Saturday, January 18, 2003 :::
"IF DERRIDA IS A FRAUD, and he most definitely is, how has he managed to hoodwink so many highly credentialed academics, especially those trained in literary criticism, art history, film studies, psychology, sociology, linguistics, and (lately) legal theory? In this regard, it should be noted that his influence among professional philosophers has been minimal. When Derrida was awarded an honorary degree from Cambridge University in 1992, 20 of the world's most-prominent philosophers --including W. V. Quine and Ruth Barcan Marcus-- signed a letter of protest which is worth quoting at length..."
Wednesday, January 15, 2003 :::
"[Q]UOTA SYSTEMS that use race to include or exclude people from higher education and the opportunities it offers are divisive, unfair and impossible to square with the Constitution." Dixit President Bush, who has ordered an amicus brief against the University of Michigan's affirmative action program. Only weeks after the Lott debacle, Bush makes an honorable and courageous stand.
ERIN O'CONNOR is on a roll at her edu-blog "Critical Mass". Don't miss any of her excellent posts on Brooklyn College, bad teaching at Harvard, a silly sexual harrasment case at UMichigan, and other great stuff. Best sentence: "A cynic would say that UM is reaping what it sows: that spurious but damaging suits that convert minor annoyances, personal baggage, and psychic fragility into epic tales of oppression and discrimination are the just desserts of a campus atmosphere organized around racial preferences and all the inequity and intellectual dishonesty that comes with them." Read it all.
Tuesday, January 14, 2003 :::
THE TIMES THEY'RE A-CHANGING. Uproar in Berkeley, where the university has refused to allow a fund-raising appeal for the "Emma Goldman Papers Project" to be mailed out because the appeal quoted Goldman, a Russian-American anarchist, on the suppression of free speech and her opposition to war. One the faulted quotes urged people who were "not yet overcome by war madness to raise their voice of protest, to call the attention of the people to the crime and outrage which are about to be perpetrated on them." In light of the coming war against Iraq, the university found the quotes by Goldman inappropriate for an official university soliciation. I don't want to comment on the free speech issues involved, but it's interesting to note the broader cultural point that even at Berkeley adminstrators feel the need to avoid overtly political statements. It sure isn't 1964 anymore. UPDATE: Prof. Volokh has a good post on the free speech issues involved.
OOPS. Well, my last post is definitely the biggest blunder in the history of this blog. Unfortunately, our friend from Chicago's scathing post prevents me from silently correcting the error in my last post. Instead of the late Shirley Robin Letwin, the name that has been floated for a female Chancellor of Oxford University is that of Shirley Williams. Not someone yours truly would endorse. But there is more. I just saw the following report testifying to Bill Clinton's obsessive attention to detail with respect to the building of his presidential library. "He's the most hands-on guy ever," according to the foreman. So much for my statement that Clinton is temperamentally incapable of actually sitting down, and grinding away at a long-term project that requires a lot of attention to interminable detail, with the brunt of the work to be done outside of the spotlight. What's the expression again, eating humble pie? Lots and lots and lots of it....
Monday, January 13, 2003 :::
ALTHOUGH I LOOKED long and hard, I can detect no cynicism in the previous post, endorsing Mrs Letwin's candidacy for Chancellor. Ah, where to begin the rebuttals? Well, for starters there is the inconveniency that Mrs Letwin died in 1993 (see also here). As I said, I detected no cynicism in the previous post. If I had, I would have suggested that our man in Oxford, by nominating a deceased scholar of distinction, had all but given up hope on the prospects of the oldest university in the English speaking world. But perhaps I am wrong: perhaps there is another significant Shirley Robin Letwin ready to rise to the challenge.
ALTHOUGH I LOOKED long and hard, I can detect no cynicism in the previous post, endorsing Mr Clinton's run to be Chancellor. Ah, where to begin the rebuttals? For starters, the Chancellor of the University does two things: hob-nob with the great and good on behalf of the University; and second, raise money. Actual policy is all in the hands of the Vice-Chancellor, which unlike the Chancellorship is a full-time position. Second, I think it's delusional to think that Bill Clinton is temperamentally capable of actually sitting down, and grind away at a long-term project, requiring a lot of attention to interminable detail, with the brunt of the work to be done outside of the spotlight. Mr Clinton would undoubtedly be a major fundraiser (although he might equally put people off, of the type of this correspondent), but other than that, I cannot imagine he would involve himself in the process. The man primarily wants to have fun, but likes the idea of doing so protected by some august institution. That's why he subsequently raped the reputation of the Rhodes Scholarship (where he failed to get a degree, but was protected from Vietnam), Yale Law School (which he selected because it was pass/fail, and so allowed him to campaign full-time in Connecticut instead of reading cases), and the White House (no comment). He simply seeks the comfort Oxford's reputation can bring him, but he is certainly not going to devote his time actually reforming Oxford. I hear people are thinking about nominating Shirley Robin Letwin. Now, there's a woman of style! If Oxford wants to seriously reform --and arrest its current decline-- it should appoint a Vice Chancellor who wants to do what needs to be done.
Sunday, January 12, 2003 :::
OXFORD'S CLINTON CHALLENGE. Cambridge is far better organized, both financially and institutionally, than Oxford, which has lately proven notoriously incapable of reform. On the upshot, therefore, if Clinton were to become Chancellor, he might throw his weight around to demand serious changes. It would be a quid pro quo: 'Oxford can have my name, but if I'm to be associated with this place for thirty years, let's make sure it remains as prestigious as it likes to think of itself.' On the downside, however, a Clinton Chancellorship might fuel Oxford's exercise in continued self-delusion, convincing the university that it does not need to reform after all. Did they not just sign up a former American President? Depressingly, in this respect Oxford might see a Clinton Chancellorship as a quid pro quo as well: 'You, disgraced former President, can have our prestigious name, so now leave us alone.' On balance, however, I favor a Clinton Chancellorship. The former President always wanted a legacy. What better legacy than using his boundless charm and popularity to help Oxford survive the beginning of the 21st century as a first-rate university? If this role for Clinton required more powers for the Chancellor, so be it. If he were Chancellor, in order to cajole the dons into reform (including reform to give him more powers) Clinton could always threaten to embarrass the university by taking the one step he refused to take in the White House: resign.
THE CLINTON BACKLASH? "We need a woman chancellor, not a womanising chancellor", according to dons cited in the traditionalist Sunday Telegraph. But don't trust any of the articles appearing about Oxford's new chancellor. Its new democratic procedure means that no one knows who might emerge as credible candidates. The dons will not be able to control this process. So, the biggest news from this article is not its headline, but the confirmation that Mr Clinton is actively interested in and pursuing the nomination. Be very afraid -- Clintons tend to win elections!