Category Archives: fiddling while the UC burns

July 5, 2012, 6:56 pm

A physician on curing us of irritation with the liberal arts.

Longtime reader, occasional commenter Chris Johnson gives me permission to quote from his email:

I do feel discouraged by this recent onslaught against the liberal arts. I appreciate and applaud the light you and your colleagues have shone on the recent travesty at the U of VA, as only one example of this trend. Academic historians need to bang that gong as loud as they can.

I graduated from Haverford College in 1974 with a double major in history and religion. I went on to medical school, and my dean there had been a Rhodes Scholar in one of the humanities. Fully half of my Haverford classmates majored in one or another of the humanities and then scattered across their business and professional careers. This is a wonderful thing, and was once regarded as a wonderful thing. But a similar craze in medical education for “practicality” has changed things such that many, many students …

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June 18, 2012, 6:50 pm

The University of Virginia and the Moneychangers in the Temple

The University of Virginia, 1826

The President of the University of Virginia, Teresa Sullivan, was forced out last week, after mere moments on the job. She was not, it seems, sufficiently business-minded for the University’s Board of Visitors, not sufficiently in tune with the “strategic dynamism” needed in these challenging times.

If this seems woolly, it is. The board, despite a storm of bad publicity, has refused to outline anything more specific. What information is available comes mostly from a leaked email (that pesky “reply all” button bites someone again). If the timing seems short, it is. The organizers of the coup d’academic must have started a while back, having decided that Sullivan, in the months she had been in office, had not turned the ship of the University sufficiently quickly. If this seems to have been mishandled, it was. The Board does not seem to…

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June 11, 2012, 4:39 pm

“The real meaning of academic freedom.”

On Friday, UC Davis Provost Ralph Hexter issued this statement on academic freedom:

In March, 1953 the Association of American Universities (AAU) adopted a statement articulating “The Rights and Responsibilities of Universities and Their Faculties.” It includes these words: “A university must … be hospitable to an infinite variety of skills and viewpoints, relying upon open competition among them as the surest safeguard of truth. Its whole spirit requires investigation, criticism, and presentation of ideas in an atmosphere of freedom and mutual confidence. This is the real meaning of ‘academic’ freedom.”

A committee of our campus’s Academic Senate has devoted considerable time and effort to examining an assertion by a faculty member of the UC Davis School of Medicine that his academic freedoms were compromised by school administrators. Our Senate’s Representative Assembly earlier…

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May 29, 2012, 8:27 pm

Powerful Stench

(Much of this came in my comments on Eric’s post, but I wanted to highlight it on the front page)

The California Association of Scholars’ report that Eric so ably dissects in the previous post is particularly misleading in another way. The report makes a big issue of the fact that neither history department it cites looks at the broad sweep of American history, instead choosing to focus on marginalized and oppressed groups. To steal Eric’s quotes:

For example, at UC San Diego in the fall of 2010 nine upper division courses in American History were offered, but one looks in vain for any course that provides a connected view of the sweep of American history, and of how it came to develop so rapidly from an insignificant cluster of colonies to the nation which is economically, militarily, and culturally the most powerful and influential in the world…and…UC Santa Cruz’s American his…

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May 25, 2012, 12:53 pm

My new course will be titled “US History: The Awesomeness of Awesome Americans.”

Updated to add, “Hello, Paul Krugman readers!”1

“A Crisis of Competence,” which bills itself as “A Report Prepared for the Regents of the University of California by the California Association of Scholars, A Division of the National Association of Scholars,” (hereafter CAS, for short) has garnered a great deal of attention. It was, apparently, the basis for Rick Santorum’s laughably false claims that California’s universities do not teach US history – though to be fair to the report, Santorum evidently misunderstood what was in it. It was the subject of an April 1 news story (no, not an April Fool’s) in the Los Angeles Times. And it was the basis for a May 20 op-ed in the LA Times. To be fair to the LA Times, its own editorial, on April 7, was skeptical of the report, describing it as “a mélange of anecdotes.”

This is correct: the paper’s methodology is highly suspect,…

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May 11, 2012, 4:35 am

Universitas 21 ranks US no. 1 in higher ed – on some counts.

Universitas 21, which is “an international network of 23 [sic] leading research-intensive universities in fifteen countries,” says:

Overall, the top five countries, nominally providing the ‘best’ higher education were found to be the United States, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Denmark. However, broken down into the smaller sections, it was interesting to see that the US, traditionally seen as a country with one of the strongest education systems, did not always hit the top spot. Government funding of higher education as a percentage of GDP is highest in Finland, Norway and Denmark. Taking private expenditure into account changed this significantly: on that measure funding is highest in the United States, South Korea, Canada and Chile, unsurprising, given the structure in these counties.

