Protecting the 21st-Century Student-Athlete…..

No Joke:  A proposal to expand the NCAA College Football Playoff from 4 teams to 12 teams will be presented on June 22nd to the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the playoff system. 

If approved, the new arrangement would undoubtedly lengthen an already long college football season.  How can this be accomplished without jeopardizing the precious study time that today’s high-profile student-athletes devote to their courses?

Eric Barron, President of Penn State University and a member of the College Football Playoff’s Board of Managers, believes he has the answer:

Shorten the academic semester for ALL students.

“Really, this is a no-brainer,” says Barron.  “A semester usually lasts from 13 to 15 weeks.  Trust me, a lot of that time is filled with total crap.  I should know.  In my days as a full-time faculty member I taught more than my share of crap. 

“And let’s be honest.  Five years from now, over two-thirds of all Penn State undergrads will probably be majoring in E-Sports.  Hell, the content of a typical 3-credit E-Sports course can barely fill two lectures, including the hour it takes to explain our school’s policy on ‘trigger words’.  

“Let’s say we cut the semester down to 8 weeks.  Everyone could be done with their coursework and exams by Thanksgiving at the latest.  That would leave plenty of time to do justice to an expanded football season, with no annoying term-paper assignments floating around to distract players OR non-players.  It’s a win-win for all concerned.”

A reporter asked Barron if his proposal constituted additional evidence that capitalism’s rapacious lust for profits continues to dredge every bit of dignity and self-respect from the soul of higher education. 

Barron’s brow furrowed: 

“So, what’s your point?” 

 

 

Hue-niversity Life, 2021

In a recent installment of its “Race on Campus” column, The Chronicle of Higher Education examined the pros and cons of using the terms “minority,” “people of color,” and “Bipoc” to refer to groups of non-white individuals (June 8th online).  

The analysis presented is a valuable one, but it fails to explicitly discuss the linguistic challenge posed by another group that has been traditionally marginalized on college campuses: red-haired students.  As a service to University Life readers, here is an overview of the top 10 terms that professors employ when interacting with this population. 

Crimson Tide:  A respectful and empowering label, but it’s been trademarked by the University of Alabama, and their lawyers will sue you for invoking it if they find out.  Consider yourself warned. 

Merlots:  Associated with a popular red wine, this term is classy and highbrow.  However, many object that the word implies that all red-haired students are alcoholics.  Although most redheads do have serious drinking problems, a few do not. 

Red Delicious:  Favored by male professors who teach at women’s colleges in apple-growing regions of the country; increasingly regarded as offensive.  

Frecklers:  Capitalizes on the fact that red hair and freckles go together.  But not always.  This means that students with red hair but no freckles feel even further marginalized.  

Cardinalians:  Honors a bird of distinction, but representatives of the cardinal community, including the Audubon Society, have complained that the term unjustly appropriates avian identity for human purposes. 

Sunburners:  It’s true that individuals with red hair are especially vulnerable to sunburns.  Unfortunately, this makes the label a “trigger word” for many, bringing to the surface excruciating memories of the “scarlet hell” experienced after visits to the beach.  

Pippies:  Pippi Longstocking, a fictional Swedish character with red hair, is a beloved figure both within and outside the red-haired community.  “Pippies” is the term officially recognized for addressing red-haired students at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, a school with Swedish roots.  

Dye Jobs:  Considered a “red slur,” but still frequently employed by many faculty at colleges in the Deep South.  Do not use. 

Wildfires:  Another derogatory term, based in stereotypes about the quick tempers of people with red hair; used extensively in the Southwest and Far West. 

Hucknallers:  A tribute to Mick Hucknall, the red-headed lead singer of the British soul/pop group Simply Red.  Regrettably, virtually no one pays attention to this band in 2021, and use of the term has declined steadily since 1990.  Attempts to replace it with “Sheeranians,” in honor of another British singer (Ed Sheeran), have failed to gain traction.  

Best of luck in finding a word that works for you. 

 

 

 

CRT: What Do You See……?

The American Psychological Association announced yesterday that the Rorschach, the world-famous projective test using inkblots, will be replaced on August 1, 2021 by the Critical Race Theory Reaction Inventory (CRTRI).

Administration of the CRTRI is simple: subjects look at a piece of paper or computer screen displaying the phrase “Critical Race Theory” in a box.  They are then asked to immediately write down or say the first five things that come to mind in response to the stimulus.

Extensive pilot research demonstrates that political conservatives are likely to give the following answers:

“Instrument of Satan”

“Don’t understand it, don’t like it”

“Kill me now.  Please.”

