies frighten her. When he was with the United Nations in East Timor, Mr. UD worked for, got to know a bit, and got to admire profoundly, Sergio Vieira de Mello, a handsome, brilliant, unpretentious man who was killed in a Baghdad bombing. Benazir's life, too, is in danger.

USC Celebrates O.J. 

'Heritage Hall, the athletic department building at the center of USC's campus, has seven Heisman Trophies and their recipients' jerseys on display. Each of the seven players is highlighted in the USC football media guide and game-day programs. Enormous replicas of the retired jerseys are displayed all football season long below the peristyle of the Los Angeles Coliseum.

That's right: USC still celebrates the football career of O.J. Simpson -- who was tried for a double murder, found liable in civil court for the death of his ex-wife and her friend, sued for pirating DirecTV and is scheduled to appear Thursday for a preliminary hearing in Las Vegas, where he is facing several felony charges in connection with an alleged assault on two sports memorabilia dealers.

USC has taken a very diplomatic approach to handling Simpson's legacy. The school recognizes that Orenthal James Simpson attended USC and played football -- quite well -- before going off, like most Heisman winners, to a career in the NFL. But Simpson is not invited to any official university events. The school embraces his gridiron accomplishments while distancing itself from what came afterward.

I have to wonder how head football Coach Pete Carroll -- who had nothing to do with USC's Simpson-era heyday -- feels as he walks past the Juice's No. 32 jersey and Heisman Trophy each day. Is that lesson of compartmentalization one that Carroll truly wants to send to his players? Play football well and it doesn't matter what happens off the field? That's the message USC seems to be sending to players. Or, perhaps more accurately, that's the message the players receive.

In recent years, Trojan football players have been arrested for or charged with soliciting a prostitute, spousal battery, sexual assault, simple assault and gun possession, while others have been punished by USC for drug possession and steroid use. And a lack of game-day discipline has been a factor in USC's disappointing season. A holding penalty cost freshman tailback Joe McKnight a touchdown -- and the Trojans the game -- when they played at the University of Oregon on Oct. 27, eliminating USC from the national-title discussion for the first time in five years. There are 119 teams playing Division I college football. Only nine have been penalized more yardage than USC this year. But I guess a personal foul is de minimis when compared with armed robbery and murder.

Some of my fellow USC boosters say Simpson is being recognized for accomplishments that are 40 years in the past, and that it is possible to disassociate [dissociate would be better] his triumphs as a running back from his recurring role as criminal defendant. USC has a proud football tradition; wearing cardinal and gold is an accomplishment, a ticket for many to the NFL. Still, no one should be so arrogant as to think that their talent on the field will excuse their behavior off it. Yet if Heritage Hall celebrates O.J. Simpson the football player while looking away from O.J. Simpson the man, regrettably, that is the idea we're left with.

I understand the argument that the man's troubles today have nothing to do with his athletic performance during the Johnson administration. I understand why, during the racially charged early 1990s in Los Angeles, USC postponed making a decision about how to handle Simpson's legacy until after his criminal and civil trials.

But, as a USC alumnus and donor, [Written this way, it sounds as though Simpson, rather than the opinion writer, is the alumnus and donor.] Simpson's antics are getting embarrassing. I listened to the tape from the Sept. 13 Las Vegas hotel room incident in which Simpson allegedly tried to steal his own memorabilia, and I have blushed in embarrassment as I walked into the Coliseum on Saturdays this fall.

If the Las Vegas charges stick and Simpson is convicted, USC may finally have the prompting it needs to take down his jersey from Heritage Hall and the Coliseum...'

--opinion piece, la times--

Irregular Hours... a blog that doesn't seem to have been too active until recently. Its author, a journalism student, writes quite well. A post describing Mike Wallace's visit to Fordham University concludes:

'Students came forth slowy, tentatively, with questions. But by the end of the 60 minutes, Wallace was the one conducting the interview, doing what he still does best: putting people in the hot seat, and by God, making them squirm...

Perhaps the most stunning part of the discussion was the point at which Wallace began to press students about death. "Where do you go when you die?" he asked the group of undergrads, standing three steps away from his silver-haired wife. "When a leaf falls off a tree," he said, "is it conceivable that that's what happens to us—we just crumble?" He waited for a response. "C'mon, I'm ninety," he said. It was typical Wallace: disarming, honest, unafraid. Only this time, he didn't dig deep for an answer—not in this crowd of twenty-some-things. He simply drew a coda, letting himself trail off: "Crumble like a leaf..." And every hot seat in the room went cold.'

Not all of this prose is perfect. But, by God, she nails the ending.

Thinking Like a Business School 

UD once saw a course evaluation form across whose top something like the following message to students appeared:

Please remember that your instructor's salary is directly tied to your evaluation of him or her.

She recalled that message when she read this article about her university's business school:

'Business Week magazine will pay special attention to GW when calculating its annual business school rankings because of a controversially worded letter from University administrators encouraging students to participate in the magazine's survey.

The magazine sent individual e-mails to all seniors in the School of Business last week, asking them to participate in an online survey about the school. The survey asks questions about the students' overall experience in the program.

The student input comprises 30 percent of the final ranking, said Business Week Staff Editor Geoff Gloeckler. The magazine told schools they could encourage student participation but not influence the results.

The e-mail, sent Tuesday by two deans, explains the importance of the Business Week rankings for future employers and recruiters - adding that many people are unaware of the "strong" programs offered in the School of Business.

"The higher The George Washington University School of Business is ranked, the more valuable your degree will be perceived to be," wrote Susan Phillips, dean of the Business School, and Larry Singleton, associate dean for undergraduate programs, in the e-mail.

"As a member of the Class of 2008, you have an opportunity to affect the way that current and future employers and students will view The George Washington University, our students and our alumni," the e-mail stated. "We encourage you to complete the survey promptly with that thought in mind."

"The purpose of this ranking is that prospective students know what they're getting into at the school," Gloeckler said. "And it blows my mind that they would (send) out a note like that."

He said the magazine would pay special attention to GW when it reviews the data. If GW's student approval improves drastically, the magazine will know it was likely the result of the letter - and will take action based on that information.

Singleton said he did not receive an e-mail the magazine sent regarding the appropriate way of encouraging participation in the survey. [Um, but as a university dean, he understands the protocols here, no?] The message was meant to garner involvement in the survey, which only a quarter of seniors participated in last year, he said.

"We were trying to get students to fill out the survey more, all with the best intentions," Singleton said.

He continued, "I thought we were doing something good for GW and good for the school."

Singleton also endorsed the survey this week when he introduced himself to various business classes. A senior, who is being granted anonymity for fear of retribution from the school, said some professors were angered at Singleton's apparent catering to ratings.

"(Singleton) basically said if you are bashing the school, you may be venting, but you're harming your degree," the senior said.

Gloeckler said he rarely deals with this type of incident because universities encourage students to vote objectively.

Senior Matt Cohen, a senator for the business school in the Student Association, said he helped Singleton emphasize the rankings this year. He said he felt the letter properly advertised the survey.

"I truthfully do not think that any bounds were overstepped in the terms of (the e-mail). As administrators they should make us aware of the importance of certain things," Cohen said. "I think they have accurately illustrated the importance and the audiences that the rankings touch."'

--GW Hatchet--

Blogoscopy: Universities 

A recent survey ranks Syracuse a prominent blogging city, and the presence of Syracuse University is a major reason why.

...'Syracuse ranks high because it has several of the characteristics that correlate with blogging activity, not the least of which is the presence of Syracuse University...

"The common characteristics of the high-ranking cities include high Internet penetration, high broadband penetration, a young, well-educated population, the presence of high-tech employment opportunities and the presence of colleges and universities," [a spokesperson for the survey research firm] said.

Mark Obbie, a professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a blogger himself, said he expected academia to play a role in the volume of blogging.

"Any university town is going to have a lot of people who think others want to hear what they want to say," Obbie said. "And I would imagine there are a few professors like myself who blog, which adds to the number."

Freshman Dan Orlando said he has noticed the growth of blogging at SU and at most colleges. He hosts a New York Giants blog with two students from Quinnipiac University. He said that blogging is a necessary step to continue his writing career.

"I still get to write, hone my journalistic skills and get my thoughts out there - where millions of people can see - by writing a blog," Orlando said. "Our blog is very professional, and it gives us a lot of much-needed experience for our future careers in journalism."

Obbie said he believes blogging is an essential tool for both journalism students and the everyday person. Obbie's blog, called "Lawbeat," covers reporting on law, lawyers and the courts.

"It's a good way for me to keep one leg in the professional world," he said [I thought it was keep a foot in.]. "It keeps my visibility higher than if I was simply expressing my thoughts in the classroom. It's a great daily creative outlet that can turn into something more formed and thought-out and be written to a larger audience than my classes."

Blogging makes it easier for students to gain writing experience, Obbie said.

... Blogs may even create publicity for the university.

"If people at the university make a name for themselves, it sends a clear signal that this is a place that is engaged and cares about these things in the outside world," Obbie said. "It significantly raises our profile."

As a blogger, Orlando said blogging only helps SU, and particularly Newhouse, in the future.

"This is what we're all about here," he said. "Blogging follows Syracuse's traditions and beliefs. We just built a building that has the First Amendment written on it, and blogging is one of the ways we can take advantage of our First Amendment rights."

The Daily Orange, the Syracuse University newspaper.


Good writing about a lack of intellectual curiosity at Harvard.

SOS suggests ways to make the writing even better.

'When I began my undergraduate career at Harvard a little over two years ago, I spent the early days, weeks, and months floating around in a haze. I felt out to sea in my classes, and socially, the scene surprised me. I had expected Harvard to be an oasis of intellectualism, and it wasn’t. [In a haze, out to sea, an oasis... We've got a mess of metaphors here. But the first-person approach is a good idea, and this Harvard undergraduate writing in the campus newspaper is about to say something very important, and say it pretty well.]

