Category Archive 'Colleges and Universities'
25 Sep 2020

Universities Today

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One of the whips of the Culmstock Otter Hounds holds up a 22lb otter they killed on 13 September 1934, at Taunton Castle, Somerset.

A Medieval Studies Professor forwarded the following:

A student describing the ethical system of Dante’s Inferno noted that the first ring of the 7th circle encased those who committed violence against otters.

14 Sep 2020

Forwarded by an Academic Friend

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Luciana Parisi is Professor in Media Philosophy at the Program in Literature and the Computational Media Art and Culture at Duke University.

On Friday, September 18, 2020 – 9:30am to 11:00am, she will be delivering a talk on “Recursive Colonialism and Speculative Computation.”

Talk description:

Recursivity is a generic dispositif of power at the core of the colonial logic of capital. It defines the entanglement of algorithmic functions in computational prediction with the rules of knowing. Recursive algorithms give us the droste effect of a spiral of the same. Today, recursivity returns in the automated condition of planetary incarceration through hyperdisciplinary confinement and necropolitical killing enmeshed with algorithmic solutions of self-governance packed in our mobile phones. However, since speculative computation has indeterminacy as input, it has the capacity to trans-originate collective, cosmotechnical, abolitionist conditions of knowing. The COVID-19 contingency summons us to refuse the recursive violence defining immunity and to embrace the mutations of collective desire demanding the total abolition of the exceptional auto-immunity of the Universal Man.

The sender commented: “If one of my students wrote this I would simply assume: ‘Drugs’.”

20 Aug 2020

“Decolonizing” the Eurocentric Tradition of the Essay

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Suzanne Conklin Akbari is a Professor in the English Department of the University of Toronto.

Old fogeys like myself characteristically think the role of the university professor is to cultivate the mind and character of the young by exposing them to the best intellectual and artistic productions of the civilization they live in and whose traditions they are by birth inheritors.

Silly me. Today’s professoriate has found a more interesting and important mission, described in Lithhub by Suzanne Conklin Akbari: the mission of leading and instructing the young in the processes of apology and repentance for Western Civilization’s accomplishments and success, particularly for eclipsing the Stone Age cultures of Amerindian tribes, who apparently rather than penning essays speaking as individuals, just naturally collectively participate in grooving over “that which is not seen, not known, what is cherished and hidden.”

Instead of cherishing and cultivating our understanding and appreciation of the Western canon, our proper role apparently is to “decolonize” it as a form of reparations for settling North America in the first place, creating Canada and the United States, building cities and universities and modern technological civilization, thus permitting millions to live in material abundance, peace, and in the possession and enjoyment of vastly more sophisticated forms of thought and art. Shame on us for supplanting and absorbing the descendants of the original thousands of representatives of diverse hunter/gatherer tribes who once freely wandered the undeveloped wilderness in a state of constant rivalry and war, generally living lives solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Assimilation, you see, was just another of our crimes.

We ought presumably to kick those Injuns out of our wicked Western universities, take away their centrally-heated houses, televisions, and pick-up trucks, issue each of them a breech-cloth, a pair of moccasins, and a bow-and-arrow, give then back their tomahawks, “self government and autonomy,” get back on the boats and go home to Europe leaving the noble red man living in his teepee or his wikiup. He understands, which we don’t, that everything’s like a basket….

This, this is contemporary Academic thought!

[W]hat would it mean to decolonize the canon, specifically, the canon of essay writing puts Montaigne at its foundations and inscribes Woolf at the summit? Washuta and Warburton [in Shapes of Native Non-Fiction, 2019, in which “Editors Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton ground this anthology of essays by Native writers in the formal art of basket weaving. Using weaving techniques such as coiling and plaiting as organizing themes, the editors have curated an exciting collection of imaginative, world-making lyric essays by twenty-seven contemporary Native writers from tribal nations across Turtle Island into a well-crafted basket.”] lay out a path for “the process of decolonization” through their account of the “exquisite vessel.” Yet we must also remember that decolonization, as Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang have influentially argued, is not a metaphor; it is about land and water, real things in the real world. It is about reparations, self-government, and autonomy. We—by which I mean settler people, those who are not native to these territories—must be ready to give up things in order to embrace decolonization.