“Worse than fluoride in our water supply”

“Left-wing poopy crap”

“Left-wing crappy poop”

“Whiny Whinerson” 

“But some of my best friends have acquaintances who know people who are Black….”

“Old-fashioned racism was good enough for my Confederate ancestors, and it’s good enough for me.  Micro-aggressions are for cowards.”

“Can I still hate Asians?”

In contrast, political liberals tend to offer responses such as:

“Explains everything….that has ever happened….anywhere”

“Precocious love child of Michel Foucault and Angela Davis”

“Totally woke”

“Totally dope”

“Totally dope-woke”

“Produces more guilt than Catholicism and Judaism combined”

“Proves that Ivory soap is the devil’s cleanser”

“Needs to be funnier”

“Don’t understand it, do love it”

“This applies to Asians too, right?”

A rubric for scoring the CRTRI is available from the American Psychological Association for $49.95.  According to APA President Jennifer F. Kelly, an individual’s score on the CRTRI is the single best predictor of whether that person has a poster of Ayn Rand, Che Guevara, or Mr. Rogers on their wall. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air Ball…..

Seattle Pacific University is the only U.S.-based school in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities that will require students to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before coming to campus in the fall (Christianity Today, May 26th online). 

“Of course, it wasn’t an easy decision,” notes SPU Provost Laura Hartley.  “Like other Christian schools, we’d prefer to rely on God to protect our students from this dreaded virus.  Unfortunately, however, The Almighty failed to come through for us on an important occasion earlier this year, and the memory of that episode has lingered.”

The episode:  On January 14th, the SPU men’s basketball team lost a close game to Whitworth University, 69-65.  At a key point late in the contest, an SPU player made a sign of the cross and looked heavenward before attempting two free throws.  He proceeded to miss both of them.

“I must admit, that incident shook the Seattle Pacific community to its core,” says Hartley, her voice quavering with emotion.  “We’re a bit skittish now about relying solely on God to help keep us safe from COVID.  As a result, we’re insisting that everyone get a shot.  No disrespect intended to The Creator, but a little insurance never hurts…..

“…..and next season, we fervently hope The Almighty returns to the foul line on behalf of our student-athletes.”

Amen, and swish.  

Farewell, “Seniors”…..?

The Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs at Penn State University has passed a resolution that calls for the school to stop using gendered terms such as “freshman,” “junior,” and “senior.”  The resolution recommends that the descriptors “first-year,” “second-year,” “third-year,” and “fourth-year” be employed instead (Daily Collegian, May 5th online). 

Inspired by this faculty decision, colleges and universities across the country are transitioning to less volatile vocabularies when referring to their student bodies.  Here are five examples from the past two months:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Freshmen → Sentient Meat 1

Sophomores → Sentient Meat 2

Juniors → Sentient Meat 3

Seniors → Sentient Meat 4

Oral Roberts University

Freshmen → Jesus Kittens

Sophomores → Madonna Meerkats

Juniors → Lieges of the Lord

Seniors → Satan Stabbers

Harvard University

Freshmen → The Grateful

Sophomores → The Arrogant

Juniors → The Gratefully Arrogant

Seniors → Platinum Donors

U.S. Military Academy

Freshmen → Water Pistols

Sophomores → Super Soakers

Juniors → Surface-to-Air Missiles

Seniors → Cannon Fodder

University of Phoenix

Freshmen → Level 1 Borrowers

Sophomores → “How the F**K Am I Ever Going to Pay All This Back?” Insomniacs

Juniors → 7-Eleven Stick-Up Artists

Seniors → Inmates

May is not over.  There’s still time to call an emergency meeting of your school’s Faculty Senate.  

 

Abandon Ship?

The authors of a recent Chronicle of Higher Education essay argue that the term “flagship” should no longer be used to describe certain universities.  They assert that the word “has outlived whatever purpose it once had, and now clearly does more harm than good” (May 14th issue).  

Welcome to higher education Whack-A-Mole. 

Academicians breastfeed their young on jargon, and should “flagship” leave us, one can be certain that a new, equally obnoxious term will replace it within a few weeks.

To wit, consider the following institutional descriptors that have gained currency in the past several months:

Dumpster Fires:  Small, non-elite, liberal-arts colleges that were in serious financial trouble before the pandemic, and now are in danger of flaming out entirely.  

Monster Trucks:  Large state universities that dominate their competition in key domains (e.g., University of Alabama football). 

Bullet Trains:  Schools that offer an Acela’s worth of fast-track degrees, such as a bachelor’s in 2 years, a BA/MA combo in 3, or the BS/PhD/MD trifecta in 4. 