To some degree, this lack of intellectualism was a relief: It meant that I didn’t have to worry so much about whether people considered me an intellectual powerhouse, because they weren’t intellectual powerhouses either. It was a shame so few of them read [Note: This is a current Harvard undergraduate talking about the reading habits of others like her. Many do not read... Which can't really be true. But many probably read very little.] and so few of them cared about the happenings of the world [Weak phrase, happenings of the world. Vague. Global events, for instance, might be better.], but at least I felt less guilty when I spent more time freshman year surfing Facebook than thinking about art or culture or politics.

And though I would come to get used to this aspect [grow accustomed would be more elegant.] of the Harvard landscape (and discover microcosms of intellectualism on campus), the pervasive apathy still troubles me. The ability to engage with the world in a multifaceted way, to employ the approach of liberal arts, and to absorb and apply new knowledge over the course of a lifetime is an essential part of being an intelligent and worthwhile person. [This writing is weak, but describing the nature and value of intellectuality is very difficult.] If Harvard, an apex of higher learning, does not hold the pursuit of intellectualism as a central value, then can any other place be expected to?

The phenomenon may have to do with the college admissions game that has reached maniac-scale intensity [maniac-intensity would be better.]. According to a 2000 College Board report, between 1994 and 1999, the number of first-year students in American universities grew by 200,000. In part, this owes to [owes to is awkward] an expanding demographic, Generation Y. Combined with better recruiting by colleges and programs such as the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), winning a spot at Harvard (or Yale or any other top college) has become a considerable feat. The cause of Harvard’s intellectual decline in this period of hyper-competitiveness is two-pronged: It has to do with the transformation of the college student makeup, as well as the growing college preparatory hysteria.

The first part of this lack is due in part to something that is quite good about Harvard: the place is no longer a rich, white boys’ club. Harvard, in the trend of colleges nationally, is increasingly diverse, particularly socioeconomically. [Four is's in two sentences. Let's see how we can avoid them.... An easy initial move: Get rid of that is. Just drop it and read the phrase without it: ...something quite good about Harvard. Much better. Okay. Let's go back and look at the first is. How about This lack stems from? So now we've got This lack stems from something quite good about Harvard. Let's keep our third is in: the place is no longer, etc. As for our final is, I propose radical surgery: Drop the sentence altogether. The sentence right after this one carries the substance of the point.] Thanks to programs such as HFAI, Harvard draws from a much wider cross-section of applicants than it once did.

But this unquestionable benefit has had negative side effects [Drop side.]. With an influx of students from for whom a major draw is post-college career success and earning potential, there will naturally be less emphasis on the “frivolous” pursuits of the liberal arts and more on activities and areas of study that are distinctly pre-professional. [See that that are toward the end of the sentence? Just as with that is before, drop it and read the phrase: activities and areas of study distinctly pre-professional. Get it? Wordy writing is in part about sticking in unnecessary little phrases like these.] Though of course there are exceptions, this culture increasingly pervades campus. This is why there has been a surge of campus business groups, and so-called “leadership” organizations. This is evident, too, in the rise in number of concentrators in areas such as economics, which serves for many as a pre-business track. [The last two sentences both begin with the sometimes confusing and often dull phrase This is. Go back and find the heart of these sentences - campus business groups, economics concentrators -- that's where you should find their first words.] A Crimson survey of the Class of 2007 found that more than 60 percent of those entering the workforce were pursuing jobs in finance. [Too ingy. Rewrite: pursued jobs in finance.]

On the flipside, the intellectual’s status as an endangered species is also caused by a sort of leisure class mania. [To be verb plus passive voice. Rewrite: Leisure class mania also contributes to the intellectual's endangered status.] In this atmosphere of intense competition, the college admissions game has been transformed into an industry. Students are sent off to preparatory programs, and their parents drop thousands of dollars on private SAT tutors and college consultants. Ivywise, a New York-based college consulting firm, charges anywhere from $1,000 for a one-time consultation to $30,000 for a two-year 100-hour program. The company promises pleasing results: 75 percent of its clients go on to attend Ivy League colleges. Ivywise provides a slew of standard services like scheduling students’ testing dates and summer programs and editing admissions essays. But some of the firm’s offerings are a bit unsettling: One Ivywise package promises to “identify the student’s passions and interests.” A teenager, we gather, couldn’t possibly figure out his interests on his own. At least, he couldn’t possibly pinpoint which “passions” would win him a spot at a top college. [Fine writing throughout, but drop quotation marks around last use of word passions.]

When it comes to the college admissions process, vigor is hardly a virtue. The modern child may be a whiz at excelling in [drop at excelling] his courses and extracurriculars, but this does not make him capable of intellectualism. His schedule is jam-packed with all the stuff his hovering helicopter parents and college consultants have picked out for him. He learns the ways of networking and time management, not the ways of devouring a poem or pondering life’s great questions.

Upon arrival at Harvard, many of these students are not so sure why they’re here. Some burn out completely — free from the watchful eyes of mother and father, they stop attending classes and flop as students. But most of them simply don’t get what they should be getting out of college — the rigorous pursuit of liberal arts — because they can’t escape the résumé padding of their earlier years. They continue to take courses they’re not really interested in and they participate in activities they find dull because these are the ways to land jobs at Goldman Sachs & Co.

Though the Harvard of 2007 is a progressive and admirable institution, something has been lost. We’ve mistaken grades, test scores, meaningless extracurriculars, and our college admission as a collective barometer for the successful young person. These are components of personal success, but they are irrelevant if, as individuals, we are deficient in intellectual depth. Only when we recognize (and change) this, will we be able to get something worthwhile out of college.'



...she was always told never argue from emotion.

This rule remained somewhat abstract until SOS read the latest of many letters in the Southern Illinois press in defense of plagiarizing Southern Illinois prez Glenn Poshard.

'I have sat quietly by reading the headlines and editorials about Glenn Poshard, a dizzying roller coaster ride that made me wish I had skipped the chili dog. [A quiet, dizzying roller coaster ride. Confusing.] He devoted his life to serving people of Southern Illinois and is charismatic, enthusiastic and dedicated to his community. [You can be many good things and a plagiarist too.]

I watched him dancing on the sidewalk in Carbondale's Town Square last December, bobbing along to the music of the middle school marching band with his grandson, Tucker, on his shoulders. It was anybody's call as to which of them were having the better time at the annual Lights Parade. He is genuine and caring. [This kitschy description intends to bring a tear to the eye. But you can bob along to the beat, have a grandson with a cute name, and still plagiarize.]

You can hear it in the squeals of laughter of his grandson. [How much, really, can we conclude from this laughter? Hitler made toddlers laugh at Nuremburg, you know...] And if that's not enough, you can read it in his public record.

How is it that a self-appointed, nameless band of plagiarism vigilantes can tear apart a man's career, family and reputation? [John Wayne talk.] The accusations don't have to be true to be damaging. Just because he's accused doesn't make him guilty.

Tossing out a lifetime of stellar public service over a passage written years ago is incomprehensible. At minimum, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Until the hooded, neo-Nazi, Klansmen of plagiarism snuff out their burning torches and find something better to do there will be no peace. Show us your faces so that we may level the playing field and scare up the skeletons in your dark closets. [Skeletal masked closeted torch-bearing fascists cavort on tilted fields.]

We can look Glenn Poshard in the eye. But we cannot see in yours.'

The problem with arguing from emotion is that you're emotional. You can't think straight. Readers are looking for reasons, not dispatches from the fainting couch.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It Is, This Technology, a Kind of Solution 

What the New York Times writer misses, in the piece I've excerpted below, is the emergence of a response on the part of many professors.

In a spirit of mutually assured distraction, professors who've given up gaining the classroom attention of technologically engaged students now teach via PowerPoint slides.

In this way, no one pays attention to anyone. The professor doesn't suffer the insult that surveying a room of non-attending students represents; for fifty minutes she keeps her head slideward. The students don't fumble around hiding their technology when the eyes of the professor are upon them, for the eyes of the professor are no longer upon them.

As UD has suggested in earlier posts, this regime creates a carmelite calm, a silence within which each may pursue private dreams.

'Halfway through the semester in his market research course at Roanoke College last fall, only moments after announcing a policy of zero tolerance for cellphone use in the classroom, Prof. Ali Nazemi heard a telltale ring. Then he spotted a young man named Neil Noland fumbling with his phone, trying to turn it off before being caught.

“Neil, can I see that phone?” Professor Nazemi said, more in a command than a question. The student surrendered it. Professor Nazemi opened his briefcase, produced a hammer and proceeded to smash the offending device. Throughout the classroom, student faces went ashen.

“How am I going to call my Mom now?” Neil asked. As Professor Nazemi refused to answer, a classmate offered, “Dude, you can sue.”

Let’s be clear about one thing. Ali Nazemi is a hero. Ali Nazemi deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Let’s be clear about another thing. The episode in his classroom had been plotted and scripted ahead of time, with Neil Noland part of the charade all along. The phone was an extra of his mother’s, its service contract long expired.

Just as fiction can limn truths beyond the grasp of factuality, Professor Nazemi’s act of guerrilla theater, which he recounted last week in a telephone interview, attested to the exasperation of countless teachers and professors in the computer era. Their perpetual war of attrition with defiantly inattentive students has escalated from the quaint pursuits of pigtail-pulling, spitball-lobbing and notebook-doodling to a high-tech arsenal of laptops, cellphones, BlackBerries and the like.

The poor schoolmarm or master, required to provide a certain amount of value for your child’s entertainment dollar, now must compete with texting, instant-messaging, Facebook, eBay, YouTube, and other poxes on pedagogy.

...“The baby boomers seem to see technology as information and communication,” said Prof. Michael Bugeja, director of the journalism school at Iowa State University and the author of “Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age.” “Their offspring and the emerging generation seem to see the same devices as entertainment and socializing.”

All the advances schools and colleges have made to supposedly enhance learning — supplying students with laptops, equipping computer labs, creating wireless networks — have instead enabled distraction. Perhaps attendance records should include a new category: present but otherwise engaged.

