...as told, quite honestly and accurately, by a former Admissions Dean at the University of Chicago. Having now been through two rounds of college applications, one for a child applying mostly to top private research universities, and one applying mostly to top private liberal arts colleges, I've gained a lot of insight into this process. I'll write more about it at a later date.
On Facebook, I've got, broadly speaking, three "kinds" of friends: academic lawyers, academic philosophers, and regular people (the latter category including some lawyers, relatives, neighbors etc.). The FB habits of these three groups are strikingly different.
Regular people use FB the way I thought it was supposed to be used (and the reason I joined): to post photos of kids and pets, recent vacations, occasionally a bit of personal or professional news. Academic philosophers do a little of that, and so do academic lawyers, but for most of them, that's only a small portion of their posting.
Academic philosophers increasingly treat FB like a blog, a forum for pontification about everything from real politics to academic politics. Until I realized I could "unfollow" people without "unfriending" them, I dumped a fair number of academic philosophers because their pontifications were so tiresome. My advice: get a blog! Anyone who wants to read me pontificating, can come here, but I don't impose it on my FB friends.
Academic lawyers do a fair bit of pontificating too, though not nearly as much as the academic philosophers, and theirs is almost always confined to real politics. The really revolting aspect of some academic philosopher behavior on FB is its "high school with tenure" quality: back-stabbing, preening and posturing, endless displays of righteousness and "pearl clutching", faux solidarity with all the oppressed and "wretched of the academy" (less often the actual wretched of the earth), and so on. An awful lot of academic philosophers on FB come across as teenagers desperately seeking approval and affirmation. I've managed to "unfriend" most of the offenders, but it was really a kind of depressing and sickening spectacle while it lasted.
Story at IHE, with some particularly interesting remarks by philosopher Talbot Brewer (Virginia); an excerpt:
For Talbot Brewer, professor and chair of philosophy at the University of Virginia, the liberal arts need saving in part from the “black mirrors” so many of us are glued to each day. Cellular phones, computers and, especially for children, television, facilitate a kind of “reverse-Weberian,” late capitalistic assault on our collective attention, he said. The effect is that we no longer know how to interact with the meaningful, valuable media that take time and effort to understand— that is, the bulk of what makes up the liberal arts.
Calling attention a “vital resource,” Brewer described it as “the medium of passion, of friendship, of love. The sign of our presence to one another, both in intimate spaces and in public. The antidote to listlessness and heedlessness.”
It’s also the prerequisite “for any concerted activity, including the activities of reading, viewing, critical thinking, writing and intensive conversational exchange that are central” to the liberal arts, he said.
So amid the clamor of “manipulative messages when there suddenly appears something quite different, something called literature, or art or philosophy, it is not easy to open ourselves to this newcomer,” Brewer continued. “The attentional environment has not encouraged the traits required for properly appreciate engagement — the habit of devoted attention, and of patience and generosity in interpretation, the openness to finding camaraderie and illumination from others in the more treacherous passages of human life [and] the expressive conscience that insists upon finding exactly the right words for incipient thoughts.”
In short, almost half the students are majoring in economic, biology or math. But some of my colleagues think this is typical of national trends, with students gravitating towards majors that purportedly lead to jobs (or, I guess, business school or medical school--or law school, if you add in poli sci). But barely 4% History majors, even though Chicago has one of the best history departments in the country? If you look at the core humanities fields, they account for just 12% of undergraduate majors. Do readers know of other data on undergraduate majors from other schools?
The concept of "diversity" as a positive good is now a commonplace in academia and beyond. But where did this "idea" come from? My assumption has always been that it derives from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bakke, a case challenging affirmative action for African-Americans at the medical school at the University of Calfornia, Davis. In the key opinion, written by Justice Lewis Powell (a successful lawyer from the heart of the old South, Richmond, before Nixon appointed him to the Court), the Court rejected the many sensible rationales for affirmative action policies (and "quotas" in particular): e.g., compensatory justice, counteracting continuing discrimination (absent a record that had to meet a rather high evidentiary bar). Instead, Justice Powell opined that "diversity" is a factor universities could rightly consider in admitting students, since that (purportedly) had some independent academic value (though not one to be realized by a "quota").
My question for readers, especially those older than I, is whether "diversity" as a concept with a positive valence has a history that pre-dates Bakke, or whether Bakke is really the key to understanding how "diversity" became such a pervasive concept and mantra in America?
Illinois Governor Bruce Ruaner recently appointed John C. Bambenek to the Illinois Board of Higher Education as the sole faculty representative. Many have criticized the move by claiming that Bambenek’s views aren’t representative of most faculty members. I claim this is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Bambenek should not be eligible to serve as the lone faculty representative to the IBHE since he isn’t even eligible to represent the University of Illinois faculty on their Senate.
