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October 4, 2008 - 2:06pm



Universities are winsome, dappled, pathetic things.

Their two main constituents, students and professors, are cute and idealistic. They worry about Darfur and solar power and whether we can be said to reason autonomously.

Other important university constituents, like proud parents and alumni sports boosters, are also adorable in their excitement about things like intellectual cultivation and school spirit.

Universities are pathetic as well as adorable because their optimistic, trusting, idealizing nature makes them hopelessly vulnerable. Like Blanche Dubois, the innocent yearning ways of universities invite ravagement by cynics -- people who represent the world outside the university, where things are more Kowalskiesque.

These mercenaries don't give a shit about the dewy-eyed self-appraisal of the university as a place apart, a place dedicated to the best that's been thought, blah blah. They're in it for the money, and they know a sucker when they see one.

The growing scandal of endemic, third-world corruption in American university psychiatry departments reached a sort of peak the other day, when Senator Charles Grassley added the name of Charles Nemeroff, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University (chair until last night, when Emory hastily dumped him), to his long list of professors who take massive amounts of drug industry money in exchange for promoting industry products.

These professors already enjoy among the highest salaries on campus, courtesy of students who pay high tuition. Every year, these professors fill out conflict of interest forms and submit them to their universities, where administrators diligently review their claims not to have broken rules about limits on how much money they can accept from drug companies. Every year, plenty of these professors lie through their teeth, but, as the professors know quite well, the administrators who review their claims are going on trust. It's a university and all.... We're civilized... Administrators aren't the police!

UD detests cliches, but laughing all the way to the bank fits too well.

The question is whether universities can defend themselves against Nemeroffs.

The answer is that they cannot.


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