In the past three years alone, the percentage of college classrooms with wireless service has nearly doubled, to 60 percent from 31 percent, according to the Campus Computing Survey, an annual check by the Campus Computing Project of computer use at 600 colleges. Professor Bugeja’s online survey of several hundred Iowa State students found that a majority had used their cellphones, sent or read e-mail, and gone onto social-network sites during class time. A quarter of the respondents admitted they were taking Professor Bugeja’s survey while sitting in a different class.

Naturally, there will be many students and no small number of high-tech and progressive-ed apologists ready to lay the blame on boring lessons. One of the great condemnations in education jargon these days, after all, is the “teacher-centered lesson.”

“I’m so tired of that excuse,” said Professor Bugeja, may he live a long and fruitful life. “The idea that subject matter is boring is truly relative. Boring as opposed to what? Buying shoes on eBay? The fact is, we’re not here to entertain. We’re here to stimulate the life of the mind.”

“Education requires contemplation,” he continued. “It requires critical thinking. What we may be doing now is training a generation of air-traffic controllers rather than scholars. And I do know I’m going to lose.”

...The Canadian company Smart Technologies makes and sells a program called SynchronEyes. It allows a classroom teacher to monitor every student’s computer activity and to freeze it at a click. Last year, the company sold more than 10,000 licenses, which range in cost from $779 for one teacher to $3,249 for an entire school.

The biggest problem, said Nancy Knowlton, the company’s chief executive officer, is staying ahead of students trying to crack the program’s code. “There’s an active discussion on the Web, and we’re monitoring it,” Ms. Knowlton said. “They keep us on our toes.”

Scott Carlin, an instructor of teacher interns at Michigan State University, advises his charges to forbid personal use of tech devices in the classroom. Of course he occasionally has to pause in his own lesson to make one of his graduate students stop scrolling through text messages...

In the end, as science-fiction writers have prophesied for years, the technology is bound to outwit the fallible human. What teacher or professor can possibly police a room full of determined goof-offs while also delivering an engaging lesson?...'

To paraphrase Cavafy: It is, this PowerPoint technology, a kind of solution.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sarko Gives it the Old College Try

'French university students angry over a law making their schools more market-friendly have shut down classes at several campuses across France and are mobilizing to join nationwide protests later this month over President Nicolas Sarkozy's reforms.

For the past week, students have disrupted classes, at least sporadically, at about 10 campuses, from Montpellier and Toulouse in the south to Rennes in the west and the Tolbiac campus of the University of Paris, according to the Education Ministry.

The reforms, passed by lawmakers in August, will make all state-run French universities independent within five years, granting them the right to control their own budgets, raise tuition and accept private donations. Proponents believe the law will make French graduates more competitive in the global marketplace by improving facilities and reducing university dropout rates...'

Virtually every new French leader gives university reform a whirl. I doubt Sarko will have much success.

---international herald tribune---
Scathing Online Schoolmarm
Pays Timothy Burke a Visit

'With some trepidation, I venture a few thoughts on the controversy over residence-hall programs at the University of Delaware. Trepidation because the kind of position I take on these issues is increasingly wearisome to hold given the polarization in online discussions of academia. [UD is not at all sure she sees the polarization. I don't see anyone out there - online or off - defending programs like Delaware's. Quite a number of these programs, for students, and sometimes for faculty, poke their heads out, attract enough outrage to appear in the press, and then, in seconds, get killed. I don't read anyone, left, right, or center, mourning their passing. It's too easy for Tim to begin his remarks with a gesture of despair about academic polarization, as if there's no common ground. There's common ground, and it's clear right there in the comment thread on Tim's blog. He has plenty in common with commenters to his right, like withywindle.] but I wish I could write in a looser, more enjoyably idiosyncratic, more compelling way about these questions like Oso Raro, but I’ve made my rhetorical bed and I’m stuck with it.

Before I try to stick any kind of proportionality or nuance into the discussion, one thing should be clear: the program at Delaware as described in the press is just plain wrong, and that’s even if the press description is exaggerated or out of context in some respect. Even if the content of the program weren’t simple-minded and reductive (which it is), doing it as a mandatory institutional program in residence-halls is a big mistake. I’m not sure there’s anything that’s appropriate to that context beyond making sure people know how to evacuate in a fire and communicating basic institutional safety policies (such as no fire sources in rooms). The moment you mandate that all students receive safe-sex tutorials or drug and alcohol abuse prevention training, you’ve exposed the institution to in loco parentis, and where’s that going to stop? [Absolutely correct, and an important point. Imagine if GWU, UD's institution, mandated anti-anti-semitic sessions in response to scrawled swastikas around campus which now turn out -- most or all of them -- to have been a hoax invented by an attention-seeking freshman.] Moreover, if you’re going to ennumerate the “rights and responsibilities” of people living in university housing, you’ve got to include much more forcefully that you have the right to think whatever you want – including to question some of the precepts and approaches of diversity training. (The document does say you have the choice to “stand up for yourself and others and speak up for what you believe has value”, but in context, that seems to mean only that you are encouraged to defend an active commitment to diversity.)

But ok. How to move beyond simple sputtering outrage at the supposed dominance of political correctness [Again, I don't see the sputtering. I see the outrage, and I applaud it. Outrage can catalyze you to act against injustice. How many Delawaresque programs are still lobotomizing students because students aren't strong and clear enough about their speech and privacy rights to protest?], leftist academics or whatever boogeyman is the label of choice in this round of postings?

The first bit of proportionality I’d interject is to look at the source of some simple-minded kinds of political and institutional misbehavior. In this case, I’m guessing that activist students are at least part of where this program is coming from, probably working with a residential administrator or dean who has a hard time thinking beyond dogma.

I’m going to be a bit condescending here, but students are students, and they make mistakes because they’re still learning, whether they’re left-wing activists or intensely single-minded premeds. [Again, this is an important point. Many students are supercharged with responsiveness to perceived injustices, and yet they're still young. This combination can create serious programmatic errors.] That’s what they are in college to do. Residential colleges sell themselves precisely on the point that some learning takes place outside of the classroom through extracurricular activities, social life and so on. Students with strong political or philosophical views naturally turn to their own educational institution to explore how to make those views real or powerful or transformative. Americans who were in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s couldn’t do much to directly touch South Africa, so we tried to figure out how to mobilize our own institutions to touch South Africa, however indirectly. I have to admit, looking back, that many of us understood very little about how divestment might concretely function, or about the costs and risks we were asking our institutions to incur. But partly I got a better understanding of both of those things by being involved, an understanding I don’t think I could have gotten just by studying in a classroom. I learned about a lot of the shortcomings of activism by being active.

In other cases, some of these kinds of commitments come from individual faculty or administrators that I wouldn’t hesitate to call simple-minded hacks. (That, readers of this blog might recall, was my first and primary comment on Ward Churchill: whatever else the guy was or did, he was a third-rate hack.) [This is a crucial point, and one that I don't think Tim does enough with. Universities may have in them administrators who think all day about making already culturally competent people culturally competent, through activities that skirt or simply are indoctrination. UD sees these administrators as the enemies of the piece.]

The valid issue in that case is then, “Why allow such extensive access to institutional programs and policy to either inexperienced activists or hacks, then?” Yup, that’s an issue, and it’s well worth exploring a bit more.

In many such cases, it’s not that political projects coming from a group of activist students or from a few activist administrators or faculty members are deeply shared in a consensual way by a large majority of institutional actors and thus become institutional projects by general acclaim. [Too true. Most academics are appalled at the vulgarity of thought and behavior associated with these sorts of activists. That's why I said above that Tim overestimates the degree of polarization among academics.] It’s more that the autonomy and decentralization of academic life which most of us cherish creates a complicated burden when it comes to blocking somebody else’s pet obsessions or commitments. [Yes. Another crucial point. UD would never want to restrict that autonomy. But it's the gradual centralization of authority over matters of social thought and behavior on campus into the hands of diversity appointments that often instigates the scandals.]

Suppose I see a group of students campaigning to get the institution to commit to some political objective that I think is unwise or simplistic in some respect. I don’t quite want to rise to block that on the grounds that anything and everything which is “political” is wrong because that can lead to some truly silly conclusions. I’m interested in the political commitments of the Free Culture movement – but quite beyond that movement’s specific views, it seems obvious to me that intellectual property policy, open-source publishing and so on are intimately relevant to the everyday business of scholars, librarians, and teachers. I’m not wild about some of the rhetoric and unexamined premises associated with demands for universities to have sustainability policies, but it would be silly to rule all of that out of bounds because it’s “political” – environmental sustainability might turn out to lead to some good economic outcomes for an institution, like reducing energy usage, but it’s also a legitimate claim on some level about what an institution can or should do in the world. [The problem with this example is that it doesn't share the intimately mind-penetrating character of diversity training. No one's going to call you a racist because you take a certain position on energy use.] Hell, devoting a big proportion of a college curriculum to studying “the Great Books” is political in some fashion. [Having stretched things too far in his first example, Tim now stretches them to tatters. The basic distinction between selfless intellectual activity with texts -- the foundational, definitive activity of universities -- and self-obsessed personal identity politics in the hands of doctrinaire trainers couldn't be clearer. There may be political as well as intellectual grounds for Great Books choices, but these choices, their justification, and their incorporation into a curriculum, are in an entirely different moral and institutional universe from the fucking with people's heads that is diversity training at its worst, as at Delaware.] You can’t oppose a political argument about institutional politics on the grounds that you yourself are too fastidious to ever be political, because it won’t take long before you’re hoist on the same petard.

So I’d have to take any case of activist demand as it comes. Now what? Well, if it’s students, I honestly don’t want to spend my life running around squashing any student political project I have a disagreement with. That’s not my job. In fact, it’s the opposite of my job: it’s being an anti-teacher, an authoritarian, misusing my power. If it’s a hack on the faculty or the administration? In self-interested terms, I honestly have to weigh whether it’s worth tangling with the person openly, about what kinds of hassles that person can visit upon me in retaliation.

