The grovels of Academe Archives

March 30, 2009

The grovels of Academe

I never cease to be amused by the gaping chasm between Academe's bold image of itself as a haven of fearless unfettered inquiry, and the craven reality. Latest instance:

Banned in Boston

The norm for protests over a William Ayers appearance on campus these days is for conservative critics to say that the University of Illinois at Chicago professor shouldn't be given a forum to speak because of the past violence of the Weather Underground, of which he was once a leader.

At Boston College, the debate has taken a new twist -- with the college calling off a talk by Ayers planned for tonight and citing a police killing that has never been definitively linked to the Weather Underground and that Ayers and others insist his group had nothing to do with. Nonetheless, that 1970 police killing is still associated by many in Boston with the Weather Underground and remains a political flashpoint -- as became clear on Friday.

Michael Graham, a local talk radio host, started calling on Boston College to revoke the invitation to Ayers, and he encouraged alumni, donors and others to call the college to demand that it deny Ayers a forum. Graham repeatedly linked Ayers and the Weather Underground to the 1970 killing of Walter Schroeder, the police officer, who was responding to a bank robbery by a group of radical students....

Boston College issued a statement in which it acknowledged barring Ayers.... "As a university, we pride ourselves on the free expression of ideas and on the prestige that Boston College holds as a destination of choice among prominent speakers. But we are also aware of the obligation we hold to be respectful of our host community. The emotional scars of the murder of Boston Police Sergeant Walter Schroeder, allegedly at the hands of the Weather Underground, which left nine children fatherless in the shadows of this campus, was an issue that we could not ignore."

So the college called off the event, the statement said, "out of respect for the Schroeder family and out of concern for the safety and well being of our students. We believe that, in light of these unique circumstances, the appropriate decision was made in this case."

April 8, 2009

Greater Evilism

The public good, in Democratic Party philosophy, is defined by the famous "three bowls of hypothetical porridge" method. The middle bowl is defined by what's not in it, as that relates to the other two, which for the purposes of defining the middle bowl are represented as repositories of what's not in them either. In this way, a happy medium is achieved. If that doesn't make any sense and is highly irritating, don't worry. Everything is fine. You're a decent person. If it does make sense, and you can see a thesis, you're eligible for high standing in this crackpot blight on the humanities. You're also a bad person.

I mention this as an introduction to trends in risk management, and as a follow up to Owen's post on shafting the investors who are small enough to fail. Sometimes they get an additional push.

The global financial crisis should have prompted financial institutions to focus on risk management, but according to new research sponsored by SimCorp, risk management has lost status within organisations and is not being treated as seriously as it should be.

The research has been undertaken by the recently-established SimCorp StrategyLab in cooperation with The Nielsen Company and suggests that the number of risk managers actually reporting to boards has been dropping.

The research revealed that since 2007, the number of organisations that had the risk management function reporting to the board of directors had dropped by 5 per cent, from 36 per cent to 31 per cent.

The director of SimCorp StrategyLab, professor Ingo Walter, said much had been learned about the failures of risk management during the current financial crisis and it was therefore disturbing that the survey had indicated some institutions were moving in the wrong direction.

Institutions losing sight of risk management priorities -- I think that's supposed to be funny, not sure.

Why manage risk when you can not only get a bail out, but you also get to redefine risk according to metrics that are as empty as the three hypothetical bowls?

April 11, 2009

Yes, master

Coupla weeks ago, Boston College caved in to the cop lobby. Now it's Clark University's turn, intimidated, as colleges nearly always are, by the Israel lobby:

Clark University canceled a campus talk scheduled for later this month by controversial Holocaust scholar Norman Finkelstein, saying his presence "would invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding," and would conflict with a similar event scheduled around the same time.

The Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights, a student-run group on the Worcester campus, had arranged for Finkelstein to speak on April 21....

Finkelstein's address would conflict with a similar conference hosted by the university's Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, scheduled for April 23-26, two days after Finkelstein's speech, Bassett said in his letter. That conference could draw Holocaust scholars who MacMillan said may disagree with Finkelstein.

The dispute came to the attention of college administrators after Hillel, a Jewish campus group, objected to Finkelstein's scheduled appearance.

On the other hand, I'm told Joseph Massad just got tenure at... Columbia! Which frankly astonished me. Perhaps there really is a shift in the wind, and the provinces haven't yet felt it?

April 23, 2009

The thought police strike again

This just in, from On The Inside, a journal of the incarceration sector -- or no, sorry, that's Inside Higher Education, a journal from the closely-related credentialling sector. So hard to tell 'em apart sometimes. Anyway, here's the story:

Crossing a Line

Everyone involved in the dispute over William I. Robinson talks about lines being crossed....

His critics say that he crossed a line of professionalism by sending e-mail to all of the students in one of his courses material about "parallel" images of Nazi and Israeli attacks. Some students view the material as anti-Semitic, and they quit the course and filed a grievance against him.

Faculty members are in the process of selecting a panel that will consider the charges against Robinson and determine whether to recommend that a standing faculty panel conduct a full investigation of the incident.

