So Close…..So Very, Very Close

The higher education chattering class was abuzz last week when it appeared that the University of Idaho was about to purchase online behemoth University of Phoenix for $550 million (Chronicle of Higher Education, May 19th online).  

But then…

…three days ago, Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa drug cartel offered $770 million for the Arizona school, and Idaho dropped out of the running faster than a Russet potato tumbling from a carton of spuds in Kroger’s produce section during an earthquake. 

The cartel intends to use the University of Phoenix for money-laundering purposes.  According to a confidential Sinaloa source, “the core values of the University of Phoenix have always been much more closely aligned with ours than with those of the University of Idaho.  It’s a natural partnership.  And the number of cartel employees who’d love to earn an online dual degree in Substance Abuse Counseling and Supply Chain Management is in the THOUSANDS!  Hell, this is the sweetest deal between Mexico and the U. S. since NAFTA!”

Sinaloa leaders promise that, once the purchase is finalized, every University of Phoenix student in good academic standing will be eligible to sponsor at least one kidnapping per academic year for a nominal fee.  As the source put it, “you want someone disappeared?  We can do that!”



Situation Ethics

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a piece entitled, “How Do You Get Professors to Respond in the Summer?” (May 10th online).  As helpful as this essay is, it omits the most potent strategy for producing an immediate faculty response:  using a panic-inducing falsehood to get the recipient’s attention.

Along these lines, here are five email messages that experienced department chairs swear by:

Accusation — “Dear Todd:  I was visited yesterday by a female student who was in your Romantic Poetry seminar this spring, and she had quite a story to tell.  It included photos.  Could you contact me when you get a chance?  I’d like the two of us to chat before I turn the matter over to Campus Police.  Thanks.”

Pay Cut — “Hey there, Millie:  The Business Office informs me that your salary is going to be reduced by 14% for the 2023-24 academic year because you missed the deadline for submitting your annual report to the Dean.  Were you aware of this?  We should probably talk.  Stop by my office the next time you’re on campus.”

Misrepresentation — “Dear Ajani:  I received an anonymous letter yesterday claiming that you are not Nigerian but Portuguese.  A 23andMe report with your name on it was attached, and it appears to support the claim.  Given that you head our Ph.D. Program in African Studies, we could have a problem here.  Please make an appointment to see me as soon as possible, and bring a Q tip with you so we can do a DNA swab.  Hope you’re having a good summer.”

Course Load — “Hello Tanya:  It looks like your senior seminar on Hemingway’s cats only has 3 students registered for the fall, so we’re going to have to cancel it.  In its place you’ll be teaching a Core Curriculum course on lust as a metaphor in the novels of Nora Roberts.  Its current enrollment is 175 and counting, so there’s no chance of this one tanking.  Let me know if you have any questions.  I’m working on getting you a teaching assistant, but no guarantees.”

Plagiarism — “Hi Glen:  Hope your first year as an Assistant Professor was a rewarding one!  Quick question:  I just got a note from Neil deGrasse Tyson saying that a chapter of your dissertation was copied, virtually word-for-word, from an article he published in 2015.  Your thoughts?  Let’s talk before he goes public.”

The Takeaway:  When you meet with them, your faculty will be so relieved to find out that you were simply engaging in harmless “fake news” that they will be more than happy to accommodate your actual summer request.  And they’ll appreciate your sense of humor. 

Okay, it’s time to go sit on your deck and have a tall glass of lemonade.  Don’t forget sunscreen. 


Do you have a microcredential?  Why the hell not? 

Microcredentials are carpet-bombing the higher-education landscape with the force of a Level 5 tornado flattening an Oklahoma trailer park on a late summer afternoon.  

In a nutshell, microcredentials are short, non-credit programs (i.e., a few courses) that are intended to enhance a student’s knowledge and/or skills in a narrow area.  Of course, obtaining a microcredential gets you a digital badge or certificate of some sort.  The latter can be easily attached to your car’s sun visor in the event you are stopped by a state trooper who demands evidence of your proficiencies. 

Intrigued?  Here are a few examples:

University of Tennessee College of Medicine

Microcredential in Appendectomy Preparation:  Learn how to get an individual ready to have his/her/their appendix removed.  Course modules include “Informing the Patient,” “Calming the Patient,” and “Making the Initial Incision.”

This credential is especially useful for students who anticipate backpacking in a national park with a friend or relative who is at risk of developing acute appendicitis.  A follow-up microcredential, Appendix Removal: Incisions 2 through 5, is highly recommended but not required.  

Claremont School of Theology

Microcredential in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1, Verses 1-20:  This program covers everything in the Bible up to, and including, the creation of fish and fowl.  (“Let the waters bring forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may fly over the earth under the firmament of heaven.”)