In either case, there’s also a question of the consequence of being a crusader on every single issue where some other institutional actor has what I think is a bad idea. It’s one thing to block or criticize a proposal for institutionalization of a political project when it crosses my desk naturally: when faculty are asked by central administration for feedback, when it comes to the floor of a general meeting, when I’m sitting in a committee devoted to a particular kind of issue, when students or colleagues ask my opinion, when it’s an issue that’s known to be near and dear to my heart because of my specialized areas of knowledge. Or just when I have the time and the energy to compose a blog post, which has a very gentle impact on most issues. For example, some years back, some students here wanted an Ethnic Studies program. I thought (and still think) that was a bad idea for some very simple, non-political reasons (duplication of programs, greater demands on already over-extended faculty, no resources for new faculty lines, weakness of our institutional model for interdisciplinary programs) and some “political” reasons as well (I simply think Ethnic Studies is a bad way to organize the study of many very important and legitimate topics). This was a case where it made sense for me to be in the conversation because what I do was directly relevant to what the students wanted to do.

If you insist on being actively involved every single time someone else in your institution is doing something objectionable, you will almost certainly devolve into being a crank and an asshole. You can’t do that and not become tendentious and self-absorbed, that kind of omnipresent involvement is intrinsically narcissistic. At some point, it inevitably is going to affect how well you do the job that you’ve been hired to do, because there are only so many hours in the day. If you’re always at committee meetings, protest gatherings, scribbling furious emails, poking into dark corners with a cattle prod, then you’re not in the classroom or the library or the lab.

What some people settle for is splitting the difference: being furious at everything but not having the time to be involved with changing any outcomes through direct time-consuming involvement in deliberative process, through painstaking efforts to persuade others. [A lot of these important observations pertain to the scandal of bigtime university sports. Faculty understandably don't want to deal with it.] When you arrive at that point, you have no hope to change any outcome whether you’re coming to meetings or not, because you’ve got no persuasive tools left to you. You started by rolling your eyes derisively in a wholly justifiable way at the excesses of others (probably in concert with the majority of your colleagues) but now you’re the one everyone rolls their eyes at. You’re not connected to anything, not sympathetic to anybody else’s projects, not discriminate in what fights you pick or when you pick them. You’ve got nothing left to help you judge when the stakes are high and when they’re low: your institutional profile is “junkyard dog”, biting and howling at everything.

So sometimes dumb ideas and fringe political visions are going to become institutional projects because the sensible middle is mutually and simultaneously trying to avoid being drawn into this kind of indiscriminate misanthropy. Sometimes hacks and sweetly well-meaning but naive activists are actually pretty savvy about this aspect of institutional life, and know how to muscle something in under the radar, how to keep from triggering a major deliberative process where they’ll get blocked.

That’s one context to keep in mind. Another is that some ideas only become wrong when they’re simplistically truncated so that they can become institutional programs and policies, but that the precursor concepts, ideas and insights are something else entirely. And also that some institutional projects may eventually take a wrong turn on some smaller point, but are basically well-meaning, serious attempts to deal with genuine issues and problems. Diversity is a real question, in many ways, and it’s worth thinking about how to institutionally work towards it.

For example, with the Delaware residential life program, there’s nothing wrong per se with asking straights when they first realized their orientation or when they came out as straights. [There's everything wrong with it. It's nobody's institutional business what my private self-conception may be. Nor does straight/gay as a dichotomy, or "orientation" as descriptive of anything remotely true about my existential experience, make sense to me.] That is, nothing wrong if that’s a sly or mischievious [sp?] aside in a personal conversation about sexuality, or a subversive question directed at a public figure who is intensely anti-gay, or as a way in an intellectual discussion about the history of sexuality to illustrate what the ten-dollar word “heteronormativity” actually means. Turning the question into a set part of a pseudo-mandatory workshop (there’s some confusion at Delaware about how strongly students are encouraged to attend) takes everything valuable out of it. It turns something sly into dogma. [That shit's as sly as Sly Stallone, Tim. It ain't sly.]

Or take the assertion in one of the training documents for the Delaware workshops that all white Americans are racists because they are socialized to a racial identity associated with privilege. Put it that way and it’s crude. Put it in a workshop as an assertion of empirical fact as opposed to a tendentious argument with a pile of priors a hundred miles high sitting on it and you’ve just sailed off the edge of stupid. [No, you're still anchored at stupid.] In part precisely because accusations of racism are taken more seriously in early 21st Century American life than they were in 1960, you can’t casually scale from a general description of the consequences of a social identity to a highly personalized accusation unless you want those accused to treat the idea of racism as trivially generalized and meaningless.

But there are complex questions and debates to be explored about how historically-produced identities structure everyday psychological experience, social organization, and so on. There is an interesting scholarly literature on the history of whiteness. And so on. Part of the problem for me is that some of the people who react negatively to something like this program at Delaware act as if the deeper, more complex, more interesting scholarly debates and discussions are equally risible and discardable, but somehow we never really get around to that kind of conversation. [This is unfair as a description of most people interested in the matter. It's precisely because many scholars take seriously the intricacy and importance of these subjects that their outrage flashes out when activists beshit them.] We get stuck with the hacks and the polemicists. We talk endlessly, oh so endlessly, about Ward Churchill etcetera. We never get to the really deep literature on Native American history that might come to some vaguely similar moral conclusions as Churchill but in much more subtle and nuanced ways. [How does a serious scholar get vaguely near the moral conviction that white people deserved to die in the Towers?] We don’t get to talk about David Roediger or Noel Ignatieff on whiteness, or a huge complex well-researched literature on the history of racial identity in the United States as a whole.

When I say talk, I mean it. I don’t agree necessarily with Roediger and Ignatieff, particularly in terms of the way they read off the history of whiteness to a contemporary political praxis. I tend to come at a lot of the history of identity and the politics connected to that history the way that Anthony Appiah does in some of his recent work, as a skeptic. But Appiah’s work is a million miles away from quick dismissals of “political correctness” that are meant to encompass both superficial institutional projects and detailed monographs written in good faith and with serious craft. At some point, if we’re going to still have anything resembling scholarship left in the smoking ruins of culture war [This language takes us back to Tim's first paragraph. As cultural description, it is unconvincing.], some of the critics need to stir themselves and respond like scholars to tough, nuanced, challenging work rather than continuously dwell on how the hacks have been parasitically turning that work into slogans and screeds.'


Intellectual Life at Princeton

'On Saturday, November 10, 2007, the Office of the Alumni Association is sponsoring two lectures [which] ... provide alumni with a chance to sample intellectual life on campus ...

10:00 a.m.
The Challenge of Adding to the Legacy of Princeton Basketball
Sydney Johnson '97, Head Coach, Men's Basketball
Location: McCormick Hall, Room 101 ... '

UD thanks a reader at Princeton for sending this along. Information about other events here.
More Thoughts...

...on the hate crime hoax at George Washington University, at UD's branch campus, University Diaries II, Inside Higher Education.
The first thing
we do, let's...

...praise all the lawyers.

"This is a significant new element in the world. Because the nature of democracy has changed so that constitutional courts play an important role, it can now happen that the main frontline of battle for democracy is between those who care the most about constitutional courts -- which is to say lawyers -- and dictators."

Words of wisdom this morning from Mr. UD, a student of constitutions, about events in Pakistan.
'The Colonialist...

... is a blog concerning student life at the George Washington University. We do not promise to be unbiased or even relevant. We aim to provide GW students with information, opinions and stories they will enjoy. But most importantly, we aim to never be The Hatchet.'

Sure, UD'd have written we aim never to be The Hatchet in order to avoid the split infinitive, but their way will do. The Hatchet, UD reminds you, is GW's official student newspaper. The Colonialist is an unofficial blog about GW life. It's only just gotten started, and it looks promising. There's some funny stuff, and there's some serious stuff, especially, at the moment, about Swastika Girl (see post below this one for details).

Monday, November 05, 2007

Classic Turn of Events.

So classic that a play, about to be made into a movie, features this plot development. The play is Spinning Into Butter, and the campus hate crime at its center has been committed by the person who reported the crime. For ideological reasons, or for psychological reasons, students sometimes hate crime themselves.

As at UD's university, George Washington:

'After evaluating evidence from a hidden camera positioned in response to the swastika postings in Mitchell Hall, University Police have linked the student who filed the complaints to several of the incidents.'

This comes from an email this evening to the university community.


Update: Oy. A Jewish student drew some -- maybe all -- of the swastikas:

'The University found the student who reported several swastikas on her Mitchell Hall door was the one who drew them.

Using footage from a hidden video camera, the University Police Department linked freshman Sarah Marshak with the vandalism. She will now appear before Student Judicial Services and could face federal and District charges, a spokesperson announced Monday afternoon.

In an interview with The Hatchet Monday evening, Marshak, [Drop the comma after Marshak.] said she only drew the final three of six swastikas on her door in an attempt to highlight what she characterized as GW's inaction. Only hours earlier, Marshak categorically denied the charges. [Um, so there were SIX swastikas on her door, but she only drew three of them?]

"I wasn't looking to create this, sort of, insanity," Marshak said in a phone interview. "I wasn't looking to become a media darling. I was just looking for acknowledgment from University that someone drew a swastika on the door." [The university has responded with immense and tireless acknowledgment. ]

Marshak said Tara W. Pereira, director of SJS, informed her she would likely be expelled. Marshak said she did not want to leave GW but probably will.

Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson, said GW stands by its statement that they have a signed confession from Marshak. Schario would not comment on how many swastikas Marshak was responsible for, only saying it was "several of the incidents."

Robert Fishman, the director of Hillel, said during conversations, Marshak always came across as rational.

"This is a definite cry for help on her part," Fishman said in a phone interview Monday. [Pathetic cliche.] "I can't imagine why anyone would do anything like this. [To gain attention. To make trouble. To draw resources to an issue she cares about.] I feel very sad for her. At the same time I am upset that she had to resort to the actions she took."'

Marshak, by the way, is a GW Hatchet reporter. She was also an ambitious and award-winning journalist in high school. The paper should have mentioned these things in its story.


