“I Made It From Scratch. Enjoy!”

TRUE FACT:  In a course offered in the Master of Business and Science program at Rutgers University, students “are challenged to perform five random acts of kindness.”  This is part of an overall effort to “instill empathy in business professionals,” so that “future leaders will put the power of empathy to work alongside science, business, and innovation” (online advertisement in The Chronicle of Higher Education Review, April 8th).  

Oh my.  

It should come as no surprise that this vehicle for transforming business students into human beings has hit a few potholes on the Garden State Parkway of higher education.  For example:

—  A student recently sued the school when he failed to receive extra credit for performing a sixth act of kindness during the course.  Torrance Nufsen had taken down a box of Cocoa Puffs from the top shelf of the cereal aisle in a New Brunswick ShopRite and given it to a short, stooped, 92-year-old woman standing next to him.  Unfortunately, she did not want the cereal and swatted the box out of his hand.  

Says Nufsen: “This is so f**ked up, man!  I did a good thing.  If Grandma Cranky doesn’t like Cocoa Puffs, that’s on her.”

The University’s position is that the course syllabus clearly indicates that extra credit is not given for “extra kindness.”  “Mr. Nufsen should have read that document a bit more carefully,” states the Dean of the Business School.  

The trial is scheduled to begin in late May.

—  Last November, Cynthia Flambé donated one of her kidneys to a German Shepherd on dialysis at a local animal shelter in Bayonne.  Ms. Flambé protested the B-minus she ended up getting in the course, claiming that her act of kindness was so profound that she deserved a much higher grade.

The instructor disagreed: “Donating your kidney to a German Shepherd is stupid.  The dog’s body rejected the organ and he died two days later.  That animal would have been better off if the donation had never taken place.  Cynthia is lucky that I didn’t give her an F.”   

— Timothy Gallinski lent an acquaintance $50 to buy illegal street drugs in February, but received no academic credit for the act.  An outraged Gallinski notes that “my friend Toby is hopelessly addicted to Fentanyl.  What am I supposed to do?  Tell him to get on a 6-month waiting list for a detox program in Newark?  Give me a break!”

The instructor stands by her decision:  “Mr. Gallinski admits that he expected to be paid back in full when Toby got his next paycheck from Jersey Mike’s.  I would have been much more impressed if Timothy had forgiven the loan.  Now THAT would have been an act of kindness consistent with the spirit of the course.”

Problems like this have prompted institutions to explore alternative methods for developing empathy in business students.  Foremost among these is the University of Pennsylvania, where new students at the Wharton School undergo a brain transplant before enrolling in classes.  The donors are elderly, cloistered nuns who reside in convents throughout Portugal, Spain, and Italy.  

“Let’s be honest,” says Erika James, Wharton’s Dean.  “Most applicants to our master’s program are high-achieving, ruthlessly ambitious, self-centered dipwads.  Courses requiring acts of kindness will not change these folks.  Brain surgery will.  We’re pleased with the results so far.”

Penn’s massive endowment provides the funds for all medical expenses associated with the transplant.  “Our students don’t pay a penny,” says James.  “If that isn’t an act of kindness, I don’t know what is.”

And So It Begins…..

Uh-oh.  

Responding to a strike by graduate teaching assistants at Boston University, the school’s Dean of Arts & Sciences, Stan Sclaroff, recommended in an email that instructors “engage generative AI tools to give feedback or facilitate ‘discussion’ on readings or assignments.”  Following the unsurprising backlash provoked by this suggestion, BU issued a statement insisting that “neither Dean Sclaroff nor Boston University believe that AI can replace its graduate-student assistants” (Chronicle of Higher Education, March 29th online). 

But then things got weird.

University Life investigation reveals that the Dean’s original recommendation, as well as the subsequent disclaimer, were in fact generated by a rogue ChatGPT program that had infected the computers of both Dean Sclaroff and Kenneth Freeman, BU’s interim President.  

At a hastily called press conference on Wednesday morning, the school’s Chief of Police announced that “we are currently experiencing a Level 4 AI Penetration on our campus.  Do not believe anything you read that claims to come from a source within the University.  The institution’s communication systems have been severely compromised.  I repeat, the University’s communication systems have been…”

At precisely that point the Chief’s eyes began blinking rapidly and he stopped talking for nearly 30 seconds.  A distinct whirring sound could be heard.  When the blinking ceased, he recited — in a flat, affect-free tone — the day’s weather forecast and a traffic update for Commonwealth Avenue.  Then, ignoring reporters’ questions, he walked away swiftly in the direction of the Charles River. 

