In over 35 years of friendship and conversation, Walter Michaels and I have disagreed on only two things, and one of them was faculty and graduate student unionization. He has always been for and I had always been against. I say “had” because I recently flipped and what flipped me, pure and simple, was Wisconsin. When I think about the reasons (too honorific a word) for my previous posture I become embarrassed. ... The big reason was the feeling — hardly thought through sufficiently to be called a conviction — that someone with an advanced degree and scholarly publications should not be in the same category as factory workers with lunch boxes and hard hats. Wisconsin has taught Stanley Fish that academics are workers too. Marc Bousquet (author of How the University Works) responds at the Chronicle of Higher Education with five lessons for academics from Wisconsin.
Professor Sheila Addison was fired from John F. Kennedy University for performing in a burlesque revue. Steven Stargardter, president of the university, said that her actions brought “public disrespect, contempt and ridicule to the university”, although she never publicized the show on campus, discussed it with students or identified her affiliation with JFK when she performed. Meanwhile, a male colleague in another department was performing at the same time in a one-man show in which he was partially nude, and he publicized his show on campus and invited students and colleagues. He was not disciplined.
In February, a political and academic scandal broke in Germany when it turned out that the defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had plagiarized parts of his doctoral dissertation, defended in 2006 and published as a book in 2009. Guttenberg, who had initially denied the allegations and maintained his popularity despite the scandal, resigned on 1 March. [more inside]
Some Social Scientists Claim Pervasive Bias in the Academe Discrimination is always high on the agenda at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s conference, where psychologists discuss their research on racial prejudice, homophobia, sexism, stereotype threat and unconscious bias against minorities. But the most talked-about speech at this year’s meeting, which ended Jan. 30, involved a new “outgroup.”
American academic Frances Fox Piven has been heavily criticised by Glenn Beck as a threat to the American way of life. She is not for turning.
Real Men Find Real Utopias Historian reviews new book by bigshot sociologist Erik Olin Wright and gives it a thorough drubbing. Wishes sociology could be like it used to be, with more history and better English. Via ALDaily.
PhDChallenge.org proposed a challenge: To have the phrase "I smoke crack rocks" included in a peer reviewed academic paper. The winner is Gabriel Parent from Carnegie Mellon, who included it in his paper [PDF].
"The purposes of the Association shall be to advanceAt this year's meeting of the American Anthropological Association, the organization's board adopted a new mission statement whose description of its goals omitted all mention of anthropology as a science. An online debate ensued. Some researchers in the anthropological sciences are upset about the changes, while right-wing culture warriors see it as another salvo in the "science wars" or the takeover of the discipline by "fluff-head cultural anthropological types who think science is just another way of knowing." Other anthropologists think this is an opportunity to broaden the discipline and embrace non-scientific forms of knowledge. [more inside]
anthropology as the science that studiespublic understanding of humankind in all its aspects."
"We realized we'd never seen a Coming Out Day feature dedicated to the experiences of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered persons in the sciences and engineering." Science journalist Steve Silberman interviews Neena Schwartz, and gathers personal stories from Eric Patridge (President of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Tomlinson Holman (inventor of the THX Sound System), and others. [more inside]
Sabotage in the lab. "As the problems mounted, Ames was getting agitated. She was certain that someone was monkeying with her experiments, but she had no proof and no suspect. Her close friends suggested that she was being paranoid." Scientific research collides with human nature.
After five years of number-crunching and methodological controversy, the NRC's rankings of US graduate programs were released today, three years after the target date and fifteen since the previous ranking. Peruse the results at phds.org. Instead of numerical ratings, the NRC released two rankings, the "R-ranking" and the "S-ranking", each one with a wide error bar around it. Confused yet? Brian Leiter thinks the philosophy rankings "qualify as somewhere between "odd" and "inexplicable."" The University of Washington's CS department says their ranking of 15-32 is "clearly erroneous." Obviously, the only appropriate response is to compute asymptotic formulae for the number of possible fuzzy rankings.
One psychology professor, looking at the oversupply of PhDs for a very limited number of academic jobs, thinks that programs should simply stop admitting PhD students, and has decided not to add any others to her own lab.
Who comes up with that annual list of generational markers that aims to help college faculty better understand their incoming freshmen? These guys do. [more inside]
Using its College Results Online database, The Education Trust has released two reports examining the black-white and Hispanic-white college graduation gap. The worst offenders? Wayne State University in Detroit, where fewer than one in ten African-American students graduate in six years, and CUNY Brooklyn College, where 19% less Hispanic students graduate on-time than whites. [more inside]
As translation contretemps go, the one surrounding French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) and her foundational work of modern feminism, Le Deuxième Sexe, first published in two volumes in French in 1949, remains one of the most tempestuous and fascinating. For decades, Beauvoir scholars in the English-speaking world bemoaned, attacked, and sought to replace the widely used 1953 translation by H.M. Parshley (1884-1953), a zoologist at Smith College who knew little philosophy or existentialism, had never translated a book from French, and relied mainly on his undergraduate grasp of the language. A few years back, they succeeded in getting the rights holders [...] to commission a new translation. [... But] Norwegian Beauvoir scholar Toril Moi, a professor at Duke and one of the foremost critics of Parshley's translation, savaged the new version in the London Review of Books. [...] How everyone involved got from vituperative discontent to hopeful triumph and back to discontent makes an instructive tale in itself and offers some lessons for what matters and doesn't in the evolution of a classic.