Update II: Here's another ongoing university student hate crime story:

'Boulder police have ticketed an 18-year-old University of Colorado student for false reporting after she admitted that she lied to officers by claiming she was jumped by three men who cut an X into her cheek because she's a lesbian.

Alta Merkling told police she was attacked about 5 a.m. Saturday near 30th Street and Colorado Avenue, and that one of her attackers cut her face with a Swiss Army knife while saying, "X marks the faggot," according to a police report.

She later told a detective that she cut the X herself, the report says.

When Merkling made the initial police report, officers documented her injury and confirmed she had an X on her right cheek.

Officer Nicole Faivre wrote in the report that he didn't notice any other injuries, and that the X was made of "two very concise lines."

Detective Chuck Heidel followed up on the report Monday, but he had difficulty reconnecting with Merkling. Heidel also said he received a call from the director of CU's GLBT Center, who "wanted the police to know that she and others with the GLBT Center had some doubts about the veracity of the report."

When Heidel finally contacted Merkling on Tuesday, she changed parts of her story, prompting Heidel to confront her about the inconsistencies, according to police.

"Eventually Merkling confirmed that she had caused the injury to her face herself," Heidel wrote in a report. He said she "could not articulate any reason" for the false report.

Reached by telephone Thursday, Merkling declined to comment.'

'Twere those concise lines that did her in.
Ill-Tempered Clavier

'A group of prominent British women has raised funds to send a piano to detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a British newspaper reported Sunday.

The Sunday Times said the group, led by actress Maureen Lipman, hoped to replace the broken piano currently owned by the music-loving democracy advocate, who has been under house arrest for years.

"It just seemed a good and nice idea," Lipman was quoted as saying.

Visitors have reported that Suu Kyi helped pass the time in detention by playing works by Bach and other composers. The Sunday Times said her piano had broken down through heavy use in Myanmar's tropical climate.

The newspaper said Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox, film producer Norma Heyman and arts fundraiser Joyce Hytner were among supporters of the plan. It said the group had already raised money for the piano, but had not yet bought one or settled on a way to ship the instrument to Myanmar.

Lipman could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won 1990 elections in Myanmar, also known as Burma, but the ruling military junta refused to hand over power. Suu Kyi, 62, has spent about 12 of the past 18 years in detention without trial. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.'

UD thanks her sister for the link.
Scathing Online Schoolmarm

'Among the many works of art hanging in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ atrium, Nantucket artist and SMFA alum Joan Albaugh’s oil paintings were part of a sea of canvases. [Awkward first sentence Her works were among many; her works were part of a sea... The feel of this is redundant. Circular.]

Touted as the largest public art sale in New England, with 4,000 original works and prints from 800 artists, the 26th annual School of the Museum of Fine Arts December sale kicked off last night with a celebration off Boston’s Fenway. The sale features work from students, faculty, alumni and other artists affiliated with the school. [Transition from first to second paragraph murky.]

Albaugh, a 1981 graduate of the SMFA, is known for painting houses without windows.

“I don’t like getting caught up in the details of a house,” Albaugh said last week. Winter light on the island also contributed to the conception of the windowless dwellings.

“The light’s so bright on a house it obliterates the windows,” she said.

At the SMFA, Albaugh studied with professors Barney Rubenstein and Henry Schwartz, in critique classes. She eventually moved to New York, and was living in Jersey City when she decided to move to the island in 1994, to start her son, now Nantucket High School Junior Jack Muhlkern, in preschool.

Albaugh travels often, she said, and each of her house portraits start [Should be starts.] as a real place. Later, she plays with the composition, taking off dormers and restructuring as she goes. She’s attracted to baron landscapes, she said. [Unless the writer means -- seems unlikely -- she's attracted to baronial spreads, I think he means barren.]

“It kind of goes with the idea of isolation,” she said.

This December sale is Albaugh’s second.

Last week, SMFA curator Joanna Soltan [Same last name as UD!], put final touches on the show, as others gave preview tours of the work to patrons. Soltan, who hung the show over the past month with the help of a team of 20 or so, is in her fifth year as curator.

“I knew the space very well so I know where I want to plan the layout,” Soltan said, in her present but not overbearing Polish accent [Polish accent? Mr. UD's Polish too!] [Present but not overbearing? Perhaps the writer meant to say pleasant but not overbearing...], regarding the positioning of the exhibition walls in the SMFA’s Anderson Hall. Under 30-foot ceilings, the space in between the walls is occupied with bins and bins of unframed work, mostly from SMFA students.

Soltan oversaw the drop-off period in early November, three days in which the students, alumni, school faculty and affiliated artists participating in the show could drop off up to 10 pieces.

Soltan then worked to hang at least one piece from each artist each artist [Typo.]. After the show starts, Soltan and company rotate the work, giving pieces several hours of wall time before taking them down.

“We never get bored,” Soltan said. “For us too, it’s like a new way to see something.” [Curious that like many of the other Soltans UD's related to, this one lives in Boston and works in the arts... Wait a minute! Joanna Soltan is Mr. UD's sister! That makes her UD's sister-in-law.]

Around the school, next to some of the work, were place [placed] these blue and gold medallion-like stickers. These denote the favorite works of this year’s art luminaries – Boston area reporters, personalities and curators – asked to share their opinions.

... The SMFA December Sale is open from 12-8 p.m. Thursday, and from 12-6 p.m. Friday through Monday in the first floor of the school, located at 230 The Fenway in Boston, next to the MFA.'

---nantucket today---


Fragile College Syndrome

No one in her right mind wants Europe's state-strangled model of colleges and universities here in the United States. Yet when your country has, like ours, thousands and thousands of widely varied schools, some of which have incompetent or nefarious boards of trustees, disaster may ensue. Remember Papa Doc Diamandopoulos of Adelphi University; his scummy trustees were as greedy as he, and, until the law stepped in, let him go on a spectacular personal shopping spree with student and government money. Follow the ongoing story of New Jersey's totally corrupt University of Medicine and Dentistry.

If even solid places like Adelphi are vulnerable to presidential theft, think how much worse things are for our truly fragile campuses, all of them subject to being run into the ground by knaves and fools.

There's Central New England College, for instance, whose last president (CNEC no longer exists) just killed himself by jumping out of a building. Conviction on ninety counts of bank fraud, each count carrying up to thirty years in prison, can't have looked rosy.

"Authorities said Mr. Mattar, 68, used a sledgehammer to break open an apartment window about 3:30 a.m., then jumped."

CNEC actually hired Mattar to help it close:

'An accountant with no experience in education, Mr. Mattar had taken over as president of CNEC in 1978, a year after he had been hired as a management consultant to help close Worcester Junior College, which was heavily in debt. Instead of closing the institution, he assumed the top job, soon renamed the school [Got rid of the Junior thing.] and seemed at the time to be turning the situation around.

... While in Worcester, Mr. Mattar was known for the lavish parties he threw at his 5,500-square-foot home on Salisbury Street, which he could afford on his salary that was the highest of any college president in New England.'

When the hapless college grasped its situation, it got rid of him, but Mattar was able to turn around and find another college to soak:

'After leaving Worcester and about the same time he purchased the struggling bank in Boulder, Colo., Mr. Mattar took over Nasson Institute in Springvale, Maine, and its branch unit in Pawtucket, R.I. Nasson was a small liberal arts college that was struggling financially and facing declining enrollment. Mr. Mattar succeeded in convincing its trustees to make him president and grant him broad authority.'

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Scathing Online Schoolmarm

The guy in charge of getting rich people to give money to the University of Houston is pissed off by a proposal Robert Reich's been making lately. Reich, you will recall, wants to cut the tax deduction on charitable giving when it's not really charitable giving. Here's part of a recent opinion piece by Reich:

'I see why a contribution to, say, the Salvation Army should be eligible for a charitable deduction. It helps the poor. But why, exactly, should a contribution to the already extraordinarily wealthy Guggenheim Museum or to Harvard University (which already has an endowment of more than $30 billion)?

Awhile ago, New York's Lincoln Center had a gala supported by the charitable contributions of hedge-fund industry leaders, some of whom take home $1 billion a year. I may be missing something, but this doesn't strike me as charity. ...

It turns out that only an estimated 10% of all charitable deductions are directed at the poor. So here's a modest proposal. At a time when the number of needy continues to rise, when government doesn't have the money to do what's necessary for them and when America's very rich are richer than ever, we should revise the tax code: Focus the charitable deduction on real charities.

If the donation goes to an institution or agency set up to help the poor, the donor gets a full deduction. If the donation goes somewhere else -- to an art palace, a university, a symphony or any other nonprofit -- the donor gets to deduct only half of the contribution.'

This seems reasonable to UD -- it's still a generous deduction, after all. But the guy at Houston doesn't like it one bit. Here's his Houston Chronicle opinion piece in response to Reich, with SOS commentary:

'The business of philanthropy and the purposes of fund raising — a $200 billion annual marketplace of givers and receivers — are complex. [Beware of people who begin arguing by announcing the immense complexity of their issue... an immensity only insiders can understand. This comes across as hocus-pocus stuff -- I'm not going to argue against my opponents on the merits; I'm going to insist that they -- and you, the reader -- can't hope to understand the mystical intricacies of my field. This approach is a dud on many levels, but mainly it's a dud because it's condescending.] That's why it's easy for casual observers to mistake generosity for self-interest. [Reich says nothing about the motives of the givers. He talks only about definitions of true charity, and about fair distribution.]

Robert B. Reich made that mistake in his recent Outlook column ("Harvard effect/ When charity really isn't ... ," Oct. 21) where he argued that we have entered what might be characterized as an era of Philanthropic Darwinism, a time when big donors give to bigger and bigger arts and education institutions, all designed — in his mind — to promote a wealthy lifestyle and a hefty tax deduction. So, he would cut in half donors' charitable tax deduction for gifts to the arts and universities because they do not meet his definition of worthy, i.e., helping the poor. [It's not only Reich's definition. Giving to universities and concert halls is not direct charitable aid to the poor.]