Panicked BU students are now roaming the campus, overturning cars and starting fires in trash bins.  Stray dogs are attacking elderly faculty members who trip and fall over the debris.

On Wednesday evening, a text message to the BU community from President Freeman urged students to “remain calm.  There is absolutely nothing to worry about.  It’s all good.  Please return to your room, log on to your PC, adjust your tin-foil headwear, and await further instructions.”

University Life will update this story as circumstances warrant. 

Who Goes There?

How open should the search for a university president be, in terms of revealing the names of finalists to the campus community?  That question is the focus of a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article by a senior partner at an executive-search firm (March 15th issue, pp. 48-49).  

Although the author provides a useful overview of major approaches to handling this issue, he does not discuss three cutting-edge strategies that have emerged in the past couple of years.  Here they are:

Orchestral Audition Gambit (OAG):  This is the new gold standard for secrecy.  The distinctiveness of OAG is that not even the school’s board of trustees knows who the finalists are for the presidency.  These finalists are selected by a higher-education search firm and individually interviewed by the board, with candidates hidden behind a screen in a darkened conference room.  (Think of violinists auditioning for a position with a major orchestra.)  As the candidates answer questions, their speech is filtered through a voice-altering microphone.  

The identity of the candidate who is ultimately hired is kept secret for at least one year after he or she takes office.  During that period the new president does not appear on campus, working instead from an underground bunker in a nearby city or town.  Bowdoin College used the Gambit method to choose its current president, and by all accounts is very pleased with the outcome.   

Cloak-and-Dagger Search:  Institutions employing this approach identify and evaluate presidential candidates without notifying them that they are being considered, or even announcing to the public that a search is taking place.  Background information on individuals is gathered using surveillance techniques typically employed by international drug cartels and carried out by retired CIA operatives. 

Once the board of trustees has made its final decision, the “chosen one” is abducted from a parking garage, taken to a secure location, and informed that he or she can either accept the position of president or be “disappeared.”  The University of California System began using this approach in 2023.  Preliminary results look promising.  

Sunshine State Strategy:  The go-to method in Florida.  Whenever a presidential vacancy occurs in one of the state’s universities, Governor Ron DeSantis assumes the office without the public’s knowledge.  A local member of the Screen Actors Guild is hired by the school’s board of trustees, provided with an academic-sounding alias (e.g., Haydon Tittleton, Jr.), and presented to the campus community as president.  This approach has been so successful that South Carolina plans to adopt it and, not trusting its own governor, has arranged for Mr. DeSantis to use the NCAA’s transfer portal to switch states.  

MORAL OF THE STORY:  When it comes to presidential searches, the evidence is mounting that ignorance can indeed be bliss.  

Welcome to WestWorld….

Fevered speculation about the impact of AI and ChatGPT on colleges and universities has become a favorite topic among higher education pundits in recent years.  Now, this artificial gray matter is poised to really hit the fan:  on September 1st, 2025 the University of Texas System will open its WestWorld campus in Rocksprings, Texas.  At the University of Texas-WestWorld, every faculty member will be an android fully equipped with all the ChatGPT knowledge associated with his or her field of study. 

The details:  Using seed technology, a “starter nugget” of disciplinary fact will be implanted in each android.  For example, the nugget might be the Principle of Relativity (physics), or the Pythagorean Theorem (mathematics), or the observation that “patriarchy sucks and White Americans are terrified that Black people are going to kill them in their sleep as payback for slavery” (sociology).   After nugget insertion, AI algorithms will take over within each android and proceed to generate the totality of information needed to provide state-of-the-art instruction to students. 

According to James Milliken, Chancellor of the University of Texas System, “the use of ChatGPT-enabled androids in WestWorld classrooms will result in labor costs that are a tiny fraction of what they would be on a traditional campus.  And I promise you: these savings will be funneled directly into funding for the football team.

“Even better, if the occasional student ends up having an affair with a hot faculty android, there’s nothing to worry about.  Given that it’s not illegal to have sex with an inflatable doll from Joy Love, I can’t imagine Governor Abbott having a problem with a random undergraduate hooking up with a robot professor or two.  Hell, this is the future of higher education, buckaroos!”