The Illinois State Senate still has to approve Rauner’s appointment. State Senator Antonio Muñoz is the Chair of the Executive Appointment Committee. Professor Gay is sending letters to both Senator Muñoz and Governor Rauner objecting to Bambenek’s appointment. There is still time for philosophers, faculty, and citizens of Illinois to ask for an actual faculty member who understands the needs and concerns of faculty in Illinois to represent them on the IBHE.
An "open letter" from twenty-one law faculty--this largely (but not wholly) a group of right-leaning law professors, though many of the issues have been raised by others across the political spectrum in law.
The ramifications of this trend for the future of private higher education are grim. The U.S. is, at present, the only nation that enrolls a substantial portion of college-age students in institutions with 10:1 student-faculty ratios. It's hard to see how this will survive fifty years hence, outside the ranks of the super rich institutions that can effectively subsidize the students they want to enroll.
An apt commentary by a Yale undergraduate philosophy major in Boston Review. President Salovey's decision is so bizarre on its face that one can only surmise how many threats from rich alumni must have poured into his office. But even if Yale isn't quite as filthy rich as Princeton, it's surely filthy rich enough to be able to do the obvious thing in a case like this and tell a few alumni fat cats, "Sorry."
It is related to the incidents mentioned here. The allegations in this new case are, from what I can gather, much more serious than in prior cases. The interesting question will be how the university involved responds to a light being shone on events.
IHE has the story. And the data is bullshit: productivity without any screen for quality. The more shit shovelled per capita, the "better" a department is. Whoever cooked up this scam must be laughing all the way to the bank. But that some administrators actually pay for this is what's really amazing.
A new study finds no such effect. If it is accurate, that is hopeful: it may mean that norms, including the implicit ones, are changing in positive ways. Comments are open for any readers who know more about this latest study and its soundness.
It's hard to escape that conclusion after reading this account. And there's a sad lesson here, which is don't walk into a meeting with a former prosecutor hired to do an investigation by your university without having your own attorney present. What a shame that an apparently devoted teacher should be smeared by her institution.
(Thanks to several readers for sending this on; I'm sorry I only just got to read it.)
Votes of no confidence spread. President Cross is in a difficult situation; the Regents should all resign, they have more power and they have been complicit in laying the seeds for the destruction of what was a great state university system. Shame, shame.
Interesting piece, which helps explain why universities there seem to perform so much better than others in Spain. In our part of the academic world, we've seen this recently with the philosophers Carl Hoefer and Genoveva Marti, who recently moved to the University of Western Ontario, but are now returning to Barcelona.
This crazy legislation has passed in other benighted states (e.g., Texas), but lucky for Georgia, the Governor vetoed it; from his explanation for the veto (#9 at the link):
Perhaps the most enlightening evidence of the historical significance of prohibiting weapons on a college campus is found in the minutes of October 4, 1824, Board of Visitors of the newly created University of Virginia. Present for that meeting were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, along with four other members. In that meeting of the Board of Visitors, detailed rules were set forth for the operation of the University which would open several months later. Under the rules relating to the conduct of students, it provided that “No student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or venomous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind…”
The approval of these specific prohibitions relating to “campus carry” by the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the principal author of the United States Constitution should not only dispel any vestige of Constitutional privilege but should illustrate that having college campuses free of weapons has great historical precedent.
A press release here. I have not yet read the complaint, but assuming his tenure contract with Marquette includes standard AAUP protections for academic freedom, he has a good claim.
ADDENDUM: I'm astonished to see that Justin Weinberg (South Carolina) continues to assert, falsely, that Prof. McAdam's original blog post was inaccurate; in fact, it was almost entirely accurate. The faculty committee report from which he quotes is astonishing, a formal confirmation that Marquette University is not a serious university that values either academic freedom or free speech. (As an amusing aside, even the committee report acknowledges at the bottom of p. 152 that the existence of inaccuracies in the original blog post is irrelevant!) It as written as though there is some legal ambiguity about whether Prof. McAdam's extramural speech is legally protected by his contract with the university; there is not. It acts as though it is up to the committee to redraw the boundaries of academic freedom; it is not. If the contract incorporates the AAUP standards, then the matter is legally closed. Most astonishingly, it invents a new obligation, namely that when faculty speak extramurally, they "avoid recklessly causing [others] harm, even indirectly." It is a shame there won't be a photo of the look on the judge's face when he or she reads this interpretation of Marquette's contractual obligations to protect the academic freedom of Prof. McAdams. There is no extant interpretation of freedom of speech or academic freedom that would license such a restriction, and for the obvious reasons that it is too vague for anyone to be able to anticipate what speech it encompasses.