What would this require of us, in terms of the literary canon? Can we keep Montaigne and Woolf, even as we embrace the “exquisite vessel”? When we incorporate Indigenous writers into Eurocentric canons, it is not enough simply to add in a few writers. Instead, we need to think about how the inclusion of Indigenous writers—including their ways of knowing, their philosophies, and their ways of thinking about literary form—disrupts the very idea of “canon,” of “essay,” of “literature.” This necessary question is one that we have begun to ask through The Spouter-Inn literature podcast: what does it mean to have a canon? What is included, and what is excluded? What works are juxtaposed? Who speaks, and when? Who listens? What would it mean to be an active listener, a witness, instead of a passive one? What can books made us do—not just alone, but together?

WT

29 Jul 2020

Not Many Defenders of Academic Freedom to be Found

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David Henderson observes that when the pressure is on, not many have the courage to resist the mob.

At Cornell University Law School, a number of people are trying to bully the Dean into firing law professor William Jacobson over 2 of his criticisms of Black Lives Matter. (Disclosure: I read Professor Jacobson’s posts at least once a week because I find them informative.) The Dean, to his credit, defended Jacobson’s academic freedom, but to his discredit, made a nasty attack on Jacobson’s posts, managing to badly misstate the posts in the process. It’s interesting how easy it is to win an argument when you badly misstate what the person you’re arguing against says. Dean Eduardo M. Peñalver will not soon be winning any ideological Turing test awards.

Professor Jacobson appears to have received little public support from his colleagues. He writes:

    None of the 21 signatories [of a public letter denouncing him], some of whom I’d worked closely with for over a decade and who I considered friends, had the common decency to approach me with any concerns. Instead they ran to the Cornell Sun while virtue signaling to students behind the scenes that this was a denunciation of me. Such is the political environment we live in now at CLS.

I’m not surprised. The reason has to do with an “aha” moment I had in the summer of 1979. I was leaving the University of Rochester’s Graduate School of Management even before my tenure clock was up. I had become friends with W. Allen Wallis, the Chancellor of the university, and he invited me to lunch in the nicer section (the part that served booze) of the faculty club, housed in the Frederick Douglass building. Early in the lunch, I realized that this wasn’t just a warm good-bye, although it was that too, but also an exit interview. So I ordered a whisky sour and loosened my tongue.

Allen wanted to know what I thought of the management school. I said that it had a lot going for it. The Dean, William H. Meckling, was great and there were a lot of strong faculty, especially in finance. But, I said, it could be so much better, even with existing faculty if there were a more open discussion and not so much kowtowing to Michael Jensen, the most prominent member of the faculty. Everyone had figured out that Michael was Bill’s buddy and so the majority were hesitant to challenge him in workshops or faculty discussions about policy issues. I said that I was one of the few willing to do this. (I didn’t name Richard Thaler, who was also one of the few, because he had left and it looked as if he wasn’t returning.)

Then I said, “My view is that in a faculty of 40 people, you should have 40 independent minds.”

Allen started laughing and I felt hurt. “Why are you laughing at me?” I asked.

He answered, “My view is that if in a faculty of 40 people you have 2 or 3 independent minds, you’re doing well.”

RTWT

12 May 2020

Today’s Campus

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HT: Chilton Williamson.

20 Mar 2020

Just in Time!

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09 Dec 2019

Universities Today

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29 Nov 2019

However Bad You Think America’s Universities Are, They’re Worse

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27 Nov 2019

More Intellectual Freedom Today in Eastern Europe than in Elite Universities in Britain & the US

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Radomir Tylecote finds the differences remarkable and striking.

‘You can talk about anything you like,’ said Radu, a young Romanian academic when he invited me to a conference in Bucharest. The theme was ‘Real liberty or new serfdom?’ marking the anniversary of the fall of Nicolae Ceauşescu 30 years ago. The audience was made up of Romanian undergraduates.

The keynote speaker, a German federalist, was planning on making the classical liberal case for the EU, which made the title of my lecture – ‘The classical liberal case against the EU’ – a no-brainer. But I was nervous when I told Radu what I wanted to talk about. Thirty years ago, Romanians had been ruled by a man who literally gave his critics cancer. Would fears of criticising the powerful die hard in Bucharest? I waited for the explanation that there had a been a mix up, that my lecture would be cancelled, and… ‘Excellent!’ replied Radu. ‘That’s exactly what we need.’

