This is an archived page. Images and links on this page may not work. Please visit the main page for the latest updates.

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)

Sunday, May 16, 2004


UD's monastic approach to the university has meant that phenomena like financial aid offices, academic vice presidents, and freshman orientation weekends barely exist for her. Indeed the entire administrative machinery of the university is pretty much of a non-starter for your oblivious blogeuse, who concentrates upon teaching and writing to the exclusion of most other things on campus.

Vast public university events, therefore, like graduation ceremonies, make her head spin. Knowing this, she avoids them. But this year, as careful readers know, UD was honored with a prize from her university, and the prize was given to her as part of the undergraduate college graduation ceremonies.

So there she sat on stage, in the front row of gathered faculty, in her university's basketball arena. The bleachers were jammed with large proud families; the lights beat down on her face; her long black academic robe was hot. Here, concentrated in the arena, was precisely the public face of her university, a face from which she had averted her own for years. The genial deans, practiced in external relations; the department chairs grinning and hugging as they handed each of their graduating majors their diplomas; the faculty marshalls marshalling rows of graduates to the podium for their flashbulb moment. The university flag, held proudly aloft as we marched behind it; the soggy speeches from the students chosen to address their class ("Today, as a Women's Studies graduate, I have become a professional feminist."); the whoops and hollers and grunts of friends and relations as particular graduates stepped up to the plate.

The students had chosen a visiting professor, a famous glad-handing newsman, a Washington macher without a shred of intellectuality, to give the graduation address. The speech was the sort of exercise in cynical sentimentality for which television journalists are known: bathetic stories about one's "personal heroes," people whose heroism consists mainly in their having recognized one's own specialness; ominous allusions to Our Dangerous World in a context of total security and affluence; pious references to one's perfect family.

But after that the dean gave a good talk, an intelligent reminder of the actual particular moral and political dangers with which we live now.

When I stood to accept my award I was shocked to receive my own share of whoops and hollers from the English majors in the audience.

Although I'd approached the event with dread, it was, for the most part, rather beautiful.