Mushroom Clouds:  Colleges where over 40% of the male faculty have been accused of sexual assault AND the cafeteria workers are on strike AND the President has been caught having separate affairs with both the Dean of Arts & Sciences and the Dean’s spouse AND there are at least 3 buildings on campus named after slaveholding Confederate generals and one named after a Nazi war criminal. 

Tricycles:  Schools where nearly 80% of all course offerings are remedial. 

Pelotons:  Universities that specialize in graduate certificate programs — highly expensive, and you end up where you started.  

Rusted Oil Drums:  Colleges with a lot of elderly, heavily tenured faculty who are about to be dumped overboard.  

Septic Atomizers:  Institutions that are transitioning with great speed to a predominantly online curriculum (known as Zoom Sewers west of the Mississippi).  

Let’s face it:  Naming stuff is higher education’s core competency.  

 

Whatever It Takes……

A recent essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education — “The Art of (Successfully) Appealing a Manuscript Rejection” (May 3rd online) — presents strategies for persuading journal editors to reconsider their negative decision concerning your submission.   

The essay is a worthwhile effort, but its value is diminished by the self-imposed limitation it appears to operate under: only ethical strategies are explored.  What about approaches that might be used by authors who are comfortable with wrongdoing?  If journals are going to be truly committed to diversity and inclusion, these scholars should not be left outside the tent of publication.  Here are three strategies available to authors who embrace a “by any means necessary” philosophy of achieving tenure and promotion.

The Threat of Scandal

Inform the journal editor that failure to reverse the rejection decision will result in your claiming that a sordid sexual affair took place between the two of you several years ago, an affair that was coerced by the editor and left you with permanent, and extensive, emotional scarring.  You describe in detail your plans to “spill the beans” to relevant authorities at the editor’s home institution.  

It doesn’t matter if your claim is true or not.  Mounting a defense against such an accusation can be costly, consuming the better part of one’s career, and the editor may not want to risk that outcome.  HINT:  Including a grainy photo of two naked but unidentifiable bodies tussling in bed can enhance the effectiveness of this strategy.  The typical editor will not want to go through the humiliating process of proving that none of those dimpled buttocks belong to him or her. 

Rejection Jujitsu

Respond to the rejection letter as if it were an acceptance letter.  This is easier than it sounds.  First, have a friend who is a skilled forger prepare a fake acceptance letter from the editor on the journal’s letterhead.  Then return that document to the editor, indicating your gratitude for the positive decision.  Make sure to say how much you’re looking forward to seeing your submission in print.

Most editors are so overwhelmed by the unrelenting burden of managing the review process that they won’t notice the deception, and they’ll end up publishing your manuscript without revision.  By the way, this is the strategy that Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon used to get his first paper on “satisficing” published in 1956.

Cape Fear

Threatening physical harm to an editor’s family could produce an overreaction, but offering an ambiguous comment about the editor’s pet bichon is a solid bet to hit the “sweet spot” of influence.  For example: “I’m so disappointed that my paper was rejected.  By the way, I drove by your house yesterday and saw Mr. Fluffy playing in the front yard.  Your kids must love him dearly.  He’s such an adorable, friendly puppy, and more than eager to accept treats from strangers.  Dogs are so vulnerable at that age.”

A bit creepy, you say?  Perhaps.  But you need to ask yourself:  do you want a Nobel Prize or not?  It’s your call.  

 

 

Still the Greatest State in the U. S. of A…….

In early April, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order prohibiting public colleges in the state from requiring students to get vaccinated for COVID-19 (Texas Tribune online, April 9th).  

Yesterday, the plot thickened. 

The Governor has now issued a second executive order, which mandates that every student attending a public college in Texas “must carry a handgun while on campus.” 

“It just makes sense,” Abbott insisted in an Associated Press interview.  “People who contract the COVID virus almost always become rabid within three days, foaming at the mouth like a freshly poured glass of Guinness Stout.  What are you supposed to do if you encounter a raving, infected student as you walk across the school quad — just say hello and let him bite your neck in half?  I don’t think so.  What you do is shoot the poor bastard between the eyes.  It puts the diseased victim out of his misery, and it saves your ass.  

“Killing with compassion is much safer than taking some goddamned Communist vaccine that’ll screw up your genetic code, causing your future children to look like furry tadpoles with five nostrils and elbows where their eye sockets should be.

“In Texas, we’re all about keeping kids safe.”

Governor, we’ll tip our Stetsons to that sentiment any day. 