Story here. This is all very sad, considering that Madison has been one of the great state research universities in the country. Will they be in the top 20 a decade from now? We'll know within a year or two the fallout of all this turmoil--not that it will matter to lowlife ignoramuses like Scott Walker.
Reader David Gordon sends along this gem of a dustjacket blurb:
Theory of Identities is essential for those who work in Laruelle studies or whose work departs from the fundamental presuppositions of non-philosophy and non-standard philosophy. Indeed, this book constitutes the most illustrative proof that "non-philosophy is a synthesis of quantum theory and Marxism." It is a testimony of the dense complexity of Laruelle's genius combining methodologically uncompromising scientific rigor and transgressiveness of a mystic's glance into what most of us would choose to avert eyes from: the point where the comfort of neurosis ceases to exist, which is also the place where neurosis necessarily always already reestablishes itself.
(Katarina Kolozova, Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, Skopje)
One possibility is that Laruelle is as big a bullshitter as this blurb suggests; the other possibility is that Kolozova is the worst blurber in the history of blurbs. (Or maybe Kolozova studies with Michael Marder?)
Alas, the fired professor is a rather creepy piece of work, but his lawsuit clearly has merit. A state university can not fire a tenured professor for holding creepy views, and the justification given (failure to fill out some conflict of interest forms) is transparently pretextual. What the university should have done is initiated a normal process to evaluate his competence; his conspiracy theories clearly fall within the purview of his alleged scholarly research and expertise, and it presumably would have been straightforward to establish that he is not competent through a formal peer-review of his ideas (think of the denier of heliocentrism in the astronomy department, the intelligent design theorist in biology, or the alchemist in the chemistry department). Instead, in response to public pressure, they cooked up a justification for firing him based on failure to file some paperwork, even though it's obvious he was being punished for his constitutionally protected speech. My guess is that since FAU can afford to fight this for longer than the fired professor can, that he will end up getting a settlement of some kind.
Following up on last week's post about the latest AAAS elections, I thought I'd take a look at the institutional affiliations of five years' worth of elections. A quick note about how the AAAS process works (I owe most of this to the late Ruth Marcus, perhaps things have changed a lot in the last few years, that I do not know, but I will surely be corrected if so). Briefly, only current members can nominate new candidates for membership; nominees are vetted by a selection committee for each sub-field, which consists of four or five current members; nominees are then submitted to the entire membership for a vote (this means, e.g., that those outside philosophy can vote for nominees in philosophy); voting is on a scale, and if one gives the lowest score to a nominee (as I imagine Ruth did more than once!), you have to submit a written explanation with the negative vote; the vote of the entire membership, however, is not binding on the selection committee, which based on the vote, recommends new members (there is always some negotiation about how many each field is allowed to recommend for final membership each year--philosophy usually has at least five). Because the members of the selection committee in a given year is not a matter of public record, and since their influence on the final outcome is enormous, there are sometimes surprises in the results. That being said, patterns do become clear: e.g., after X is elected one year, one or two of his prominent students are elected a year or two later; after Y is elected one year, one or two of her colleagues are elected in the next couple of years. I've seen clear patterns of elections over a period of a few years involving, e.g., Christian philosophers, Kant scholars and Kantian moral philosophers, epistemologists, philosophers of physics, members of a particular department, and so on. At the end of the day, the main fault of the AAAS tends to involve sins of omission rather than inclusion (more on that in another post).
Although the list of new members 2012-2016 by institutional affiliation correlates fairly well with a ranking of leading American research universities based on reputation surveys, there are clear outliers at both ends (e.g., NYU, Northwestern, Cal Tech, Michigan, Texas). In the case of NYU, the explanation is probably that they have recruited senior superstars in various fields, but with a handful of exceptions (like philosophy), they have mostly been superimposed upon otherwise weak departments. In other cases, it may be that the faculties are really stronger than given credit for in reputational surveys (esp. the shoddy ones conducted by U.S. News). Finally, in some cases I expect the 'friends-of-friends' aspect of the AAAS either helps or hinders the school's performance.
Finally, note that there are fields or "sections" of the AAAS that are specific for law, for engineering, and for medicine: any school with these fields will be at an advantage in terms of potential electees.
1. Harvard University (56)
2. Stanford University (43)
3. Massachusetts of Institute of Technology (42) (no medical or law school)
4. University of California, Berkeley (35) (no medical school)
4. Yale University (35)
6. Princeton University (33) (no medical or law school)
7. University of Chicago (29) (no engineering)
8. New York University (26)
8. Northwestern University (26)
10. University of California, Los Angeles (24)
11. Columbia University (22)
12. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (17)
13. University of Pennsylvania (15)
14. Cornell University (14)
15. University of California, San Diego (12) (no law school)
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)