I know there are arts organizations and patrons who can make an argument for the positive impact they have on society. [positive impact they have on society is dead language. And the deadness, in the context of this argument, is no mere stylistic matter. If this is the best the writer can do by way of describing the charitable value of the arts, the reader's suspicion that Reich's right only grows.] So, I want to concentrate on the darts he threw at the university world, as he has me seething at his fund-raising fumble. [Okay. If you've been reading SOS for any length of time, you know exactly what she's going to throw darts at here. Yes. Seething. I'm seething! I'm at the boiling point! Hold me back! ... Talking about how damn mad you are is an argument-killer. All you're really doing is showing off what you take to be your moral superiority -- I mean, I'm so ethical, my heart bleeds so for the poor, that I can't control my rage when know-nothings like Reich run their mouths... This sort of thing makes the reader distrust and dislike you. You can't control your emotions. You flatter yourself that you're better than other people. Plus -- see dud approach #1 -- you think you know more than other people.]

Education is the best way, bar none, for people to move up the economic and social ladder. In the 1950s, the GI Bill made education possible for the middle class. Today, it is private citizens, corporations and foundations whose generosity supports tens of thousands of first-generation college students and gives them and their families tools and hope for the future. [Cliche-ridden language throughout, and forgets to mention that it's still overwhelmingly the government that helps out universities.]

Let's look at the University of Houston and what increased philanthropy means to Houston's university.

We are definitely not the ivy-covered palace Reich imagines all universities to be. [At no point does Reich say all universities are Harvard.] This university attracts a large percentage of students who are the first in their families to attend college, so we need scholarships by the barrelful.

No young person should have to drop out of college for lack of funds. More than two-thirds of UH students receive some form of financial aid, but primarily in the form of loans that create a huge financial burden that may take years to repay. Private scholarships make the real difference in getting these students through graduation to become part of the educated workforce needed by Houston industry. That doesn't sound elite to me.

UH must pursue philanthropic gifts for endowed chairs and professorships to recruit and retain the intellectual firepower that will attract bright new students, federal grant support and help create economic prosperity for the nation's fourth-largest city.

And we must build this campus anew because UH is full of young scientists, budding artists and students crowded together elbow to elbow. Our research facilities house faculty aching for the tools and space they must have to apply for and fulfill the requirements of federal grants.

The Moores School of Music is bursting at the seams with too many students and not enough rehearsal space. The Bauer College of Business is exploding with students seeking that old fashioned thing called a job. [that old fashioned thing... Hard to get a grip on his tone in this piece. Indignant, yes. But is he being sarcastic here? Not clear.] We simply need more classroom buildings and more labs.

Today UH has the largest space deficit of all universities in the state, and that's just to serve our current students. So we seek philanthropic support for the buildings this campus must have to stand tall for a new generation of Houstonians. We're not building a palace, Mr. Reich; we're building an ark of economic opportunity. [Again, a strange sort of argument that misreads what Reich says and then attacks him frontally like this. The whole Mr. Reich thing is just weird.] And if philanthropy can help us achieve flagship university status in Texas, then it will be money well spent.

This year, the UH System received $54.3 million from generous contributors, a 37 percent increase over the previous year.

That's just the start. We want our philanthropic intent to be clear. The University of Houston is not seeking to raise more and more money just to build a big reserve. We want to make our case to our alumni, friends and donors that we seek to raise the philanthropic resources that will build a truly great University — one that Houston can be proud to call its flagship public university.

And that Mr. Reich, is the true purpose of philanthropy and the impact it will have on the future for all of us — colleges and universities, art museums and ballet companies. We are all 100 percent tax deductible and a bargain indeed for Houston and the nation. [Essentially, this piece comes across to UD as cynical. The writer isn't really engaging Reich. He's using the occasion of Reich having written about giving to universities in order to remind the newspaper's readers that they should give to his university.]'


UPDATE: Comrade Snowball, in a comment to this thread, says the following:

"The athletic deficit at the University of Houston exceeds $100M over the past 15 years, a fact [the author of the opinion piece] failed to mention when bemoaning the lack of space on campus in which to undertake the essential business of teaching and learning."

Background here. UD's having trouble finding an update on the situation at UH. What's the deficit now?


In the course of...

...searching for better
images of the
James Joyce/Ulysses
stamp up there ^
(the search was part
of this blog's makeover,
a process close to
completion), UD discovered
another Joyce stamp.

The image of Joyce on
this is too faint for
use on the blog, but
I thought I'd copy it
this once anyway.
In Which UD, Because
Her Sister's Pestering
Her About It...

...blogs the Morrissey concert she went to the other night. UD's once-student and now-friend, Christina, came along for moral support. She also came along to sit with UD, because UD's sister, a cultist, stood in the first row of Constitution Hall so she could be as close as possible to Morrissey, and there's no way UD was going to do that.

The three ladies met, on a mild and beautiful autumn night in the city, at a Cosi restaurant across from the Old Executive Office building. UD ordered a salad she thought'd be great, only it had blue cheese on it which she had to scrape off.

On the way in to the hall, they met up with another cultist, a friend of UD's sister, and the two of them went off to see the opening act. UD and Christina, realizing they had no interest in the opening act ("It's three big girls. They kind of look like a Latina gang."), and that Morrissey wouldn't appear for another hour or so, decided to get a drink at the Cafe du Parc, just down from the White House.

It was a bright, elegant place -- brand new, a fine French knock off -- and UD had her winter drink (her summer drink, longtime readers know, is a pina colada), a vodka and orange juice. She did what she does with all alcoholic drinks -- she drank half of it -- and Christina looked as annoyed as Mr. UD looks when UD does this.

They tried to walk along the back of the White House to return to Constitution Hall, but a security guy stopped them and told them to walk a different way.

When they got to the hall, Morrissey was wailing, and the crowd (which filled up most, but not all, of the place) was, as a colleague of UD's at the University of Toulouse used to put it, eento eet. Really eento eet.

UD and Christina took their seats in a lower-level balcony and UD considered first the pretty tacky light show, its pulsing strobes exactly like the strobes at the 'sixties concerts UD attended when she were a wee lassie. Three huge images of Richard Burton (not the adventurer; the movie star) were projected on the wall behind the band... UD pondered the meaning of this homage. Almost no one in the audience besides UD recognized the guy -- Christina didn't -- so it was a kind of private gesture, I guess, on Morrissey's part... And what was it about? Maybe, like UD, Morrissey has a thing for handsome brilliant passionate self-destructive artists. I dunno. I mean, the room was full of symbolically resonant objects -- a gorgeous enormous gong... various message-ridden t-shirts Morrissey would wear for a few minutes and then strip off of his body and hurl into the hungry crowd...

UD knows that Morrissey's lyrics are clever, poetic, dour, gifted. Yet overamplification made detecting even one word impossible. That left his voice and the quality of the music itself. His voice was fine, serviceable, a smooth easy tone, but nothing that'd knock your socks off. And the music? I'll let Roger Scruton say it:

[There's an] abdication of music to sound: to the dominating beat of the percussion, and to such antiharmonic devices as the 'power chord,' produced by electronic distortion. Melodies become brief exhalations, which cannot develop since they are swamped by rhythm, and have no voice-leading role. ... In the soup of amplified overtones, inner voices are drowned out: all the guitarist can do is create an illusion of harmony by playing parallel fifths.

Well-written, thoughtful account of universities and their various uses of blogs here. Excerpts:

'With the popularity of such sites as and, it's an increasing trend for colleges and universities to relate to students through blogs and social networking Web sites - mediums widely used among them.

"There's always an effort on both administrators and faculty to relate more to students' general experience in order to get specific points or subject matter across to them," said Mark F. Smith, a higher education coordinator for the National Education Association.

Some professors include blogging in their curriculum, and colleges use similar technology to publicize events or get information out across campus, Mr. Smith said.'

One blogging professor comments:

"The blog is actually an excellent way students can get to know their professor and their thoughts outside the subject matter... I'd like to see more professors blog. I think it would be a good idea for students who are taking a class to get a chance to read and get to know what the professor is like."

It's true that UD's thought a bit about the advantages - and disadvantages - of her students who discover University Diaries probably knowing more about her than they do about their other professors... Not that she's sure there are any disadvantages... If UD were a reasonably engaged student of literature, she'd have some degree of interest in, say, what her professor reads in her off hours, what she really thinks about some of the writers she assigns in her classes, and, more broadly, what sort of person she is.

A blog isn't the only avenue here, of course; professors who are public intellectuals, or who write autobiographical novels, poems, and plays, or who are for whatever reason generally well-known, have much more open lives than other professors. There's almost nothing a Manchester University student can't know about Martin Amis or his nemesis, Terry Eagleton, for instance, though neither blogs.

One university incorporates blogs into its annual college-wide reading assignment:

'[The] Common Reading Experience program ... uses a blog to organize its discussions of what book all incoming students should read during the summer. A committee meets to discuss and ultimately choose the book, but the could see what it already has decided against or is considering at the blog and offer input... '

Yet another use:

'At Bluffton University,...[s]everal students and one faculty member blog to give an insight into what campus life is all about, since most students live on campus.

"We want them to be authentic and be real," said Chris Jebsen, director of admissions. "There is no guidance from our office: 'Here's what you need to be writing about this week.'"

The student bloggers are university employees, paid for two hours of work a week to write two blog posts. ... In the changing world of technology, campus visits are becoming less popular and more people are checking out school Web sites, Mr. Jebsen said.

"Sometimes the first time we're learning about them is when they apply online," he said.

The admissions staff likes having the blogs so people who don't visit campus and interact with students still can get a feel for Bluffton.'
Probable Cause

'... The fire that killed seven South Carolina college students at Ocean Isle Beach last Sunday morning started on the deck of the house - possibly ignited by "discarded smoking materials."

... A fire at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house that killed five University of North Carolina students in 1996 was blamed on a cigarette tossed into a trash can.

Two East Carolina University students died in 2003 when smoking material, thought to be a cigarette, fell onto a couch and smoldered before setting their second-floor Greenville apartment on fire.