Well, Maybe You SHOULD Hide Your Lyin’ Eyes….

TRUE FACT:  In the aftermath of its worst cheating scandal in decades, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is terminating a program that gave a second chance to cadets who violated the school’s honor code.  Expulsion is now back on the table after the first offense.  (New York Times online, April 16th)

Among those who disagree with this decision, perhaps the most surprising is Vice Admiral Sean Buck, Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.  

“This action sends exactly the wrong message,” claims Buck, whose school jettisoned its honor code over a decade ago.  “Deception, cheating, deceit, and duplicity win wars.  Did Eisenhower provide the Nazis with the Allies’ plans to invade Normandy on D-Day?  No, he did not.  Did Truman call Hirohito and say, ‘Mr. Emperor, tell your countrymen to get out the charcoal and toss a few hot dogs on the grill, because tomorrow there will be some major-league barbecuing going on in Hiroshima’?  HELL, NO!

“If the soldiers of tomorrow don’t learn to lie and dissemble while they’re in school, when ARE they supposed to learn these crucial skills — on the battlefield, with their throat exposed to the business end of an enemy’s bayonet, and it’s too late? 

“I’m sick and tired of all the bulls**t I hear nowadays about how important it is to be honest and ‘transparent’.  ‘Transparent’, my ass!  You don’t defeat the Taliban by sending them a text message with the date and time of your next drone attack on a stronghold in Helmand province.

“West Point, I’m begging you.  Please abandon this misguided endeavor.  Do the right thing: consign your honor code to the dustbin of history, where it belongs.  Cheating 101 should be a required course at your institution.  Let’s get back to winning some wars.”

 

 

“My Name is Frank, and I’m a Rankings Addict….”: A University Life Special Report

The 40 folding chairs are arranged in neat rows in the Parish Room of St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church in downtown Boston, near Government Center.  Nearly all of them are filled on this Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm by men and women in sharp, professional, business attire.  No one looks even the slightest bit scruffy.

A man, probably in his late 40s, stands up and walks to the lectern at the front of the room.  

“Hi, my name is Frank, and I’m…..I’m a…..I’m a rankings addict.”

“Welcome, Frank,” the other attendees respond warmly. 

This is the weekly meeting of Rankings Anonymous (RA), a loosely organized group of high-level enrollment and media-relations administrators from colleges and universities throughout the greater Boston area.

Every one of them is addicted to institutional rankings. 

Frank (not his real name) continues.  “Four months ago I hit bottom.  Hell, I hit the sub-basement of bottom.  We had just published an ad in The Chronicle of Higher Education bragging that Toilet Studies Quarterly had ranked us #3 in New England in enrolling 1st-generation college students from public high schools that lack indoor plumbing.  I was so ashamed.  When I got home that night, not even the dog would look at me.  He can smell when I’ve been ranking.”

“Amen, brother,” comes the reply from several in the audience.  

Ranking addiction has become the opioid epidemic of the higher education community.  It is an insidious illness, with a predictable gateway drug: a high ranking of one’s institution on a dimension publicized by U. S. News & World Report.  

“It all started in 2017 when they ranked our cafeteria’s French toast the 3rd best in the Northeast,” says Frank.  “Oh God, what a rush!  I couldn’t sleep for four days.  I’ve been chasing that high ever since.”

The American Psychiatric Association places ranking addiction in the same category as sex addiction in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  Both are incredibly difficult to treat, and the relapse rate is high.  

Frank notes that he had once gone 7 months without using rankings in his school’s advertising: “I felt so clean, so pure, almost virginal.”

But then he was notified by Splash, an official publication of the United States Navy, that his college’s ranking as a “welcoming place for veterans who had served on cruise-missile submarines” had risen from 72 to 47.

“I became so aroused that I immediately drove home and…..well, let’s just say that the next morning my wife went out and bought me flowers.”

Frank’s ecstasy was short-lived.  Within a week, he was ordering billboard advertisements filled with rankings of his school for the entire length of New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway (e.g., “#8 in Outdoor Ads Among All Colleges on the East Coast”).  

“I loathed myself.  I really and truly did.”  Murmurs of “we’ve all been there” could be heard at the back of the room. 

Frank shares with the group that he’s thinking about leaving higher education to become a shepherd, a job where there is nothing to rank. 

“Don’t go Little Bo-Peep on us, Frank,” someone in the audience says.  “Let the Lord be your shepherd, and you’ll find the strength you need.  Remember: our chapter has the 2nd-lowest relapse rate of any RA group in Massachusetts.”

A collective gasp, then silence.