Some other interesting findings showed that investment in Research and Development is highest…

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May 10, 2012, 2:38 am

Ban college gridders – FNL scribe.

… college football has no academic purpose. Which is why it needs to be banned … Who truly benefits from college football? Alumni who absurdly judge the quality of their alma mater based on the quality of the football team. Coaches such as Nick Saban of the University of Alabama and Bob Stoops of the University of Oklahoma who make obscene millions. The players themselves don’t benefit, exploited by a system in which they don’t receive a dime of compensation. The average student doesn’t benefit, particularly when football programs remain sacrosanct while tuition costs show no signs of abating as many governors are slashing budgets to the bone.

If the vast majority of major college football programs made money, the argument to ban football might be a more precarious one. But too many of them don’t—to the detriment of academic budgets at all too many schools.

What fresh…

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May 2, 2012, 8:29 pm

Committee work.

The Executive Council of the UC Davis Academic Senate has just handed down its findings (pdf) regarding the events of of November 18 (we speak of that day in hushed tones around here).  The findings include the report of a Senate subcommittee on which I served, so perhaps I shouldn’t say anything beyond that.

For Edge-related background, see here.

April 12, 2012, 10:41 am

Collected press reax to Reynoso report.

Some press reactions to the Reynoso report below.

Obviously as one of the report’s authors, I don’t have much of substance to say; I think the thing speaks for itself. Some people seem disappointed that the report didn’t call for anyone’s head. The task force was specifically charged not to recommend disciplinary action, just to assign responsibility. It’s up to the university and community to do something with it.

Sacramento Bee: UC Davis pepper spray debacle belongs to Katehi

San Francisco Chronicle: UC Davis’ failure of leadership

Los Angeles Times: Pepper spray report sharply criticizes UC Davis leaders, police

NPR’s The Two-Way: Report Faults UC Davis Administrators, Police In Pepper Spray Incident

Kansas City Star: CA university slammed for pepper-spraying students

News10: Task force releases report on UC Davis pepper spray incident

April 11, 2012, 2:35 pm

Pepper-spray report released.

For those with an interest in the findings of the commission on the UC Davis pepper-spray incident of November 18, 2011, the report is now available.

April 5, 2012, 5:33 pm

What do you mean, “next”? More on the GOP and the UC.

Sara Robinson asks of Rick Santorum’s false claims about the UC and US history, “Did Rick Santorum just declare the next right-wing crusade?”

The thing to remember is this: Even though right-wing narratives are often factually wrong, they are absolutely never content-free. Stories like this are always about something. And the weirder and more factually challenged they sound to liberal ears, the more important it probably is for us to know what that something is.… This is almost always a clear sign that conservatives are lining up their artillery — in this case, for an open assault on America’s public colleges and universities.

The thing is, the artillery have already been lined up and firing for years. The UC has already been drastically cut. Student tuition and fees are, notoriously, “hella high” – and rising. There’s no sense in which this is the “next” crusade. It’s ongoing.

April 4, 2012, 5:14 pm

“Hmm. At UC Davis you get an F if you’re not gay.”

April 2, 2012, 7:06 pm

Whatever else is in Rick Santorum, the truth about California universities isn’t.

Rick Santorum:

I was just reading something last night from the state of California. And that the California universities – I think it’s seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It’s not even available to be taught. Just to tell you how bad it’s gotten in this country, where we’re trying to disconnect the American people from the roots of who we are, so they have an understanding of what America should be.

I suppose that narrowly speaking, he might not be lying: he might have read “something … from the state of California” that said this. That something might of course have been scrawled in green crayon on a crumpled paper bag.

But there is certainly no substantial truth in this statement, especially the notion that either of the “California system[s] of universities” is “trying to disconnect the American people…

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November 28, 2011, 9:55 am

And yet there are those who love it.

Spoiled for quadrangles by my past college experience, I could not help note on first study that the quad at UC Davis has no campanile or carillon; its clock chimes come from some hidden electronic facsimile. Its oldest buildings are the prosaically named North and South Hall, of 1908-12 vintage; most of what surrounds it are hunkering mid-century hit-or-miss structures.

November 27, 2011, 11:42 am

One sunny mornin’ we’ll rise I know.

UPDATE: Berkeley’s Academic Senate has amended its proposed resolution to exclude the “no confidence” provision.

Further on up the road, at Berkeley, Michael O’Hare has these things to say about Occupy in the context of the Academic Senate taking up a resolution of no confidence in the Chancellor there.