Be Careful What You Wish For

As recently reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education, financially troubled Catholic University of America in Washington, DC is embroiled in controversy over a proposed cost-cutting plan that could lay off tenured professors. 

In the past, steadfast prayer has been the typical response of CU faculty to disagreeable actions taken by the school’s administration.  And, on occasion, they have appealed to the University’s Board of Trustees. 

This time, however, faculty took the bold step of bypassing the Board, and chose to meet with God face-to-face.  Reliable sources indicate that on May 16th a group of three tenured CU professors (from biology, mathematics, and theology) traveled to Martinique to converse with The Almighty at his summer home.  They argued that, as an institution representing Catholicism — the “one true church of Christ” — Catholic University should be directly funded by the Supreme Being from his infinite resources.  (In 2017, Forbes magazine ranked God the Father as the wealthiest of all the major deities.)

Unfortunately, God disagreed with the professors, claiming that it was not his style to interject himself so straightforwardly into humanity’s everyday affairs.  As he put it, “Heck, look at what I let happen in Puerto Rico after the hurricane.  Some of those poor souls still don’t have power, and most of them are Catholic.”

He recommended that Catholic U. consider merging with Brigham Young University, a school associated with yet another religious denomination (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) that claims to be the one true church.  “Let’s face it, BYU is much better managed financially than CU, and the Mormon belief system isn’t that much crazier than the Baltimore Catechism.  It’s worth a shot.”

Stay tuned.  This could get interesting.

On Edge?

From the Department of Unwanted Publicity: Yale University made the news (and Saturday Night Live) last week when a skittish white female graduate student (in this case, “skittish” = “wingnut”) called police after seeing a black female graduate student napping in the common room of the Yale building where they both lived.  No weapons were found at the scene, though the “sleepy seeds” discovered in the corners of the black student’s eyes are being tested for CAD (Cornea-Activated Dynamite).

There must be something in the water at Ivy League schools these days, given that the Yale incident was the fourth recent case of white overreaction among their ranks.  The others:

April 20th:  At Princeton, Mathematics Professor Dascom Frick notified campus police when he saw a black student remove a sharp object from his jacket during an in-class calculus exam on derivatives.  The object turned out to be a freshly sharpened No. 2 pencil.

“I could have sworn it was a switchblade,” Frick said when questioned by police.  “There was a shaft of sunlight coming through the window, and the way it reflected off the pencil point…….well, I just didn’t want anybody to die that day.  My bad.”

May 1st:  A black female was jogging across The Green at Dartmouth in the mid-afternoon when she was spotted by 82-year-old Letitia Foucault-Peignoir, who was walking her Pomeranian.  Concerned that the jogger might have stolen her running shorts, sneakers, tank top, sports bra, and headband from the local Foot Locker, Ms. Foucault-Peignoir blew her alarm whistle, summoning police.  The jogger was apprehended, and identified as a Dartmouth sophomore on the track team who was training for an upcoming race.

“I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding,” said Foucoult-Peignoir  “but I’d never seen anyone run that fast who wasn’t trying to leave the scene of a crime.”

May 3rd:  A visiting Nigerian Linguistics professor in a 3-piece suit was sitting on a bench in Harvard Yard, engaged in his daily routine of meditating for 15 minutes with his eyes closed and hands resting, palms down, on his knees.  A sharp-eyed pigeon perched on the nearby statue of John Harvard notified authorities, and within 90 seconds the professor was surrounded by an armed SWAT team accompanied by a National Guard helicopter. 

No shots were fired and the episode ended peacefully.  The pigeon, who had been passing through Cambridge on his way to the Cape, explained that he had never observed an individual sitting that still for that long “who wasn’t some sort of schizo-psycho nutcase with explosives wrapped around his waist.  Better safe than sorry!  Umm….anybody got any bread crumbs?”

Be careful out there.