In 2005, two N.C. State University students died in an off-campus duplex rented by their fraternity when a cigarette left behind after a party set a couch on fire...'

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Adviser Sought

'A University of Texas at San Antonio student is in the planning stages of forming a pornography club on campus, station KSAT 12 reported.

The student, Riley Jackson Starr, is posting fliers on campus in hopes of recruiting at least five students to Club X, which would watch and discuss sexually oriented materials.

"We'll look to see if it violates any of our policies here at UTSA," said Vice-President David Gabler said.

He added that Starr has yet to submit the proper paperwork, which would need to be reviewed by attorneys.

Starr would also be required to get a professor to be an official adviser, which hasn't happened yet.

"You know, this is our school and we want to project a good image to other people and other schools," a male student said. "And so, to have kids in Club X would kind of give us that bad impression."

"I don't think sexual activity should be brought to our school other than for informational purposes," a female student said.

In her page, Starr claims to be [a] strip club dancer.'
Fake Degrees Are A Funny Thing.

Whether because of embarrassment, indifference, ignorance, lawlessness, or amorality, universities and other institutions made aware of diploma mill scammers among them usually respond -- at least at first -- by insisting that

1.) the particular purchased degrees are irrelevant to the scammer's job description;

2.) said scammer received no extra salary because of the degree; and

3.) she's a great gal.

So we're not going to do anything about it.

This response is particularly surprising at universities, institutions founded on a shared conviction of the supreme value of legitimate education. Yet all three Texas universities alerted by a local news program to diploma mill people in high places responded in this way. On being told (And why can't universities consult the same list the reporters did, and find out who at their schools has a fake degree?) that the Assistant Dean for Faculty Development and College Initiatives has a fake Ph.D., Baylor University said:

“Thank you for the opportunity to respond. We are limited by federal privacy laws as to how much we can say about a personnel matter, but what I can tell you is that Anne Grinols is employed as a staff member, not as a faculty member at Baylor.”

She's only responsible for the academic review of Baylor University's faculty. Whew.

An assistant professor at UT San Antonio who has two fake degrees draws this response from the school:

'Deanna Sutton’s academic accomplishments, promotion and salary increases reflect her expertise in her area of fungus identification and medical mycology--and have not been based on the degrees she earned from the California Coast University. Her masters and her PhD are in the area of management and not in her teaching or research field. However, now that we are aware that her degrees are not recognized by the THECB, she will be asked to remove these degrees from her official university CV.'

Same move. The degrees are irrelevant to why we hired her.

Of course, this means she's an assistant professor on the basis of a bachelor's degree.

Then there's the professor of emergency medicine, also at a University of Texas campus. It always adds an extra frisson when diploma mill grads hold health-related positions...

'A master's degree was not a requirement for her to be hired, nor has she ever received any additional compensation, benefits or promotions in relation to her master's degree. Currently, she holds a non-teaching clinical appointment and does not serve in any kind of managerial capacity.'

To the now-familiar defense that the moral scumminess of buying degrees doesn't matter, this response adds the insistence that her advanced degree has had no impact on her compensation. Uh-huh.
Beauty Regiment:

Insanely Attractive

... agrees with UD that Rate My Professors is a good thing: "It is a real example of students' civil responsibility [civic responsibility?] and holding faculty responsible for what and how they teach," says Derek Collins of the University of Michigan.

RMP recently named Collins hottest professor at Michigan.

... 'Collins said the attention is flattering but that his job is to teach, not to look great every day. He said he doesn't have a particular beauty regiment [That'd be regimen.... Although... UD just Googled beauty regiment, and everyone seems to use that, too.] or celebrity icon and that looking glamorous isn't one of his priorities.'

UD's Joyce-themed spawn.
With her friend Zuzu.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Richard Posner on Universities

From his blog.

'...An ironic counterpoint to university leftism is the increasing, and increasingly successful, imitation of business firms by America's colleges and universities. The leading universities are becoming giant corporations with multi-hundred-million dollar (or even billion dollar) budgets. As they grow, they need and so they hire professional management.

Professional university management, in turn, takes its cues from its peers in the business sector. So we have universities deeply involved in hedge funds, greedy for supracompetitive investment returns, engaged in the commercialization of scientific research, angling for applications for admission by the children of the rich, manipulating their statistics in order to move up in U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings (for example by fuzzing up their admissions criteria, so that they get more applicants and therefore turn down more and so appear more selective), exaggerating the job prospects of their advanced-degree graduates, bidding for academic stars by offering high salaries and low teaching loads, and, related to the bidding wars, creating a two-tier employment system with tenured and tenure-track faculty on top and tenure-less, benefit-less graduate students and temporaries on the bottom to do the bulk of the teaching.

And so the modern American university system allows its faculty and administrators to live right, while thinking left.'
Quote of the Day

'[Charles] Murray argued [that] anyone who was Jewish and stupid 2,000 years ago found "it was a lot easier to be a Christian."'

From an American Enterprise Institute conference the other day on Jews and intelligence. Read more here.
See this dude...

....brooding upon our
urban hieroglyphs?
He's Morrissey. Loyal
readers know that
UD's sister
is a mad Morrissey fan.
Tonight she's dragging UD
to Constitution Hall, where
Morrissey's giving a concert.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

'South America stole our name...'

...complains Randy Newman, in his song Political Science.

UD has the same problem with the University of Delaware. But she's always been gracious about it. Until now.

SOME MADE UNEASY BY UD DIVERSITY TRAINING runs the headline in the Wilmington News Journal. Excerpts from the story:

'Brooke Aldrich considers herself open-minded and accepting of all kinds of people.

But the University of Delaware freshman said statements made in a recent diversity training session on her floor of Russell Hall tried to make her believe she was a racist.

"I personally have no problem with anyone of any background, race, sexual identity, or any religion," said the 18-year-old Hockessin resident, who is majoring in animal science. "I accept people for who they are as people. But coming out of the group sessions makes you feel as if I was in some way a racist, just by the color of my skin. It was like, 'Because you've never been oppressed, you're part of the problem.' "

UD's residence-hall educational program came under fire this week ... The program, which is about 4 years old, includes one-on-one meetings between students and resident assistants as well as group sessions, where a wide range of topics including race relations and sexual identity are discussed.

The training is important to help students understand those who are different from them, said Justin Blair, an 18-year-old sophomore from New Castle.

... Greg Lukianoff, an attorney and president of FIRE, says the programs are an unconstitutional attempt to change student beliefs and actions with psychological "treatment."

"The University of Delaware's residence life education program is a grave intrusion into students' private beliefs," Lukianoff said. "The university has decided that it is not enough to expose its students to the values it considers important. Instead, it must coerce its students into accepting those values as their own."

Lukianoff and others objected to mandatory attendance at the sessions, to the way students felt coerced to agree with certain viewpoints, and to the rejection of debate on the issues.

... Michael Gilbert, vice president for student life, said the program was misrepresented by FIRE and that some objections were based on statements taken out of context from an August training session for resident assistants. But Gilbert also acknowledged that some approaches used by staff members were "missteps" and some language -- including references to student response to "treatment" -- could be misunderstood. [Student response to treatment. Quelle 1984.]

...Students were applauded whenever they identified with a certain group...

[O]ther exercises made many students feel uncomfortable. In one ...students were asked if they approved of such things as affirmative action or gay marriage. If they did, they would join students on one side of the room. If they didn't, they would join students on the other side of the room. They were not permitted to explain their reasons or to answer "I don't know," she said.

"We had a strong urge to debate back and forth, tell each other why we chose this and sort out each other's views," [one student] said. "But at the end, we were told the exercise was designed so that we could not have debate, that a lot of times in life you don't have the opportunity to express your opinion. There was a lot of pent-up tension from that."

[Students interviewed] said they were told the meetings were mandatory....

[Critics] pointed to written materials for the staff training session, including a definition of "racist" as applying to "all white people ... living in the United States."'

Another Academic Career
Destroyed by Blogging

'Brian R. Leiter tracks the comings and goings of high-profile scholars in philosophy and law, writing a couple of popular academic blogs that offer details on who is taking a job where.

But this time it is Mr. Leiter who is moving on, leaving his post as a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin after 13 years to be a professor at the University of Chicago’s law school.

...Chicago is creating a Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values, which he’ll direct and which he says will make philosophical work “a more central part of the law school.” Chicago’s primary focus is law and economics...

[Chicago's dean says Leiter] “is a great intellectual entrepreneur, and we like the energy he brings. He’s a most valuable player at Texas, and where he goes, students get very interested in his subject matter.”'

---chronicle of higher ed---
Sending This One Out to...

...Rita, of Nobody Sasses A Girl With Glasses. Rita's on record as very much liking UD's diploma mill stories, and UD can't blame her. It's not that these endless revelations of bogus degrees in high places are intrinsically interesting -- the stories are all the same, with the same dickheads saying the same things about what they did -- but almost every one of them includes a fantastic quotation or two.

Take the Superintendent of the Mexia Texas schools:

'Former Mexia Superintendent Dean Andrews is under investigation and has been accused of obtaining a doctorate degree from a school in California not accredited to award doctorate degrees.

Andrews “obtained” his doctorate degree [Why the quotation marks around obtained? Because the reporter means to say Andrews didn't actually obtain it. Yet the word obtaining occurs in the first paragraph without quotation marks, which is confusing. The writer should drop the quotation marks.] from California Coast University in 1999...

A heated debate concerning Andrews’ credentials ensued at a recent meeting of the Liberty Hill School Board, with some parents upset with the Superintendent.

...[The] Texas Higher Education Coordination Board waded into the fray [Not sure you can wade into a fray, unless the fight's taking place under water.] and issued a statement that “it’s illegal to use such degrees in the State of Texas” in the first place.

According to a recent story released by Nanci Wilson on CBS Channel 42 (a television station in the Liberty Hill area), “the superintendent’s questionable credentials” led to the debate at the school board. The board’s president says trustees are investigating through their law firm. Presumably, this would be the well-known Walsh Anderson firm out of Austin. That law firm does much work throughout school districts in the state, including work for the Mexia Independent School District.