Needless to say, the ADL heard about this -- somehow; perhaps the aggrieved students, in their extreme agony of mind, did a Web search -- and the grand inquisitors of Zionist orthodoxy put the screws to the university.

There's a web site in support of Robinson --

... where in spite of my prejudice against professors, and my puzzlement at the whole concept of "academic freedom", I signed up, and suggest you do the same. Anybody who takes a whack at Zion, even if he's a professor -- of sociology! -- deserves our support.

It's a bit unfortunate that the pro-Robinson site has fallen into a somewhat niggling proceduralist state of mind. There is much back-and-forth about whether the rules of the university dealing with "inappropriate" faculty conduct were followed.

This would be a hard question to decide, even if one were interested in deciding it, since the rules in question are a bizarre labyrinth of agents and committees that put one in mind of the Venetian republic's palmy days, or the Vatican divorce court. There's the Council of Ten, the Council of Three, the Prothonotary Sensitivus, the Commission of Relevancy, the Tribunal of Standards... it's like Masonic ceremonial.

Still, the outlines are clear enough. Robinson did something that profs do all the time. Unfortunately for him, his actions displeased Israel's defense team. As a result, he will spend a year or two of his life fighting for his livelihood, and bearing, as best he can, the glances-askance of his former friends and colleagues and neighbors who have heard that he's, well, a bit an anti-Semite. No smoke without fire. Why did he send that email, anyway? He should have known better. Must have some kinda bug up his ass about Jews.

He may keep his job -- I hope he does, just to spite the ADL -- but he will certainly have paid a price. And that's really the point, isn't it?

What pleases me about this story is the eagerness of the university to deploy its ponderous enforcement machinery at a snap of the fingers from the ADL. Oh, did I but have the NSA phone taps of all those calls to trustees, and the donation scouts, and the deans, and the department chairs -- it would be as good as the Harman tapes, or better.

August 23, 2009

Tough times for the comprador liberals

On the same July day that the UC Board of Regents cut $813 million from UC budgets - setting in motion pay cuts, layoffs and campus cutbacks - the board quietly approved pay raises, stipends and other benefits for more than two dozen executives.

University officials were quick to characterize the increased pay in a positive light.

"It's really a story about cost savings," said Barbara French, a UCSF spokeswoman, adding that three people on her campus who won hefty pay increases took on new duties and deserved to be compensated.


It's the same ethos as the bankster bonuses and pay raises. None of them do anything for the essential functions of their institutions that couldn't be done better and cheaper by employees who have hit one of the institutional social glass ceilings. The only exceptional things these minor league compradors have to offer are their connections to each other, driven by the conviction that entrenchment is a socially beneficial entitlement. In good times, when the institutions are flush with paper wealth, there's some grumbling over that, easily dismissed as ressentiment by the anteroom clowns. In harder times, for everyone else, the elaborately fussified ad hominem dismissals get a little nastier, and the vulgar realities of chicken plucking gain immediacy.

June 19, 2010

Pulled Pork

John Stuart Mill is famous for having expanded Bentham’s utilitarianism to incorporate ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ pleasures. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the dictum “better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.” In this paper I argue that this dictum is inconsistent with utilitarianism’s own conception of the ‘good’. My argument shall proceed through several stages: In section one I present and defend a form of ‘hedonic calculus’, the use of which will be essential if we are to quantify happiness (as utilitarianism aims to do.) The calculus I suggest will be based on considerations as to how we might compare a human being’s happiness with that of a lower animal. I present some arguments as to why I think a utilitarian should accept this calculus. In section two I examine Mill’s conception of the ‘good’, and analyze his famous quotation in the light of this. I argue that, by this very criterion, it is not necessarily better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. In section three I examine how best to extricate ourselves from this situation, and I put forward the suggestion that if we want to maintain the belief that it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied (a belief which, intuitively, we probably do wish to maintain), it cannot be based on utilitarian considerations.

The rest, sort of via Monsieur IOZ.

In one of those ghastly academic ironies, the author has recapitulated the worst possible method of creating pulled pork. The meat must never be steamed. One might legitimately argue that it's hard to ruin factory farmed pork, and who really cares what happens to it anyway? thus dismissing the whole discussion, but as the Deontological Chef noted on NPR last week: it's not the meat, it's the motion. As long as the recipe is semi-plausibly followed, the outcome is going to be better than anything a wingnut could concoct. Procedure is everything! Failing that, the appearance of procedure and complete sentence-like verbal program activities will do.

July 1, 2010

Today In Academia

Insofar as it produces historic personages, Harvard produces almost nothing but terrorists.

November 27, 2010

Giving Thanks: Academic Reform Edition

I'm not usually a big fan of "market" reforms. They never have anything to do with markets and plenty to do with funneling money to parasites. But, I'm not an ideologue on the issue. I can praise a market reform when it accomplishes something positive. And I'm delighted to be able to post a link to the story. It's a tale for our times, brothers and sisters, and the seasonal celebration of the entrepreneurial spirt gladdens my heart.

About The grovels of Academe

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the The grovels of Academe category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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