Losing Streak

Earlier this week the University of Cincinnati became the latest school to rescind the honorary degree it had bestowed upon disgraced icon Bill Cosby.  But is there any institution of higher education in the country unluckier than tiny Eunora Lutheran Teachers College in Bradfordsville, Kentucky?  Here is the roster of its honorary degree recipients over the past decade:

2017   Eric Schneiderman

2016   Garrison Keillor

2015   Al Franken

2014   Kevin Spacey

2013   Matt Lauer

2012   Charlie Rose

2011   Louis C. K.

2010   Anthony Weiner

2009   Joseph Stalin (posthumously awarded)

2008   Vlad the Impaler (posthumously awarded)

2007   Satan

“Clearly, we need to tighten up our vetting process,” Eunora President Clayton Skink acknowledged in a press conference yesterday.  “But, gosh, who would have thought that Garrison Keillor would turn out to be a perv?  And to our credit, we never did give an honorary degree to Mr. Cosby.  It’s true that our reason for not doing so was racism, but still…..”

Eunora’s 2018 honorary doctorate will be awarded posthumously to Mr. Rogers.  Skink says that “we’re keeping our fingers crossed on this one, and our anxious eyes focused on future New Yorker exposés by Ronan Farrow.”

 

 

 

Open It…..

If you aren’t familiar with Carleton College — a small, selective, liberal arts school located in Northfield, Minnesota — you will be soon.  In April, Carleton became the first college in the nation to ban use of the words “awesome” and “super” on its campus. 

According to Carleton President Steven Poskanzer, “the over-utilization of these two words by our students had gotten to the point where talking with them was like having knitting needles jabbed into your brain stem.  It was that painful.  The term ‘awesome’ should be reserved for things like the Grand Canyon and Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, rather than being hijacked to describe an order of curly fries at Wendy’s or a cell-phone photo of half-price tickets to a Led Zeppelin cover-band concert at a roller rink in Minneapolis.

“And don’t get me started on ‘super’.  Everything these days is ‘super’ this or ‘super’ that.  ‘I’m super-excited to meet you, President Poskanzer!’  Or, ‘The chili dog I had at that awesome Led Zeppelin cover-band concert last night was super-tasty!’

“Whenever I hear sentences like these, all I can think is:  Kill.  Me.  Now.

A $3 fine will be imposed every time a student utters one of the prohibited words, with the amount automatically charged to the student’s account in the Bursar’s Office, a procedure similar to the way that library fines and parking tickets are handled.  Students with outstanding balances will not be allowed to graduate.

“We just had to do something,” the President asserted.  “This is not a case of stifling free speech.  It’s simply our long-overdue attempt to counteract lazy, mind-numbingly unimaginative speech.”

Is Poskanzer afraid that Carleton will be sued by angry student groups?  “Bring it on,” he exclaimed.  “We’re just getting started.  Next year we’re expanding the No-Say List to include annoying phrases, not just individual words.  Take heed, ‘No Problem’ and ‘Lived Experience’.  Your days are numbered.  We’re coming for you.”

Awesome.

That Sports Management MBA Finally Paid Off

“If it’s good enough for the NBA, it’s good enough for us!”

Those were the words of Robert J. Jones, Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, when he announced that, beginning in the fall of 2018, the University will become the first school in the country to affix a corporate logo to the blazers of all faculty, administration, and staff. 

“If the Boston Celtics can put a General Electric patch on its players, we can certainly accept Boeing’s offer to wear its logo,” Jones asserted.  “They’re the world’s largest aerospace company, and their headquarters are in Illinois.  Given the devastating budget cuts that our school has experienced in recent years due to the actions of the dipsticks in our state legislature, we are desperate for funds.  Boeing will not only give us $7.2 million annually for wearing the patch, they’ll pay for the navy blue blazers we’ll be purchasing from Men’s Wearhouse (for the guys) and Talbots (for the ladies).  This is a win-win for higher education.  Our classrooms will have the sharpest-dressed faculty in the nation, which is sure to enhance student learning.”

When asked by a reporter if he thought it was a bit tacky to transform professional employees at a top-tier public university into walking sandwich boards for a private company, Jones responded, “We’re not talking here about NASCAR clothing, where ads cover every square inch of the driver’s upper body.  It’s just one tiny patch, and it’s for Boeing, a world-class outfit, not for Condom World in Peoria.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Condom World is currently negotiating a logo contract with Illinois Central College, a community college in East Peoria.  Agreement has yet to be reached on the size of the image depicted in the logo.

More Learning, Fewer Hives

The University of Kansas took a bold step this week when it became the first school in the country to adopt a gluten-free core curriculum for its undergraduates. 