Although the State of Texas calls the degree fraudulent, Andrews was asked about statements that his degree is “fake,” and he replied, “I don’t worry about what people say about Dean Andrews..." He also chastised the reporter by saying, “...and what you say about me...that’s your problem.”

A parent appeared before the last meeting, calling for the school board to “do the right thing,” then adding, “Dean Andrews must be removed from his positon as superintendent of this school district.” The parent continued, “It’s easy to check up that fraud has been committed here.”

The Liberty Hill librarian took the parent to task, backing Andrews and saying the district should thank him for his leadership. However, this drew a retort from the unhappy parent, who agrees that “education is the primary concern,” but reiterated what could be a fraudulent “kind of message being sent; namely, you’re saying don’t work hard, take the easy way, get a fraudulent degree, and get a big salary without doing the work to earn it, and that disgusts me.”

Federal investigators have referred to the California institution as a “diploma mill” in testimony before a congressional committee. However, the CBS 42 report says Andrews calls himself “Doctor,” and he said, “I’m pretty proud of it.” [I call myself Doctor and I'm pretty proud of it. That's what I mean. That's a keeper.]

The report says Andrews, in sworn testimony, spent only three days on the California campus, defending his dissertation. But, according to his deposition, “he had difficulty remembering the title of his dissertation,” the televised report says.

The report further stated, “Andrews had diffculty remembering exactly when he got the degree, telling Channel 42 he had received it ‘in 2003 or 2001 I believe’. Asked about 1997,” Andrews said, “Correct.” But a copy of Andrews transcript filed as an exhibit in a lawsuit...shows a graduation date of Sept. 29, 1999.”

Another parent said of this “...makes me really question all of his ethics, integrity and scruples.”

State Senator Florence Shapiro, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, told Nanci Wilson of Channel 42, she was surprised to learn that Andrews and Hutto Superintendent David Borrer [Another one. No surprise. Tons of them out there, especially in education administration.] had doctorates from such schools, and added, “I think this is fraudulent and there is a criminal penalty. I think it’s a class B misdemeanor...and should be looked at.”'
Forming, Storming,
Norming, Performing,
and Dying Out There

SOS takes a look at some heartland journalism this morning. From the Salt Lake Tribune.

'Just weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II, Utah State made its own kind of history.

The Aggies lost their final game of the 1941 season and finished 0-8.

It was Utah State's first winless season of more than four games and it was the last time the Aggies ended a season without a victory. Sixty-six years later, the Aggies find themselves in a down-to-the-wire struggle to avoid making the wrong kind of history.

Heading into Saturday's game at heavily favored Fresno State, Utah State is 0-8. With four games remaining - three on the road and one at home against nationally ranked Boise State - the Aggies' prospects for victory are grim. [As grim as Pearl Harbor.]

"Life is hard. This is hard, and why we're being tested like this, I wish I had the answer for you," said coach Brent Guy said [Typo there. Extra "said."], trying to remain optimistic. "But we've had a lot of opportunities to win games this season. We've been close. Now, we've got to complete one and we have to do it fast."

This season, Utah State has led four times in the fourth quarter, only to lose in the closing minutes to UNLV (23-16), Wyoming (32-18), San Jose State (23-20) and Nevada (31-28).

Still, the Aggies have lost 14 straight games, going back to 2006. They have lost 25 of their past 27 games, including 12 straight on the road and 10 straight within the Western Athletic Conference.

It's been a grinding stretch that has tested every player and coach who has been part of each defeat - close or otherwise.

"I'm generally an upbeat kind of guy - not much brings me down," said senior fullback-tight end Jimmy Bohm. "[So] keeping guys mentally excited about the game, that's what [the] seniors and leaders of the team are trying to do."

Said Guy: "I'm really, really proud of this group of seniors. These are the guys I inherited - that were here when I got here, guys that could have gone somewhere else. One left, but the rest stayed. I think that's a credit to them and why this team is still really fun to coach."


"You can tell by the way they practice that they are still trying very hard," Guy said. "They chirp around and they laugh with each other, Not that that's the way you want to actually practice [N of Not shouldn't be capitalized.]. But they don't come out with 0-8 hanging over their head. They come out with, 'OK, how can we win the next game? What do we have to do?' That's encouraging to me."

This season to forget continues a long stretch of futility for Utah State, which hasn't won as many as four games since 2002 and hasn't enjoyed a .500 season since 1997. [The team's graduation rate is 54%.]

"To break a losing tradition is tough," said Keith Henschen, a University of Utah sports psychologist. "You almost have to start over because people actually start believing they are going to lose. Not consciously, but subconsciously." [Henschen elsewhere argues that "many teams go through four identifiable stages of performance development – forming, storming, norming and performing."]

Utah State started over by hiring Guy in 2004. He was the Aggies' fifth head coach since 1992.

"A problem at Utah State is that it has been a stepping stone for coaches," Henschen said. "There has been very little continuity and, as a result, very little accountability regarding what is expected." [Bet grabbing and tossing all those coaches has cost the university quite a lot of money. In university football, long stretches of futility tend to be expensive.]

Besides the coaching turnover, Henschen blames the losing environment on the Aggies' tradition of playing two or three "money" games every season - games they have little chance of winning but results in a huge payday for the athletic program.

"By overscheduling, they keep beating their kids down - physically and mentally," he said. "I feel sorry for them. Why do they keep doing that? . . . It just feeds into a situation where everybody involved starts thinking, 'We can't win.' It definitely becomes a psychological situation." [Keith, you have a PED degree, which SOS takes to be a Physical Education Doctorate. Surely you understand the money game.]

Guy seems to understand, saying the hardest thing about the ongoing losing streak is "the emotional toll - the toll you try to keep off the kids. It's a tremendous burden for them because they continually get asked about it and continually have to answer for it."

Of course, it happens at other schools. [Of course. We're not the only ones, you know...]

Three years ago, New Mexico State went 0-12 under coach Hal Mumme.

"The toughest thing is getting the players to believe in what you're doing," he said."It's almost a player-by-player thing and it's very difficult to do."

This season, Idaho is 1-8 under first-year coach Robb Akey.

"When the losses start mounting up, it gets a little heavy," he said. "That's a battle we fight every week. What I'm trying to do is point out the positive things and show them, when we do it together, it works."

At this point, Guy believes his players might be too aware of the losing streak and are not focused on enjoying the game.'



Via Andrew Sullivan, a reminder from Adam Kirsch that "all the official apparatus of the university is extraneous to its highest purpose, which is to cultivate freedom and inwardness.... The danger to postwar America [W.H. Auden suggests, in a poem Kirsch considers] lies in the soft tyranny of institutions, authorities, and experts — of people who know what’s best for you and don’t hesitate to make sure you know it, too."

People who care about universities should worry, Auden writes, about colleges where “Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge,” with courses on “Public Relations, Hygiene, Sport." A sample stanza:

Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
On education,
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before

Kingman Brewster, president of Yale, said something similar a long time ago:

Faculty members, once they have proved their potential during a period of junior probation, should not feel beholden to anyone, especially Department Chairmen, Deans, Provosts, or Presidents, for favor, let alone for survival. In David Riesman’s phrase, teachers and scholars should, insofar as possible, be truly ‘inner directed’ - guided by their own intellectual curiosity, insight, and conscience. In the development of their ideas they should not be looking over their shoulders either in hope of favor or in fear of disfavor from anyone other than the judgment of an informed and critical posterity.”

Blogoscopy II

Having just tried it, Oso Raro is ambivalent about incorporating blogs into one's university classes:

'...[T]he development of a written voice is essential to blogging. Those of us who blog regularly know this aspect of the medium, and are drawn to it, I would suppose, because of the expositional and narrative possibilities. Some of my students have taken to the genre like fish to water, and are, as they say, natural bloggers. In fact, when I designed the assignment, I thought this would be true of most of my students, imbued in social networking and online chat and Instant Messaging. This, however, was a misapprehension. Aside from those natural bloggers, who typically are also either gabby or strongly opinionated students in real life (IRL), some of my student bloggers have had trouble crafting themselves in the genre. On Friday, I had an early morning appointment with a student, a smart dedicated young woman, who admitted she was having trouble figuring out how to blog and what to blog about.

We had a long conversation on models, ideas, generating thinking. But the simple fact of the matter is that it is hard, if one is not naturally drawn to electronic media, to sustain something like a blog. When I was writing the guidelines for the assignment, in late summer, I knew there would be an adjustment period for some students, but in fact this adjustment period is, for some, not temporary. The simple fact of the matter is that some of these students are not bloggers, and would have been better served by the traditional writing option (you know, papers and stuff).

The rules for course blogging are in the end very similar to something I have begun to think about the blogosphere: One must start with voice to become fluent in developing voice. In other words, and for the most part, voice cannot develop in electronic media unless it already exists on some level elsewhere, verbally or politically or socially or on the written page....'

This points to one of the reasons UD's opposed to Creative Writing majors in college, and indeed to the tendency of some undergraduates to take more Creative Writing than literature courses.

You don't get this voice by sitting in class after class reading the pretty voiceless writing of other eighteen-year-olds. Nor do you get it by cranking out your own poetry in class -- poetry that's likely, given the ethos of university Creative Writing, to be over-praised. You get it by the selfless study of great writers.

And this is why UD wouldn't use blogs in her classes. It's unfair to throw at students, many of whom are too young to have developed their voices, a medium which, as Oso rightly notes, demands a strong voice.
Template of Doom

In preparation for this blog's new look (first podcast's on its way, too), I've been removing old links and adding new ones (see list to your right). Alphabetizing is on its way.

Longtime readers know that I fear to tread in my template (I'm convinced I'll do something fatal in there), but so far so good.

“In the land of the people who work on things only three people will ever read, the schlub with a somewhat popular blog is king.”

Scott Eric Kaufman, of Acephalous, quotes an audience member at a recent academic conference.