It’s a little known fact that Plato’s truly last and final dialogue was called “The Coronavirus,” took place on a college campus in north Jersey, featured a protagonist named “Khawaja,” and had a soundtrack by Ozzy:
Student 1, walking down the quad: So Khawaja, are we closing or not?
Khawaja: I don’t know.
Student 2: You don’t know? What do you mean you don’t know?
Khawaja: I don’t know.
If you want to see the unconcealed essence of American higher education in action, pay attention to one simple contrast: As the coronavirus spreads, universities across the land are either closing or contemplating closure. But “closure” doesn’t quite mean closure; it means “continuity of instruction” for the duration of the public health crisis. So faculty and staff are struggling to convert on-ground classes to an online format, in order to maintain “continuity of instruction.” Not easy, not fun, but necessary. Continue reading
A colleague of mine went to India over Christmas break, and gifted me a box of Indian sweets–laddu, barfi, and the like. I gluttonously consumed two-thirds of the box a few minutes after receiving the gift. I then put the box in the fridge of our faculty lounge, thinking I’d eat the rest the next day. I open the fridge just now, and it’s gone. And no, it can’t be a mistake. So yeah, it was stolen–as in theft, larceny, crime. It was in a distinctive gift box, and was virtually the only thing in the fridge. And it had to have been stolen by a faculty member, because the door to the lounge has a combination lock known (or presumably known) only to faculty. I guess Maintenance has access as well, but I simply don’t believe Maintenance would do something like this.
What manner of depravity is this? What kind of colleagues would steal a gift out of the faculty lounge–at a Franciscan school? Is nothing sacred?
An excellent (and for me, live) question on Facebook care of Mark LeVine, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at UC Irvine:
So, fellow academics — The new quarter/semester starts, you get an active duty or reserve service member in your class who might be deployed because of this nightmare Trump is so gleefully creating for us. Do you reach out to her/him and advise/urge/suggest that s/he refuse to deploy for anything related to a war with Iran, explaining that such a war would be a crime against humanity? Or do you wait for them to come to you if they so choose?
I rarely praise university administrators, but then, I rarely have the opportunity to do so. For once, an opportunity presents itself:
The provost did not mince her words about the opinions of a professor on her campus. His views were racist, sexist and homophobic, she wrote in a statement this week. They were “vile and stupid,” she said, and “more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.”
But the provost, Lauren Robel of Indiana University Bloomington, was equally clear on another point: The First Amendment prohibited the university from firing the professor, Eric Rasmusen, for expressing those views. “That is not a close call,” wrote Professor Robel, who also teaches at the law school.
The unusually candid statement quickly drew attention from students, academics and lawyers, many of whom praised the provost for publicly excoriating the professor’s opinions while respecting one of the nation’s basic freedoms.
For once, a provost who’s struck the right balance between bureaucratic amoralism and opportunistic, pseudo-moralistic pandering. She’s absolutely right: firing Rasmusen is not a close call; neither is condemning him. The only close call is whether he should have been hired in the first place, but that ship has sailed. Continue reading
Are my academic experiences just totally idiosyncratic or does shit like this happen to anyone else?
I’m walking back from class into the building that houses my office. Through the glass of the front door, I see some students–three young women–walking toward me. So like the gentleman that I am, I open the door for them, and the first two file through, thanking me in turn. The third, whom I don’t know and have never met, thanks me as well, then conspicuously looks me up and down and says: “Wow, you have lost some serious weight! You look good! Keep it up!” Then insouciantly walks away.
What do you do with fulsome flattery when it’s transparently false? (I haven’t lost a pound in months.) Do you accept it and hope that others are deceived by it as well? Or do you suspect that you’re subtly being made fun of? Or do you just walk away in bemused consternation and wait for the next thing?
Classic moments in academic life: I go to the local YMCA last night to do a workout. The young woman at the check-in desk looks vaguely familiar. I’m pretty sure she’s a former Felician student of mine, but can’t quite remember her name. I check in without mentioning this fact, and she checks me in without mentioning it, either–but we both do double-takes indicating (vague) mutual recognition.
I do my workout, and finally decide that I can’t leave the Y without somehow alluding to the Felician connection we have in common. So I leave by way of the entrance where she was sitting, and it turns out that she’s still there. “You were a student of mine at Felician,” I say by way of re-introduction, “but I’m sorry I don’t remember your name.” She smiles, gives her name, and without irony or self-consciousness says, “Yeah, I was a student at Felician, and I had something with you.” Continue reading
A moral disaster in the making. Please share and consider signing the petition and/or making some other sort of contribution.
Students have launched an urgent campaign to save their teacher who faces the death penalty in Egypt following what human rights groups say was a sham trial to punish him for political activism. His asylum application was just denied and he was put in immigration detention two weeks ago.
Backgrounder from northjersey.com. Backgrounder from HuffPost. From Carbonated.TV. Editorial from the Newark Star-Ledger. From Jersey City Patch.
Change.org petition, signed by PoT’s own David Riesbeck and yours truly.
I’d like to think that the prospect of an actual death sentence will get as much coverage as the hypothetical hanging that got Kevin Williamson fired from The Atlantic. But I somehow doubt it. These deportation cases have all become a dime a dozen. Continue reading
All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place. –George Orwell, 1984
As readers of this blog know, on November 29, 2017, I was detained and interrogated for several hours by members of the Lodi Police Department and Bergen County Prosecutors Office on suspicion of being an “active shooter.” Though I was not formally charged with a crime, my detention was arguably tantamount to a full arrest: I was involuntarily transported from the original place of detention to a nearby police station, involuntarily held there for a few hours, and involuntarily questioned, despite repeated invocations of my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Eventually, I was released without further incident.
A few weeks ago, I sent Open Public Records Act requests to both agencies for documentation of my detention. The Lodi Police Department responded to my request with a 21 page document. The Bergen County Prosecutors Office responded with a one page letter. Both sets of documents are instructive, both for what they say and for what they omit. Continue reading
A passage from a blog post by Steve Horwitz at BHL:
Here are a few thoughts for college libertarians who are able to invite speakers to campus and how they might do so in the most productive ways.
Let me start by saying that the sort of interruptions we’ve seen this week with Yaron Brook and Christina Hoff Sommers are utterly unacceptable. Those who disrupt planned presentations with official permission to use space and students expecting a talk should be forcibly removed from the room and subject to the relevant disciplinary consequences. There should be no negotiating with anti-intellectual terrorists. They should feel free to ask questions when the time comes or protest outside the building in ways that do not prevent those who wish to attend from attending. No excuses.
A question for Horwitz et al: what if “those who disrupt planned presentations with official permission to use space” on campus call themselves “the Israel Defense Forces” (IDF) and are sent by something that calls itself the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria? Should they be “forcibly removed”? Forcibly removing them is what a policy of “no excuses” would really entail. Continue reading