Students possessing this Book of Genesis credential are qualified to establish a small church of their own in any rural setting having a population under 750.  They can also engage in sidewalk preaching on secondary streets in urban areas.

Rutgers Law School  

Microcredential in Traffic Citations:  Become an expert on the range of fines in your county for offenses such as street racing, ignoring stop signs and red lights, driving while intoxicated, and speeding through work zones.  Familiarize yourself with the special challenges associated with defending hit-and-run drivers.  

This credential does not entitle you to practice law, but it does give you the right to file friend-of-the-court briefs and purchase billboard space on any state highway that features a Waffle House restaurant.    

For the locations of colleges and universities near you that offer microcredentials, simply Google “the end of higher education.”


Emily Dickinson, Repurposed

“Embarrassing” emerged recently as the word of the day at the University of Michigan, after its Office of University Development recommended “key words” and phrases to a poetry fellow in a ham-fisted attempt to help her compose a poem for the inauguration of the school’s new President (Chronicle of Higher Education, April 25th online).  

Inaugural poems are commonplace in higher education, but University Life readers might not know that many colleges and universities also commission short poems when a President leaves the institution in disgrace.  Here’s a sampling from the past three years, organized by reason for dismissal.  In order to avoid adding insult to injury, the schools are not identified. 

Embezzlement of Funds

Pell Grant money, stolen

Where did that yacht come from?

May it sink

Ever so slowly

Into the Mariana Trench

With you below deck, dear President

Squealing like a mischief of sewer rats in a burlap sack

Thrown from a bridge

Sexual Misconduct

Couldn’t keep it in your pants

Could you?

You disgust us

Please zip up before leaving

We don’t want you scaring the earthworms

Lack of Commitment to Shared Governance

All we wanted 

Was to work with you

But of course

That was too much to ask

Of a narcissist

Get out

Overall Ineffectiveness

What were we thinking

When we hired an Oreck like you?

You suck at your job

Tone Deafness

At commencement you proclaimed

“Harry Belafonte was my favorite Negro”

And then you sang “Day-O”

HUGE mistake

So, so huge

Mind-Numbing Stupidity

“Ron DeSantis may have a point”

You said so at the General Faculty Meeting

No, he doesn’t have a point

And every breath you take

Is one too many

Finally, poetry for the 21st century. 

There’s No “I” in “Team,” and There’s No “C” in “Ornell”

The message delivered by “Power Shift,” the April 14th cover story in the Chronicle of Higher Education, could not have been clearer: “What’s considered appropriate for a college professor to say and do in a classroom has changed dramatically….student deference to their teachers is not nearly as strong as it once was” (p. 16).  

Nowhere is this transformation more evident than at Cornell Medical School in New York City.  After three months of raucous student protests, Interim Dean Francis Lee announced on Thursday that the school’s curriculum would no longer address the sexually transmitted disease (STD) of chlamydia.

According to Lee, “chlamydia is a trauma trigger for most of our students.  Many of them contracted it in middle school, while others have lost family and friends to this affliction.  Under these circumstances, forcing students to actually STUDY chlamydia is just cruel.  It adds insult to injury.  How did medical schools ever think this was a good idea?

“In the coming months our training focus will transition from panic-inducing STDs toward the soothing amniotic fluid of holistic wellness.  We will offer new courses on hummus-based healing, colon cleansing, and herbal shampoos that prevent COVID.  This initiative will be overseen by Dr. Gwyneth Paltrow, our incoming Director of Mindful Medicine. 

“Our commitment to trauma-free learning will be underscored by a name change:  Beginning September 1st, 2023, we will be known as the Ornell Medical School.  Students will no longer have to encounter the dreaded chlamydia ‘C’ — what psychotherapists call the ‘consonant of suffering’ — every time they contemplate our institution.  I must say, it’s about time.” 


On March 30th, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst unveiled a new “brand mark” designed to expand the school’s “visual identity system” (UMass website).   Yes, the phrases in quotation marks actually appeared in the announcement, unaccompanied by puzzled or laughing emojis. 

The new brand mark, otherwise known as a “logo” to rank-and-file humans, is the letter “M.”  

When a reporter observed that “M” could represent any one of EIGHT flagship universities around the country, John Kennedy, Vice Chancellor of University Relations at UMass, went on the offensive, trashing the other seven states by name.

His rant:

“Montana?  Hell, it’s not even a state, it’s a territory.  Union troops are still clearing out tribes of Chippewa, Sioux, and Crow holed up in Bozeman and Missoula.

