faculty

Judge declares mistrial in suit by conservative over being passed over for law professor job

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Jurors deadlock on one charge and reject another in lawsuit by conservative woman who was passed over for law faculty job at University of Iowa.

Academic Minute: Oldest UK Cave Art Discovered

In today’s Academic Minute, George Nash of the University of Bristol recounts his discovery of what could be the United Kingdom’s oldest example of cave art. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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U. of Kentucky Declines to Revoke Administrators' Perk

At the University of Kentucky, employee contributions of 5 percent of salary to their retirement funds are matched by a 10 percent institutional contribution. For administrators, however, 15 percent of salary is provided by the university straight to the retirement fund. Faculty members, who have been sparring with the administration over budget cuts, suggested that the university eliminate the special benefit for administrators, but the university has declined, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. The university did agree not to offer the benefit to any more administrators, but said it would be unfair to take it away from those already receiving the extra contributions to their retirement funds.

 

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Essay on weighing whether to finish a long doctoral program

Caden Steele explains how he handled the dilemma of whether to leave a doctoral program in which he had invested considerable time, but that he found frustrating and debilitating.

 

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British Universities Make Pledge on Animal Research

Fifteen British universities have joined other science and charitable organizations in pledging to be more open about the use of animals in research and to promote public discussion of the ethical issues involved, Times Higher Education reported. The pledge follows concern by some scientists and others that support in Britain is dropping for the use of animals in research.

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New Study of Scientists' Views of Sex Discrimination's Impact

Both male and female scientists believe that gender discrimination is one reason why some women avoid careers in science, and why some who opt for science careers pursue biology as opposed to physics, according to a new report published in the journal Gender and Society. The authors say that they want to understand why women are making certain choices, and how those choices are perceived. In interviews, male scientists tended to refer to past discrimination as a factor while women were more likely to cite current discrimination as a factor.

 

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Journals Project, Attacked by Senator, Defends Its Role

Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, periodically releases lists of projects on which he believes the federal government has wasted its money. His new "Wastebook 2012," includes several research and education projects at colleges, and one of them is fighting back. That is number 79 on Coburn's list: "Duplicate magazine preservation," in which he blasts the National Endowment for the Humanities for awarding a $270,000 grant to Brown University and the University of Tulsa for the Modernist Journals Project, which is digitizing early 20th century publications. Coburn's book says that the project duplicates work being done by Google and others. Robert Scholes, a Brown professor who is co-director of the project, published a defense of it on the blog Magazine Modernisms. Scholes wrote that Coburn has the dollar figures wrong, ignoring that Brown and Tulsa are paying for half the work. Further, he says that the Google versions do not provide complete reproductions of the publications. And finally, he notes that the project also supports original scholarship. "Stepping back from these factual errors in the report, it’s important to understand that magazine and periodical studies constitute a vibrant and expanding area of teaching and research," Scholes writes.

 

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Essay about building conversational rapport in a job interview

H. William Rice considers why some good candidates don't connect with those interviewing them, and how to improve your chances of impressing the search committee.

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Academic Minute: Geographic Isolation and North American Dinosaurs

In today’s Academic Minute, Terry Gates of Ohio University reveals how shifting geographic features contributed to the creation of two distinct groups of North American dinosaurs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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Essay on Gore Vidal's relationship with Harvard

Gore Vidal, who died in July, was one of our greatest novelists and essayists – and yet he never went to college. In a 2007 interview I asked him why not.

"I graduated from [Phillips] Exeter,” he explained, “and I was aimed at going to Harvard. Instead I enlisted in [the Navy] in 1943. When I got out, in '46, I thought, 'I’ve spent all my life in institutions that I loathe, including my service in the [Navy] of the United States.' I thought, 'Shall I go for another four years?'