A week later I was preparing to talk to a student politics society at Cambridge and I suggested the same subject. Only this time I did get the explanation. ‘The problem is… we’re looking for something a bit more mainstream.’ Mainstream? But this is broadly the view of 52 per cent of the UK population! ‘Right. It’s just that we had a pro-Brexit speaker once and it all got a bit uncomfortable, a bit… controversial.’ Controversial ideas? At a university? Whatever next?

He was quite honest about it. It seemed like his society’s director had introduced a policy of no-platforming Brexiteers. I spared him the thoughts crystallising in my mind about Cambridge as the scholarly heart of the English Reformation and the Parliamentarian struggle against arbitrary power. ‘Something on China, perhaps?’ he suggested. An authoritarian regime that suppresses free speech. Yes, I can see why that would go down better at Cambridge. …

I have long held the theory that the experience of communism in Eastern Europe has inoculated these countries against socialism today. It’s not that I romanticise these former Soviet satellites. Their political elites are frequently crooked (and often in hock to EU officials). Many of their citizens will likely wait decades before getting a real choice about EU membership. Most read little criticism of Brussels in their newspapers, just the boiler-plate encomiums. But that is beside the point.

The students in Bucharest were doing what students are supposed to do: hearing each side of the argument. They didn’t show any of the symptoms of intellectual decay that I often encounter among students in the Anglosphere – in particular, using someone’s dissent from progressive orthodoxy to exclude, purge, persecute, or otherwise gain power over them (I mean no-platforming, social-media mobbing or denouncing in an ‘open letter’). But there is another malady that afflicts so many of our students, and is often indicative of an authoritarian mindset: they are so boring.

In Cambridge there is a continued failure to uphold free speech, or to grasp what it is to be properly liberal. Because if I can make a case against rule by faceless bureaucrats in a former Warsaw Pact dictatorship but not at one of our finest universities, our culture is in serious trouble. By 1975 Saul Bellow warned that ‘the universities have failed painfully’ and in the 1980s Allan Bloom pointed out that ‘the spirit of scientific inquiry’ that used to animate them is slowly dying. In British universities now, you can’t talk about certain subjects. That sounds like the ‘new serfdom’ to me.

RTWT

03 Sep 2019

Student Debt

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That clever old curmudgeon Victor Davis Hanson argues that colleges have been burying young people in student loan debt in return, too often, for worthless degrees in left-wing nonsense.

[T]he modern university has wrought has now outweighed its once positive role.

Let us count the ways higher education had done its part to nearly harm the United States. A new generation owes $1.5 trillion in student debt—a sum that an increasing majority of debtors either cannot pay back or simply will not.

One’s 20s are now redefined as the lost decade, as marriage, child-rearing, and home buying are put off, to the extent they still occur, into one’s 30s.

Bitterness abounds when graduates gradually learn that their liberal anti-capitalist professors and administrators were part of a profit-rigged system by which peasant students became financial cannon fodder. For all the hipster left-wing campus atmospherics, the university operated more or less as a Madoff/Ponzi scheme: for each new admitted class of students, the fed backed another round of usurious loans that could never be paid back by those of little means, and the university upped its prices.

The result was reduced teaching, a bonanza of release time, administrative bloat, Club Med dorms, gyms, and student unions, and epidemics of highly paid but non-teaching careerist advisors, and counselors.

The university was now in loco parentis, a sort of granny that babysat men and women of arrested development and encouraged the idea that they were helpless. The more students were considered “adults” in matters of loud and boisterous protests, obscene speech, binge drinking, common drug use, and hook-up sex, the more they wished to be treated as Victorian children. Suddenly kids were shocked that the inebriated acted dangerously and boorishly, upset that the targets of their attack did not like them, and furious that sexual congress without commitment and love was often manipulative and embedded within male callousness and deceit.

