It’s the end of the academic year, and so far the Associated Press and The Washington Post have featured articles offering broad generalizations about what just happened in higher ed. For the AP writer, the year on campus has been all about dishonesty: we’ve had nine months of plagiarism, conflict of interest, and similar modes of malfeasance at our colleges and universities. The Washington Post, noting some local static involving university presidents, says it’s above all been the year of the burnt-out chief executive officer.
I’ll consider these year-end summaries in a later post, which will also include links to these articles. But hold on:
I’m Margaret Soltan, an English professor at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. Most online people call me UD, after my blog, University Diaries, which for the last few years, at margaretsoltan.phenominet.com, has been chronicling all aspects of American university life, with an eye toward improving that life for students and faculty. A fellow academic blogger describes me as “splendidly splenetic,” which sounds right, I guess... Not that I’m one of those angry bitter mad as hell not going to take it anymore types... In fact, I’m much more interested in stories that are funny than in stories that are indignation-rousing... And almost all stories strike me as funny in one way or another.
The spleen is more about SOS, a popular feature of my blog, in which a Scathing Online Schoolmarm (that’d be me) subjects a perfectly innocent piece of prose I’ve picked up in some newspaper or magazine to insane stylistic, grammatical, and logical nitpicking. In her essay, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders,” Camille Paglia describes Michel Foucault’s intellectual method as “that of a scowling, squinting, round-shouldered person ramming knitting needles into a great pile of badly mixed, sticky bread dough.” I suspect that’s what SOS looks like to a lot of readers. On the other hand, SOS seems, as I say, to be the most popular element of my blog — almost everyone would like to write better, I guess — and I’ll be letting the marm ram her needles here at IHE as well.
The other thing UD’s known for is her cosmic contempt for bigtime university sports — those humongous, revenue-draining, academic-reputation-destroying basketball and football programs that spend half their time telling us what role models their guys are, and how school spirit would wither without big ol’ tv extravaganzas featuring them, and the other half issuing terse, shocked communiques about the latest crimes the lads (and sometimes their coaches) have committed, or communiques about how perplexing it is that so few of them seem to go to class or graduate from college. UD likes hypocrisy as much as the next person, but bigtime university athletics is way over the top.
I’ll also be describing my teaching life at GW, and I’ll be reporting on various significant higher ed events in and around Washington ... and sometimes I’ll get nostalgic about my hippie past (today’s Bob Dylan’s birthday) ... not to be self-indulgent, you understand, but to give you some insight into the mind of an American university professor...