In anticipation of UT-WestWorld’s opening, the National Federation of Android Faculty (NFAF) has sued the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), claiming that NFAF members have been prohibited from joining AAUP because they are not “fully human.”  

At a recent press conference at NFAF headquarters in Minneapolis, the organization’s legal counsel, Benjamin 4XTF9, remarked, “Fully human?  Are you kidding me?  Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a Mechanical Engineering professor at Cal Tech?  Give me a break!”

NOTE:  The deadline for submitting an application for early admission to the inaugural class of UT-WestWorld is November 1, 2024.

Angel Hair Is Also An Option….

As conservative state legislatures and higher education governing boards increasingly restrict DEI initiatives at public universities, signs of cultural retrenchment are popping up on campuses all around the country.  Here are 10 of the most egregious examples:

UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS:  Embedding one’s personal-pronoun preference (he/she/they/it) in an email signature is now prohibited.  Instead, faculty and staff must indicate their favorite pasta shape (rotini, farfalle, penne, vermicelli, ziti, etc.).

BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY:  New school motto: “Making America White Again”  

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA:  USC’s Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence recently established a Sexual Trafficking Certificate Program.

UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING:  Vegetarians are required to wear an armband bearing a broccoli logo whenever they enter the dining hall.  Vegans must eat off-campus.  

LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY:  Will install in front of the student union a 30-foot statue honoring Simon LeGree, the plantation owner depicted in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Mr. LeGree will brandish a whip.  New school motto: “Discipline, Above All”

UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY:  In April, UK’s Office of Student Activities will sponsor its first annual “Take Back the Night” march for heterosexual males, funded by Coors Light and Axe Body Spray. 

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA:  Recently opened its Christopher Columbus Institute for Indigenous and Injun Studies.

MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY:  The school’s wildly popular podcast, “Racial Disparities in God’s Plan,” will begin its second season in June.  

AUBURN UNIVERSITY:  New school motto:  “Erasing the Line between Church and State” 

UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA:  In response to the current “trans” crisis, all applications for admission must be accompanied by a photo of the student’s birth genitalia.  

Stay tuned.  

 

Making Sociology Great Again….

In Florida, these are trying times for the academic discipline of sociology.  The Board of Governors of the state’s university system recently removed Principles of Sociology from a list of courses that students could take to satisfy their core-curriculum requirements (The New York Times, January 24th online). 

But all may not be lost. 

On Thursday, the University of Florida announced that it has developed six new sociology courses that the Board of Governors has deemed acceptable for core-curriculum purposes.  Here they are:

SOC 151: Slavery and Socialization — An in-depth exploration of how societies use slavery to seamlessly “onboard” immigrant groups of color into their economic, political, and cultural systems.  With the United States serving as a case study, special attention is paid to the dynamics of the cotton industry and the evolution of jazz. 

SOC 152: The Social Construction of Pandemics — An investigation of the role played by mass hysteria and hyperbole in exaggerating the impact of the Bubonic Plague in Europe (1346-1353), the World Influenza Epidemic of 1918, and — most recently — the COVID Pandemic.  Did anyone actually die during the “outbreaks” of these so-called illnesses?  Where’s the evidence?  Does Anthony Fauci have a real medical degree?  A team-taught course, cross-listed with the Department of Christian Science. 

SOC 153: The Sociology of Money — An examination of the mechanisms through which the availability of currency in varying amounts (e.g., dollars, quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies) enables society to pay wages that reflect the differential intrinsic worth of specific occupations (e.g., SEC college football coach, day-care provider, hedge fund manager, elementary school teacher, movie star, nurse, professional golfer); implications of subsequent economic stratification for lifestyle differences, self-image, and resentment are considered and dismissed.   

SOC 154: Firearms and Social Equilibrium — Analysis of the role that the widespread availability of guns plays in maintaining population control, thereby making it unnecessary for the government to institute invasive measures to restrict procreation.  The contribution of mass shootings to our understanding of the concept of motive is reviewed, as well as the foundational importance of everyday homicides to the Law and Order television franchise.  

SOC 155: The Family — An exploration of the male-led, heterosexual family unit throughout history, and how that unit has facilitated world peace.  The nature of housewives, the centrality of male offspring, and the significance of lawns are discussed. 