Adolescent-adults were oblivious to changing public attitudes that no longer put up with “college antics” but saw the university and its students and employees as pampered, hypocritical, intolerant, and often obnoxious. Shrill campus protests seemed like Antifa boot camps without the masks and clubs. …

Indebted students, many with largely worthless degrees, and few employment opportunities sufficient to repay their loans, have become a loyal progressive constituency. How odd that an entire generation, in psychologically and financially suspended animation, is seen as useful by the very politicos who created this labyrinth of exploitation in the first place.

RTWT

29 Aug 2019

New Book on the Crisis at the Universities by Former Dean of Yale Law School

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Power-line’s Steve Hayward has an important new book recommendation.

This week’s mail brought me Anthony Kronman’s new book, The Assault on American Excellence, which begins with a chronicle of the follies of Yale University, where Kronman teaches and once served as dean of Yale Law. … I got to meet Prof. Kronman at a terrific colloquium about Max Weber last year at UCLA, where he told me some about his new book, which arose out of his rising disgust with identity politics and what it is doing to higher education. In one sentence, it is bringing “higher education” quite low.

Kronman is significant because, like Columbia’s Mark Lilla, he considers himself to be a liberal/progressive in his general political views. As such, he represents perhaps a last gasp of an older liberalism what was generally liberal. And sure enough, like Mark Lilla, Kronman has drawn some early attacks for the book, such as this disgraceful review in the Washington Post by Wesleyan University president Michael Roth, who I thought might be part of the resistance to the nihilism of identity politics, but turns out instead now to be a fraud.

I suspect Kronman is going to get a frosty reception in the Yale faculty lounges and faculty meetings. But all hope is not lost. Last summer we reported on the campaign of journalist Jamie Kirchick to be elected as the Alumni Fellow to the board of the Yale Corporation, with the intentions of trying to argue at the board level about Yale’s moral and intellectual dereliction. To be a candidate in the board election requires a lot of Yale alumni signatures within a short window of time, and Kirchick’s drive fell short.

This year Nicholas Quinn Rosencranz, a Yale Law grad and currently professor of law at Georgetown, is running an insurgent campaign. (The Rosencranz family has been very generous to Yale over the years; there’s a building named for them.) See this statement of the Alumni for Excellence at Yale about the myriad reasons for his candidacy, but most important, if you are a Yale alum (undergraduate or graduate school), scroll to the bottom and click on the button to sign Nick’s petition to be put on the board ballot. He needs to get 4,266 alumni signatures by October 1, at which point a full-fledged campaign can begin to win the alumni vote.

25 Aug 2019

The American College Dormitory

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My own college dormitory, one of “James Gamble Rogers’ sublime Yale residential colleges.”

Anthony Paletta reviews a recent book on college dormitories in America.

Hotels have received plenty of architectural attention, but unless you’re Howard Hughes or Coco Chanel you probably haven’t spent four years living in them. One space where most readers have likely spent just that long in residence–and that hasn’t attracted a fraction of that kind of attention—is the old-fashioned college dormitory, now ably addressed in Carla Yanni’s Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory.

The dormitory is an interesting space, intrinsically transient but often designed to serve as a social aggregator, edifying home environment and cocoon from baleful influences, once loose morals and religious nonconformists, lately Halloween costumes and Republicans. It’s a building type represented virtually everywhere in the United States—Yanni notes early on that there are likely more than thirty thousand dormitory buildings in the U.S.

The first unusual thing about American dormitories is simply how widespread they are. You don’t actually need to house students on-site: this happens for a very small minority of students in secondary and boarding schools, and a minority in graduate education. Living on campus is not remotely as common in a number of other societies, and wasn’t the standard even in some European societies that provided inspiration to American universities. A prime task is to explain “why Americans have believed for so long that college students should live in purpose-built structures that we now take for granted: dormitories. This was never inevitable, nor was it even necessary.”

The religious and often rural origins of many American colleges, designed to remove students from the malignant influences of the city, played a prominent role in the provision of housing. She quotes Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Fanshawe and its fictional Harley College—“The local situation of the college, so far secluded from the sight and sound of the busy world, is peculiarly favorable to the moral, if not the literary, habits of its students; and this advantage probably caused the founders to overlook the inconveniences that were inseparably connected with it.”

RTWT

I’ll bet the Yanni book overlooks the story of the Yale undergraduate of the 1850s who was expelled for shooting a deer on the New Haven Green from his dormitory window on the Old Campus.

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