The Real Science Gap:
“There is no scientist shortage,” declares Harvard economics professor Richard Freeman, a pre-eminent authority on the scientific work force. Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a leading demographer who is also a national authority on science training, cites the “profound irony” of crying shortage — as have many business leaders, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates — while scores of thousands of young Ph.D.s labor in the nation’s university labs as low-paid, temporary workers, ostensibly training for permanent faculty positions that will never exist.
Mendeley is a cross-platform research management tool which features article databasing, PDF annotation, online backup, private, shared and public collections, metadata lookup on Google Scholar, direct exporting of multiple citation styles to Word, OpenOffice and BibTex, the ability to add documents directly from a web browser, and social networking with other members in your field of study. Like Zotero (previously), but out of the browser and with note-taking abilities. For Windows, Mac and Linux.
arXiv vs snarXiv. "A random high-energy theory paper generator incorporating all the latest trends, entropic reasoning, and exciting moduli spaces". [more inside]
"It would take a lot to get me back to a conventional form of grading ever again." Cathy Davidson, an English professor at Duke, teaches a seminar in which final grades are determined by fellow students. She writes about the experience in Inside Higher Ed. (Thoughts by Duke faculty about the philosophy of grading previously on MetaFilter.)
The professor, his wife, and the secret, savage book reviews on Amazon 'An extraordinary literary "whodunnit" over the identity of a mystery reviewer who savaged works by some of Britain's leading academics on the Amazon website has culminated in a top historian admitting that the culprit was, in fact, his wife.'
Dissertations on His Dudeness. (SLNYT) Descriptions of a new book of academic essays on The Big Lebowski such as: "“ ‘The Big Lebowski’ and Paul de Man: Historicizing Irony and Ironizing Historicism”
Pootwattle the Virtual Academic(TM) says: The conceptual logic of millennial hedonism is often found in juxtaposition with, if not in direct opposition to, the sublimation of difference. [more inside]
Zaytuna College in Berkeley, CA will accept its first students in the fall of 2010 or 2011. Founded by Sheik Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir, it will be the first accredited Islamic college in the United States, open to men and women of all religions.
Louis Crompton, the author of Homosexuality and Civilization and Byron and Greek Love, has died. [more inside]
The 2004 Intelligence Authorization Act included funding for a pilot program that provided scholarships in exchange for recipients completing at least one summer internship in the intelligence agencies. The Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP) was praised in National Review but criticized by humanities organizations as a threat to academic integrity. The 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act [400kb pdf] submitted to Congress by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair makes the program a permanent budget item. [more inside]
Digital Research Tools (DiRT) is a wiki created by Lisa Spiro, director of Rice University's Digital Media Center. Tons of "snapshot reviews of software that can help researchers" are categorized by what you're trying to accomplish ("Analyze Statistics," "Network With Other Researchers," "Search Visually"), as well as by general topic ("Authoring," "Linguistic Tools," "Text Analysis"). Via
"What are the new liberal arts?", asks SnarkMarket, inspired by Jason Kottke's tagline and Edge. The blog post has turned into a pitch for a new collaborative book, with spirited discussions and over 100 suggestions including photography, design, relationships, mythology, intuitive thinking, synthesis, knowledge mastery, search, archiving, play, and home economics.
Dave Chalmers has just launched PhilPapers, a directory of nearly 200,000 online papers in philosophy. This is a jawdropping and amazing resource for philosophical research. For evidence of the scope of this project and the care that has been given to it, see the taxonomy of philosophy that was developed for the site.
"...the best place to hide bulls**t is in a refereed journal that’s not open-access!" The math-physics blog n-category cafe digs into the curious case of M.S. El Naschie. El Naschie is editor-in-chief of the journal Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals, published by the well-respected scientific publisher Elsevier and sold to academic libraries for US$4,520 a year. The problem? El Naschie has published 322 of his own papers in the journal -- papers that John Baez (of "This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics" and "The Crackpot Index") describes as "vague, dreamlike imagery," "undisciplined numerology larded with impressive buzzwords," and "total baloney." Is El Naschie a reverse Sokal? Or a Markov process for producing random publishable papers? One thing's for sure -- he knows how to cure cancer.
A math professor was explaining a particularly complicated calculus concept to his class when a frustrated pre-med student interrupts him. "Why do we have to learn this stuff?" the pre-med blurts out. The professor pauses, and answers matter-of-factly: "Because math saves lives." "How?" demanded the student. "How on Earth does calculus save lives?" "Because," replied the professor, "it keeps certain people out of medical school."