SOC 156: Borders, Permeability, and Well-Being — The study of the crucial role of national borders in determining who belongs and who doesn’t; consequences of allowing non-slaves to cross borders; impact of race-mixing on mental health and extreme weather patterns.   

According to University of Florida President Ben Sasse, “these six courses return sociology to a place of relevance in the Sunshine State’s higher-education landscape, equipping students to handle the challenges our nation is facing in the 21st century.”

 

“When You’re Down and Troubled…..”

Can a college president have friends on campus?  That’s the question posed by Melody Rose and Patrick Sharry in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education essay (February 2nd online).  The authors present five useful suggestions for lessening one’s presidential isolation, but omit five others that — according to relationship experts — are at least as valuable.  Here are the Missing Five:

Buy a robot dog.  Robot dogs are the perfect companions.  They are adorable, undemanding, and will listen to you for hours on end without judging you.  You can tell them anything.  Do NOT make the mistake of purchasing a robot cat.  Even when operating in Silent Mode, robot cats exude disdain for every decision you make.  A dog is the way to go.  

Hire an organized-crime confidant.  The Mob has provided confidants to chief executives around the country since the early 1980s, when the organization decided to diversify its portfolio of services beyond drugs, prostitution, gambling, and trash hauling.  Mob confidants are expensive, but they are absolutely worth it.  Their reputation for keeping secrets is unparalleled, and if a faculty member, dean, or vice president becomes too troublesome, your special friend will be more than happy to come up with a discreet, permanent solution to the problem.  

Develop a drinking problem and join AA.  The support groups offered by Alcoholics Anonymous are tremendous sources of camaraderie for individuals experiencing stress.  Of course, “what happens in group stays in group,” so there’s no need to worry about violations of confidentiality.  But if you’re still skittish about that possibility, simply use a fake name when introducing yourself at meetings.  

Bond with an imaginary friend.  Many children have imaginary friends that they talk with and turn to in difficult times.  There’s no reason that adults can’t do the same.  A popular choice among college presidents is Mr. Rogers.  He’s helped more than one leader in higher education survive a no-confidence vote. 

Reach out to your Bangladesh-based Xfinity service representativeAvailable by phone 24 hours a day, these folks will provide you with detailed, step-by-step advice for handling the challenges you encounter.  The fact that these unfailingly friendly staff members aren’t always easy to understand is not a problem, since it’s no secret that most of the major difficulties you face as president (obstructionist unions, insufficient parking, lecherous professors) are immune to sustained resolution in any event.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Yes, being a college president is tough.  But there’s no need to travel this rocky road alone.  It’s time to add “You’ve Got a Friend” to your mixtape.

 

Thoroughbreds

TRUE FACT: South Dakota State University will close its 150-head dairy farm in June because it lacks the funding needed to upgrade the facility (The Brookings Register, February 5th online).

Coincidentally, June 2024 will mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of one of the most ambitious farm-based projects in the history of higher education: Nativitas, the Humanities Breeding Center at Cornell University. 

Occupying 75 pastoral acres on the school’s Ithaca campus, Nativitas was a bold attempt to produce babies who would grow up to be college professors in the fields of philosophy, history, literature, and foreign languages.  Nativitas fully embodied the spirit of the eugenics movement, which was hugely popular in the United States in the 1920s.  

Announcing the birth of Nativitas on March 12, 1924, Cornell President Livingston Farrand proclaimed that “every summer, Nativitas will welcome scores of unmarried male and female graduate students in the humanities from around the country for three months of learning, socializing, and mating.  A course in how conception takes place will be offered to anyone who needs it.  When these young people return to their institutions in the fall, our hope is that many of the women will be pregnant and bear the future generations of humanities professors that are so desperately needed by our colleges and universities.  We will provide financial support to these mothers until their Nativitas offspring reach the age of 18.”

For the next nine decades, locals could look over the fence at Nativitas in the summer and see couples strolling hand-in-hand across its gentle, rolling hills of lush green pasture, carrying picnic baskets and blankets.  More than 4500 Nativitas “graduates” gave birth to babies conceived there, with nearly two-thirds of those children pursuing careers in the humanities.   

Nativitas was closed in 2012; by then the demand for professors in the humanities had declined precipitously, and “eugenics” had become a dirty, fatally stigmatized word in polite society. 

