Category Archives: Uncategorized

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Ageism in Academe

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How a $47 Shrimp Treadmill Became a $3-Million Political Plaything

shrimp treadmillOver the past few years numerous media stories have surfaced about how hard-earned taxpayer dollars are supporting scientists who run shrimp on treadmills: Forbes.com listed shrimp-treadmill research as wasting $3-million in taxpayer dollars, AARP produced a nationally distributed commercial of lab-coat-wearing scientists running shrimp on treadmills to equate the lack of federal support for retiree health-care services to money spent on shrimp-treadmill research, and Mike Huckabee linked the Na…

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A University Is a Social Force

When the president of a university is dragged from his bed in the middle of the night and shot point-blank in his garden by an elite squad of the national military, we must pause to ask why.

This month the Universidad Centroamericana in El Salvador, known as UCA, will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the killings of eight people on its campus, including six Jesuit priests: the president, vice president, and leading faculty members. Universities—especially those of the Association of Jesu…

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My Book Got Optioned. Here’s What Happened.

On the day my book, Guyland, was published, my agent sold the film rights to Dreamworks.

I was speechless, a first for me. It was also pretty gratifying, because I had been fighting with my publisher for months over the title. They had wanted something like Almost Men, which I thought was a great title—if you happened to be writing a book for pre-operative FTMs. I’d been adamant. Guyland. When I spoke to the producer, they’d said they were captivated by the title. They hadn’t actually read t…

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In Praise of ‘Paper Space’

In the old school, a professor graded a student’s paper or essay test in what I call paper-space. That is, the student wrote and printed out an embodied object containing his work, complete (the professor hoped) with page numbers, staple, and a title page on which the student should have, at minimum, spelled the professor’s name correctly—something I cannot assume.

This is how many of us were initiated into the fine art of grading: Thoughts were inscribed in paper-space, and we responded in pape…

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UNC-Chapel Hill Should Lose Accreditation

The revelations from the report on the academic-fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been startling: More than 3,000 students over a period of 18 years were awarded grades and credit for nonexistent courses.

But much of what has been said and written to date about the extraordinary failures in ethics and oversight seems to miss both the seriousness of the misbehavior and the extent to which it strikes at the core of any college or university.

This is not chiefly …

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A Prophet of Higher Ed’s Financial Woes

Earl Cheit got it right.

His 1971 book, The New Depression in Higher Education, relied on good data to deliver the bad news that many American colleges were in financial trouble. The message was disconcerting, because most colleges had had a decade of full enrollments and major construction, combined with generous support from donors and state legislatures, and abundant federal grants for research. If there were problems in higher education, most news coverage focused on student protests.

Cheit …

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A Good, Dumb Way to Learn From Libraries

Too bad we can’t put to work the delicious usage data gathered by libraries.

Research libraries may not know as much as click-obsessed Amazon does about how people interact with their books. What they do know, however, reflects the behavior of a community of scholars, and it’s unpolluted by commercial imperatives.

But privacy concerns have forestalled making library usage data available to application developers outside the library staff, and often even within. And the data are the definition of…

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Don’t Ban Laptops in the Classroom

“I get it,” the professor for my short-story course said, going over the syllabus on the first day of class. She was referring to her cellphone policy, which is basically a have-some-sort-of-decorum-I-beg-you rule. She asks us to be polite and use our good judgement.

“This is second nature to you guys,” she said, holding an invisible phone in her hand. “When I was in college, I would daydream about that guy I’d been seeing,” picture him, “and I’d tune out the lecture to wonder if h…

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Why Freud Still Haunts Us

SigmundFor those of us prone to commemorations, it is a rich season. The beginning of the Great War 100 years ago, 70 years since the Normandy invasion, and the 50th anniversary of several major events in the American struggle for civil rights. September 23 marks 75 years since the death of Sigmund Freud.

Should we care? In many respects, Freud seems to be from another world. We know so much more now. Psychotropic medications are big business and are prescribed to ever-growing numbers of the “worried…