At a Wednesday press conference, University Chancellor Douglas Girod proclaimed that “the health of Jayhawk students is our highest priority.”  He announced that “The Psychology of Wheat,” the last remaining core course containing gluten, would be removed from the curriculum by the fall of 2018. 

Several reporters questioned the logic behind the school’s action, noting that there had never been any courses at the University that actually required students to ingest gluten.  However, according to Girod, “research has shown that talking about gluten can be just as dangerous as eating it.  We’re not going to put our students at risk any longer.  Words matter, and discussions of gluten in the classroom can represent micro-aggressions against those with allergies.  Kansas may be the largest wheat-producing state in the nation, but we’re not afraid to take on the grain lobby and do what’s right.  Our goal is to create safe spaces for students who wish to have a gluten-free lived experience on our campus.”

The Chancellor closed the press conference by setting a bowl of Cheerios on fire and promising, “Peanuts, you’re next!” 

 

 

Back to Basics

We all knew it was going to happen, the only question was when:

A university in the United States has dropped “critical thinking” from its list of core learning objectives for undergraduates. 

Beginning in the fall of 2018, Marquette University will only attempt to help students develop their ability to “feel.” 

In a press conference on Thursday, Marquette President Michael Lovell announced that getting students to think critically had simply become too difficult.  “Our faculty are exhausted and demoralized, and are desperate to grab some low-hanging fruit from the tree of learning.  Moreover, we don’t want to lose market share to competing schools that might take this action before we do.”

When Lovell was asked to distinguish between “critical thinking” and “feeling,” he responded, “If you assert that a pizza topped with BBQ chicken and pineapple is not really a pizza, that’s critical thinking.  But if you say, ‘I’m hungry’, that’s a feeling.”

Reporters wanted to know if this shift in institutional objectives would make it more likely that, in future Presidential elections, Marquette graduates would vote for candidates who couldn’t tell the difference between parsing a syllogism and using Cheetos to comb their hair. 

Lovell’s reply: “I’m hungry.”

 

The Final Five

Tear-jerking human interest stories and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are a match made in media heaven.  Who could resist Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the 98-year-old chaplain of the Loyola-Chicago team?  Of course, broadcasters sweeten these accounts to the point where watching them is a lot like sucking grape-juice concentrate from a tube attached to a fraternity-party keg.  If you’re diabetic, you’ll die. 

So, we should probably all be grateful that Iowa’s Quenvy College didn’t make it past the tournament’s first round this year.  Quenvy’s starting lineup included the following players:

Toby Standingwater — Abandoned by his parents at a trailer park at the age of 2, Toby was raised by the park’s manager, Zeb Banks — a divorced, blind, one-legged war veteran who suffered from PTSD.  When Toby showed an interest in basketball in grade school, the impoverished but nurturing Zeb fashioned him a crude basketball by inflating a proctologist’s discarded rubber glove. 

“Dribbling that damn thing was challenge,” Toby recalls.  “But it taught me skills that made me the team’s go-to guy whenever we were trying to run out the clock.  I can dribble forever!

DeShawn Tyrone Demetrius Jackson — The only white Irish male with this name in human history, DeShawn was taunted mercilessly by both his white and black classmates when he was in elementary school.  He learned to play basketball when his teachers refused to let him do anything else. 

Delft Clog — At 8 feet, 10 inches, Delft is the tallest player in the NCAA.  Born in the Netherlands, he was accidentally injected with Human Growth Hormone when his parents took him for a measles vaccination at age 15 months.  A high school dropout, he was working part-time as a tree in a forest-themed amusement park outside of Amsterdam when a recruiter discovered him.  “Now I am no longer a tree,” Delft says proudly.  “No more dogs and cruel children peeing on my legs all the time.  Basketball saved me.  I am happy.”

Marvin “Mango” Gibson — At the beginning of 2015, Gibson was in the 40th year of 3 consecutive life terms at the Iowa State Penitentiary, having been convicted of robbing and killing 3 patients at the local hospice in Fort Madison.  (“Hell, I figured they were 90% dead anyway,” he claims.)

Then, in 2015, he attended a weekend screening of Space Jam in the prison library.  The inspirational basketball film featuring Michael Jordan “changed my life,” Gibson states.  “I knew I could turn things around if I could only get a chance to play.”  He petitioned the warden to be released on parole if he could gain acceptance at a nearby college, and the warden agreed.  Quenvy admitted him, and now, at age 61, he’s the team’s starting power forward.  “Sometimes my ankle monitor short-circuits the 30-second clock during a fast break, but otherwise it’s all good,” Gibson observes.