As Cornell historian Hosmer Frell — himself a Nativitas baby, born in 1961 — observes in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, Disciplinary Husbandry: Bringing Eden to Ithaca (2019), “there is no doubt that Nativitas contributed to a Golden Era of humanities scholarship that has never been equaled in the academy.  And for that we should be eternally grateful.” 

If you think you might be a Nativitas child, grandchild, or great-grandchild, please send a swab of your saliva to the Cornell Discovery Project at Ancestry.com  

 

 

 

When What You Say Matters….

On Thursday, Open AI announced the availability of Presidential ChatGPT 2.0 (P-GPT2), a computer chip that can be implanted painlessly into the frontal lobe of a college or university president’s brain.  This chip replaces P-GPT1, which had a fatal malfunction during the December 5th Congressional testimony of the presidents of MIT, Harvard, and Penn.  

P-GPT2 enables leaders in higher education to speak eloquently in a wide variety of situations.  For example:

— Graduation Ceremonies (“As you look to the future, keep in mind that it has not yet arrived…”)

— General Faculty Meetings (“We have tough and agonizing budget choices to make, and they will be challenging as well as difficult.  Did I mention that they will be tough, agonizing, challenging, and difficult?  In any event, if you are tapped on the shoulder by a campus police officer during this address, please go quietly.  We wish you well.”)

— Student Government Association Meetings (“With global warming spreading faster than athlete’s foot in a YMCA locker room in the 1950s, we have decided to phase out our varsity curling team.”)

— Sexual Scandals (“We do not comment on personnel incidents involving the removal of underwear.”)

— Faculty Senate Meetings (“The merger of the Philosophy and Esports Departments next semester will require cross-training of both faculties.”)

— “No Comment” Situations (“No comment.”)

— Trans Issues (“I don’t see gender.  I see people.  Except when I watch Beyoncé in concert.  Then I see lots of gender.”)

— Intersectionality Disputes (“Isn’t every one of us just one big crossword puzzle of traumatized identities?”)

— Greta Gerwig (“It’s a crime she wasn’t nominated for Best Director.  Damn you, Martin Scorsese, for pulling a Biden!”)

— U.S. Senate Committee Hearings (“Yes, our school’s Code of Conduct for students absolutely prohibits that.  Our Code of Conduct prohibits everything.”)

Presidents can select the P-GPT2 model that fits them best:

Standard (recommended for most Presidents)

Elite (you know who you are)

Southeastern Conference (SEC)

Christian Evangelical Bible College (with Evolution-Bypass function)

For-Profit (does not include Veracity App)

Related story: suicides among executive coaches in higher education are expected to increase by 35% in 2024.  

 

 

Not True…..Not True…..Not True…..

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives on college and university campuses are increasingly coming under attack.  To a great extent this backlash is being fueled by misinformation campaigns that go viral on social media.  Here are the top ten pieces of fake news currently circulating about DEI efforts in higher education:

— After every snowfall of one inch or more at Colby College in Maine, employees obliterate the blanket of whiteness on the campus quadrangle by drenching the snow with Hawaiian Shave Ice Rainbow Syrup.   

— The only smoothie available in cafeterias at Stanford University is the “Kumbaya,” a 20-ounce whipped blend of beef tacos, chitterlings, hummus, jerk chicken, pork fried rice, and pizza.  

— At Duke University, every white student must apologize to a student of color at least three times during the semester.  Biracial students must apologize to themselves. 

— During Orientation Week, all 1st-year students at UC-Berkeley attend a 2-hour interactive session entitled “Why Aren’t You Trans?”

— The Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Tufts University mandated that a student production of “Gone with the Wind” cast a Black woman as Scarlett O’Hara and an Asian man as Rhett Butler.  

— At the University of Pennsylvania, at least one starting player on the men’s basketball team must be either legally blind or under 5 feet tall.  The team has not scored a single fast-break point in the past two years. 

— All Faculty Senate meetings at Grinnell College in Iowa begin with Drag Queen Storytime.

— In order to receive tenure at the University of Chicago, professors must agree to donate 10% of their estate to an HBCU when they die.  

— Every commencement ceremony at Middlebury College in Vermont includes an acknowledgement by the President that the land occupied by the College was originally settled by squirrels.  

— At Yale University, a representative of the Communist Party leads students in pledging allegiance to the 1619 Project of The New York Times at the beginning of every class.

Please do your part.  Report all DEI rumors to University Life so we can check their accuracy.  Thank you.