It’s the Crab Cakes

In an October 13th article entitled “How the Academic Elite Reproduces Itself” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the authors cite research indicating that “graduates from a few elite institutions account for an outsized proportion of high-profile published work.” 

Hmmm…..sounds like there could be a scandal brewing here.  So, as a service to University Life readers, I put on my investigative reporter hat and conducted phone interviews with the Presidents of several of the institutions mentioned in the article, asking for their explanations of this finding.  Here’s what they said:

Drew Gilpin Faust (Harvard): “Virtually all of our doctoral students come from a eugenics breeding farm that the University maintains in Chesuncook, Maine.  It works out well for us, though occasionally a gene-splicing error produces a physics Ph.D. with an extra ear or a mathematician with zero interpersonal skills and poor personal hygiene habits.  Okay, okay….maybe the second problem occurs more than just occasionally.”

Ronald Daniels (Johns Hopkins): “It’s the crab cakes.  Here in Baltimore we have the Chesapeake Bay blue crab, and those babies rock!  Incredibly tasty, and the ultimate brain food.  Make sure to use Old Bay High-Citation Seasoning and buy the lump meat, not the claw.  Psych students who get the less expensive claw meat end up publishing in places like Highlights Magazine rather than Developmental Psychology.  A damn shame.”

Martha Pollack (Cornell): “It must be all the hills on our Ithaca campus.  Climb, descend, climb, descend, climb, descend.  Up, down, up, down, up, down.  It NEVER ends.  Exercises the mind as well as the body, I guess.  But I’m so sick of it.  My lower legs look like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s during his prime, and they ache constantly.  If the Board of Trustees let me, I’d bring in a bunch of road graders and level the whole freakin’ landscape!  You’re not recording this, are you?”

Christopher Eisgruber (Princeton): “You’re kidding, right?  We’re PRINCETON!  God ADORES us.  Haven’t you heard of the Divine Right of Kings?  Everything we touch becomes golden, sparkly, and brilliant…..a snow globe filled with all the world’s knowledge, shimmering like the Aurora Borealis.  Why the hell we’re in New Jersey, I’ll never know.”

Carol Crist (Berkeley) and Marc Tessier-Lavigne (Stanford) [conference call]: “You have NO idea how much high-octane pot we smoke out here!  We buy it in 500-lb. bales, divide it up into compressed bricks, and then distribute the bricks to graduate students at orientation.  The impact on the quality of their scholarly work is MASSIVE!  Or maybe it’s just the Doritos.  Who the hell knows?  HA-HA-HA-HA-HA………. [raucous laughter continues for 10 minutes, with background noises suggesting that Tessier-Lavigne has tumbled out of his chair onto the floor].”

There you have it.  Question asked, and answered.  No scandal here, folks.