When he’s not in the classroom or the gym, Mango volunteers at the same hospice where he committed that heinous crime so many years ago.

The Spirit of Skip Blavens — The team’s captain, Skip lost his life just before the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, when he fell into a 250-foot-high grain silo on his family’s farm (see photo above).  The team voted not to replace Skip on the court.  As Toby Standingwater put it, “Skip was our spiritual leader, and we know his soul is with us out there, even if his body isn’t.  That’s good enough for us.  We call it our 4+1 offense.” 

During games, the team honors Skip by placing an unopened box of shredded wheat in the chair he would have occupied on the bench. 

The Quenvy Harvesters lost 126-52 to Tennessee in the tournament’s opening round this year, but as TV announcer Jim Nantz put it, “We know who the real winners are.”

 

Oxygen Matters

The impact of class size on course quality is a topic that continues to spark debate, as evidenced by a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article entitled “Are Small Classes Best?  It’s Complicated.”

Well, now the issue has become even more complicated.  On Tuesday, the University of Oklahoma revealed that last fall it began using the aggregate body weight of students enrolled in a course, rather than the total number of students in the class, to indicate class size.  For example, a class in which the average weight of the 30 enrolled students was 140 lbs. would have a class size of 4200 (30 x 140).  This would equal the class size of a course with 21 students who averaged 200 lbs. each (21 x 200). 

According to Oklahoma Provost Kyle Harper, “research has clearly demonstrated that the amount of ‘available oxygen’ in a classroom is a key variable that affects student learning, due to inhaled oxygen’s relationship to cognitive processing.  The bigger you are, the more of this scarce resource you consume as you breathe in class.  Thus, we feel an ethical responsibility to establish upper limits for all of our courses.  This approach gives us great flexibility, since we can achieve a target class size in a variety of ways.  Ten students who average 150 lbs. each represent a class size of 1500, but so do 5 students with a mean weight of 300 lbs.  The data show that our students’ grades have increased over 8% since this policy was put in place in September 2017.  It’s all about the oxygen.”

The Provost acknowledges that the strategy does have drawbacks.  “The incidence of eating disorders on campus has increased 15% since last fall.  If you gain weight during a course, and the class exceeds its overall size limit, you will be dismissed from the course with a grade of TM (Too Much).  Some students who have put on pounds during the semester have even asked classmates to voluntarily diet, so that the former’s weight gain won’t bump the class’s total size beyond its prescribed limit.  As you might imagine, these conversations can get pretty awkward.”

In general, however, the Provost is pleased with how the system is working.  “Our students are now much more aware of the consequences of inhaling in public spaces.  At Oklahoma, our new slogan is: We learn together, we play together, we breathe together’.  I like that.” 

Look Again…..

Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne has come to the defense of Niall Ferguson, organizer of a recent Stanford conference on Applied History where all 30 presenters were white men.  In a Monday press conference, Tessier-Lavigne claimed that “those who have criticized the roster of presenters as ‘lacking diversity’ are looking at the world through a very narrow lens.”

Standing beside a poster board displaying photos of all the presenters, the President noted that “these scholars vary on a significant number of crucial dimensions.  For example:

— necktie vs. no necktie

— button-down collar vs. spread collar

— hair parted on the right, on the left, in the middle, or not at all

— facial expression: smiling vs. mildly constipated vs. ‘I’m passing a kidney stone’

— complexion: pinkish white, pasty white, ruddy white, greyish white, whitey white

“Of course,” said the President, “there are myriad ways in which these gentlemen differ that we cannot discern on the basis of photographs.  Some of them might prefer pesto on their baked salmon, while others would opt for a maple glaze.  Some might try to solve all the Across clues in the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle before proceeding to the Down clues, while others might reverse the order.  These differences matter.  And, let’s be honest, for all we know, a number of these guys may have started out life as biologically female.  I’m not saying that this is the case here, but take a really close look at those photos and draw your own conclusions.  I’ve drawn mine.” 

Well said, President Tessier-Lavigne.  Sometimes we fail to recognize the diversity that’s staring right at us.