“PLEASE don’t get me started on Maryland.  I’m not saying that students in College Park are slow, but there must be a reason the school’s mascot is a terrapin.  The state is shaped like a jigsaw-puzzle piece designed by someone who sits on a park bench all day and screams at pigeons.  No way Maryland deserves an “M.”

“Missouri?  Seriously?  You have a big ol’ arch in St. Louis that celebrates McDonald’s.  And you had a World’s Fair back in 1904.  Get over it.

“Mississippi?  God, no.  In Yalobusha and Tallahatchie counties it’s still legal to own slaves.  What kind of message does that send?

“Minnesota?  Don’t make me laugh.  The Vikings have played in four Super Bowls and lost them all.  When it’s 20 degrees below zero you cut a hole in one of your 10,000 frozen lakes and go ice fishing.  How pathetic is that?

“Maine?  Ever try to have a conversation with someone from Downeast?  They can barely speak English.  And let’s face it: without a tub of butter, Maine lobster is just a radial tire masquerading as seafood.  

“Michigan?  I’ll grant you, the University of Michigan has a terrific fight song.  But nothing beats 30,000 drunken New Englanders singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Dirty Water’ at Fenway Park on a Saturday night in July.  Close your eyes and smell the warm beer sloshing in your Dixie cup.  

“Are there any other questions?”



“Run, Save Yourselves!!!”

The headline says it all:  “Shelter-in-place lifted at Monmouth University after curling iron mistaken for weapon” (ABC News Online, March 23).

Don’t fret, Monmouth.  You have plenty of company in the mistaken-identity sweepstakes.  Consider these three incidents from just the past 30 days:

March 2nd:  At Oklahoma State University, a ripe avocado left on a tray in the dining commons was mistaken for a live hand grenade by Mildred Urf, a 72-year-old cashier beloved by students.  Yelling “Save yourselves!” Ms. Urf sprinted toward the tray and jumped, smothering the avocado with her stomach.  She suffered a severe navel bruise and was later awarded the school’s Badge of Courage by OSU President Kayse Shrum.  

March 14th:  Three varsity football players at Louisiana State University, unhappy with their limited playing time last season, mistook a manhole cover on a campus street for the transfer portal to Auburn University.  They proceeded to remove the cover and descend into LSU’s extensive sewer system.  They were found six days later, “stinking to high heaven,” according to the school’s police chief.  “There’s not enough AXE Body Spray in the entire universe to get them smelling decent again.”

March 22nd:  An adjunct instructor at the College of William and Mary was mistaken for a tenure-track faculty member and allowed to sit in the “Professorial Section” at a campus-wide meeting.  When the error was discovered, the instructor, a male, resisted being relocated to the block of seats reserved for part-time faculty and women at the rear of the auditorium.  A scuffle ensued and an officer was bitten, but it’s not clear by whom.   The incident is currently under investigation.  

QUICK!!!  Is that thing in the middle of the quad a stray Birkenstock sandal or an Improvised Explosive Device???

You’d Be Scared, Too…

A recent national survey found that 58.5% of college students are reluctant to discuss at least one of the following hot-button topics in class: race, gender, politics, religion, and sexual orientation (Chronicle of Higher Education, March 22nd online). 

58.5% may seem high, but it pales in comparison to 97%, which is the percentage of students who absolutely refuse to talk in class about any of the following: differential calculus, amoebic dysentery, the Code of Hammurabi, the Oxford comma, and Gallium, the 31st element in the Periodic Table.  

Consider the case of Terrance Flish, a sophomore at Florida State University.  He claims that differential calculus is his personal “trauma trigger.”  “Last week my Math professor called on me to explain the difference between differential calculus and integral calculus.  I froze, and then totally lost bowel control right in front of everyone.  The professor made fun of me and joked that my large intestine had emptied so completely that I should go to Walgreens for a free colonoscopy.  I was mortified.  Later, I was even more mortified when I discovered that Walgreens doesn’t perform colonoscopies.”

At Muhlenberg College, an English professor asked Melanie Nulf-Petras what her opinion was of the Oxford comma.  “I passed out,” she reports.  “Now I have nightmares nearly every night about writing sentences that contain lists, and the medication I’m taking for the dreams is causing my eyebrows to grow down the sides of my cheeks.  My life is beyond horrible.” 

An ROTC instructor at Sam Houston State University asked freshman Matthew Capsaicin to recite Law 110 from the Code of Hammurabi.  As Capsaicin recounts the incident, “I panicked and said, ‘Thou shalt not wear white after Labor Day’[The correct answer: ‘If a sister of god opens a tavern, or enters a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death’.]  The instructor yelled ‘WRONG!’ and proceeded to pull a pistol from his pants pocket and shoot me twice in the left leg, right below the knee.  Two weeks later I was cut from the varsity basketball team and lost my athletic scholarship.  My parents were not happy.”