Randy Pausch, who became famous for his "last lecture" after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, has died at 47. (previously) The last lecture video went viral in late 2007. Pausch became a minor celebrity and made a commencement address at Carnegie Mellon which also gained media attention. Homepage (currently being overwhelmed) and Wikipedia.
Historian Robert Irwin reviews two books critical of Edward Said's Orientalism. Irwin's own critique received positive and mixed reviews. In this brief interview, Said explains what he was trying to do in Orientalism.
When your research subjects notice you watching.... The fine folks over at Little Green Footballs discovered "a pile of results and code" from an observation of their on-line discourse on a server at Carnegie Mellon. That led to a heated thread of sometimes paranoid speculation that eventually calmed down (somewhat) when the researcher's academic advisors posted a good-natured mea-culpa (wea-culpa?) and explanation.
Bioculture critiques Cultural Critique Until literature departments take into account that humans are not just cultural or textual phenomena but something more complex, English and related disciplines will continue to be the laughingstock of the academic world that they have been for years because of their obscurantist dogmatism and their coddled and preening pseudo-radicalism. Until they listen to searching criticism of their doctrine, rather than dismissing it as the language of the devil, literature will continue to be betrayed in academe, and academic literary departments will continue to lose students and to isolate themselves from the intellectual advances of our time.
Ancient manuscripts lost and found, Nazis, academic backstabbing, religious fundamentalism - something for everyone in this story. (And count on Spengler for some controversial thoughts on what it all means)
Advice on Academic Job Talk Visits by Siva Vaidhyanathan.
Insightful, sociological, bitter: A scholar reflects back on her entry into the academic 'mommy track.' An interesting blend of meditation-on-resentment and just-plain-resentment, worth a read both intentionally and un-. [via] [more inside]
Randy Pausch is a pioneer in virtual reality, a computer science professor, a Disney Imagineer, an innovative teacher, and the co-founder of the best video game school in the world. One year ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after a long and difficult fight he's been given just a few more months to live. This week he gave his powerful, funny, and life-affirming last lecture to a packed auditorium at Carnegie Mellon University, entitled "How to Live Your Childhood Dreams". The WSJ's summary, and a direct link to the complete video of the lecture (2 hours, and unfortunately streaming WMV). Warning: hilarious jokes about dying.
The set of all-things-not-doctoral-dissertations, as a logician might say, has a vast and varied membership. Ocean liners, the square root of minus one, and pickled herring spring to mind.
Amusing notes on the requirements for a doctoral thesis in theology at Fordham University This is actually from the Graduate Student Handbook.
Turns out that Golden Globe-winning actress Natalie Portman (formerly known as Natalie Hershlag) is quite an accomplished scholar. In addition to being a Harvard psychology student, she worked in Dr. Abigail Baird's research lab and was the co-author of a peer-reviewed journal article investigating the neuroscience underlying the development of object permanence in infants. Quite impressive, in an age where Lindsay Lohans and Paris Hiltons dominate the headlines.
So you want to write a textbook? Take advice from N. Gregory Mankiw who got a $1.4m advance for his book on economics. Try some advice from Garrett Bauman who says no to originality or David A Rees who says the opposite. Maybe you just need a dose of reality from the bitter guy.
"There's a game of water Quidditch going on in the swimming pool." Harry Potter, fandom, and academia.
"... Everyone needs an escape. It just amazes me that for 1,200 people this involves sitting in darkened rooms listening to presentations on Harry Potter and the Sanctity of Everyday Life: JK Rowling's Complex Treatment of the Trope of Normalcy." Carole Cadwalladr covers Lumos 2006 for the Guardian. [via]
Silence in class. "University professors denounced for anti-Americanism; schoolteachers suspended for their politics; students encouraged to report on their tutors. Are US campuses in the grip of a witch-hunt of progressives, or is academic life just too liberal?" From today's Guardian.
Camille Paglia: WHAT went wrong at Harvard? "Over the past 40 years, there has been a radical expansion of administrative bureaucracies on American college campuses that has distorted the budget and turned education toward consumerism, a checkbook alliance with parents who are being bled dry by grotesquely exorbitant tuitions."
[TotalitarianismFilter] Don't be asking your college librarian for a copy of that Little Red Book to do a class assignment, or your parents might get a visit from the good folks at the Department of Homeland Security. More evidence that the Bush administration cannot restrain itself when granted enhanced surveillance powers.
"Virtual Virus Sheds Light on Real-Life Behavior." A researcher at Tufts University's Center for the Modelling of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Nina Fefferman, is studying the behavior of World Of Warcraft players during the recent plague that broke out in Ironforge (discussed on Metafilter here.) But Dr. Fefferman is not the first academic to study MMORPGs seriously. Edward Castronova, an economist, arguably pioneered the field with his 2001 paper Virtual Worlds, in which he argues that the economy in Everquest produced a GNP per capita somewhere between that of Russia and Bulgaria. (He has followed up that paper with many more on similar subjects.)