"My first book was already being published" — it was the novel Williwaw, and it got good reviews. "I said ‘I'm going to be told how to write by somebody at Harvard.’ I said, 'This is too great a risk.' "

The audience of 2,000 at a book festival at the University of California at Los Angeles laughed and applauded.

"But I did go there to lecture," he added. "This was about '47 or '48. There was a big audience, and many of them were my classmates from Exeter, who were overage juniors and seniors in what looked to be their mid-forties. I came out cheerily, as is my wont, and I've never felt such hatred radiating. They’d all predicted my total failure, because I was not to go to Harvard and meet a publisher or an agent -- which is, I think, why they went."

But what about getting a college education? "I graduated from Exeter, and you really don’t need any more education after that," he replied, "unless you’re going to be a brain surgeon. I had read Plato and I had read Milton. I had read Shakespeare. I had had fair American history. And a lot of Latin. That’s all you need."

At another book event, this one on the University of Southern California campus, he arrived wearing a Harvard athletic letter jacket. He opened the event by explaining "I didn’t go to Harvard, but I have gone on, as you can see, to be a professor of Harvard. I was in a terrible movie in which I played a Harvard professor.”

The "terrible movie" was the 1994 film "With Honors." In it, a student finishing his senior thesis — Brendan Fraser -- finds it being held hostage by a homeless man — Joe Pesci — who ends up teaching him "a thing or two about real life." Vidal played the student’s faculty adviser, a conservative professor of government.

 

 

Sample dialogue:

Homeless Man: "Which door do I leave from?"

Vidal as the professor: "At Harvard we don't end our sentences with prepositions."

Homeless Man: "Which door do I leave from, asshole?"

The New York Times reviewer Caryn James called it "a half-baked movie" with a plot that "shouts cliché." However, James, added, "Gore Vidal is absolutely on target as Monty's priggish mentor.”

Two years earlier Vidal had gone to Harvard to give the prestigious Massey Lectures, for which he wrote a memoir about his early love of film. Vidal later recalled that, "When I gave the Massey Lectures at Harvard, I had mostly graduate students in the audience, Very bright. A great many Chinese from mainland China, who know a great bit more about American civilization than the locals know. So it was quite a treat talking to them.

"But I noticed something interesting whenever I took on a class at Harvard, undergraduate, postgraduate, whatever: no one ever mentioned a book, or a poem, or anything to do with literature.

"I finally broke the ice with my Chinese friends. I said, 'Has anybody here seen 'The Doors?’ " (The Oliver Stone film starring Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison.)

"Well the whole room fell apart. Everybody had seen 'The Doors.' I got away with an hour without having to do anything while they told me about 'The Doors.' "

If the student audience wasn’t engaged with the lectures, the critics loved the book of the lectures, which Harvard University Press published in 2004. The Atlantic called it "witty and sweepingly disrespectful." Michael Kammen, writing in The New York Times Book Review, described it as "vibrant" and compared it to Eudora Welty’s "wonderful" memoir One Writer’s Beginnings. And in the daily New York Times, reviewer Herbert Mitgang called the book "a small gem."

"On almost every page there is an observation worth admiring," he wrote, "whether it is about Hollywood and television, politics and history, or the paranoia and hypocrisy of the commercialized American dream."

In the 1960s Vidal had donated his papers to the University of Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, at a time when he was working primarily in theater, television, and film But in 2002 he transferred those papers and the rest of his archives to Harvard’s Houghton Library. That collection consists of 394 boxes, cartons, and film reels, and includes "drafts of GV's novels, theatrical plays, television scripts, screenplays, essays, poetry, short stories, and speeches," as well as legal records including files on the lawsuits William F. Buckley v. Gore Vidal and Gore Vidal v. Truman Capote.

So although Vidal did not start out at Harvard, his work, and the record of his life, ended up there.

Jon Wiener is a contributing editor of The Nation and teaches history at the University of California at Irvine. The essay is adapted from I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics - Interviews with Jon Wiener (OR Books).

 

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