Yes, college students are afraid to talk in class.

And it looks like they should be.  

“Bring in ‘da Pomp, Bring in ‘da Circumstance….”

In recent months, U.S. News & World Report has been taking more body blows than Michael B. Jordan in Creed III, as one high-profile school after another refuses to participate in the magazine’s annual college and university rankings. 

On Wednesday, however, the Report bounced off the ropes and landed a punch of its own, unveiling a new dimension that will, in the words of company CEO Eric Gertler, “help ensure the validity of our college prestige rankings for decades to come.”

Dubbed G-7, it measures the grandeur of a school’s inauguration ceremony for a new president or chancellor.

A college or university’s G-7 score will incorporate the following components:


100 pts.:  Cathedral (at least 300 years old)

50 pts.:  Cathedral (less than 300 years old)

5 pts.:  Anywhere else


100 pts.:  Monarchs, Potentates, Prime Ministers, Overlords, etc. 

90 pts.:  Nobel Prize winners in STEM fields

85 pts.:  Neil deGrasse Tyson

80 pts.:  George Clooney

75 pts.:  Football coaches from the Southeastern Conference (SEC)

70 pts.:  College and university presidents with a Ph.D. 

65 pts.:  College and university presidents without a Ph.D. 

60 pts.:  Head of the faculty union (not wearing a protest sign)

50 pts.:  Chair of the Core Curriculum Committee

45 pts.:  Emeritus professors (cognitively intact)

40 pts.:  Emeritus professors (not quite cognitively intact)

35 pts.:  Student government presidents with at least a 2.75 GPA

30 pts.:  Adjunct faculty with a minimum of 30 teaching credits

25 pts.:  Live poultry from a neighboring institution’s School of Agriculture (must be wearing ceremonial robes)

15 pts.:  A bucket of KFC donated by a local franchisee

-10 pts.:  Head of the faculty union (wearing a protest sign) 


100 pts.:  Symphony composed by John Williams especially for the event

75 pts.:  Barry Manilow medley performed by the school’s marching band

50 pts.:  Star-Spangled Banner sung by a sophomore Music major with a head cold

20 pts.:  Pre-recorded “Tunes to Twerk By” played by a local DJ


100 pts.:  Jon Stewart

80 pts.:  Patrick Stewart

40 pts.:  Rod Stewart

30 pts.:  Stewie (from “Family Guy”)

10 pts.:  Martha Stewart


100 pts.:  Formal wear featured in the New York Times Style Magazine

70 pts.:  Sweats

30 pts.:  Anything from the “Trailer Park” rack at David’s Bridal


100 pts.:  Shrimp cocktail (with sauce)

90 pts.:  Shrimp cocktail (without sauce)

80 pts.:  Cheese bits (with toothpicks)

70 pts.:  Cheese bits (without toothpicks)

60 pts.:  Hummus (with crackers)

50 pts.:  Hummus (without crackers)

40 pts.:  Turkey jerky

30 pts.:  No-salt Cheez-Its


100 pts.:  Wine

90 pts.:  Beer in wine glasses

80 pts.:  Beer in glass bottles

70 pts.:  Beer in cans

60 pts.:  Beer in 20-ounce stadium cups

50 pts.:  Breast milk

40 pts.:  Tap water

30 pts.:  Pedialyte Grape 

Immediately following the U.S. News & World Report press conference introducing the inauguration factor, Harvard and Yale Law Schools announced that they would resume participating in the ranking process.  As Harvard Law Dean John F. Manning put it, “we’re back in the game, baby, with gold-tasseled loafers on both feet!”  


23 and WHO?

Controversy briefly swirled on social media last month after a Latina was crowned Miss Coppin State University.  Coppin State is an HBCU in Maryland, with only 3% of its student body identifying as Latino or Hispanic (The Baltimore Banner, February 4th online).  

Upon hearing this news, Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida and champion of no-nonsense higher education, issued an Executive Order designed to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening in the Sunshine State. 

Beginning July 1st, 2023, all Florida HBCU pageant contestants must submit, as part of their application portfolio, a complete DNA profile generated by either 23andMe or  They will need to demonstrate at least 90% Black heritage in order to move forward in the competition.  

“It’s the least we can do to protect the integrity of these contests,” says DeSantis.  “Indeed, I look forward to the day when a DNA requirement will apply to anyone who even seeks admission to a Florida HBCU.  Let’s face it, the sooner that every college and university in the nation replaces the SAT and ACT with genetic testing, the better off we’ll all be.  It’s time to sort out, once and for all, who belongs where.

“I’m Ron DeSantis, and I approved this message.”