Campus Open House

It’s all hands on deck this year for open houses.

After the story about a rape at HWS was on the front page of a Sunday edition of the New York Times this summer, we lived in anticipation of a global-warming melt of admitted students. But no! The theory out of Admissions is that they were already committed enough to come anyway.

Here’s the problem. Campus visits are down something like 25% so far this year. Usually a very high proportion of those who visit campus eventually apply. What no one knows (because colleges don’t disclose this sort of thing) is whether it’s JUST US or whether other colleges and universities with similar cases are having recruiting trouble. There are something like 75 now with public investigations by the Office of Civil Rights – from Yale, Amherst, Swarthmore, on down. We also wonder why WE got the NYT front page story, when plenty of other campuses are under investigation for more than one complaint – we have only one complaint, horrific though it is.

Whatever the case, I was on campus today giving tours of the art facilities to prospectives and their families.

Click here for a page from the campus website – which is clearly linked from the splash page – talk about disclosure! The organization is a bit messy – the NYT story is at the bottom.

Long first day

My MWF class this semester met from 9:05-10:00. Good group! Too many…let’s hope I was scary enough. Then I had to hang around until 5 for Convocation. Honestly, the speeches were more pedestrian than usual. The keynote was mildly inspiring, but he certainly didn’t say anything everyone who reads news doesn’t know about HIV/AIDS.

Where are all those polls of historians about presidential rankings?

Remember what an world-class awful president George W. Bush was? American historians and political scientists eagerly published polls that proved he ranks with Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan.

Somehow, I haven’t seen any recent rankings of Obama.  Cowards.

There are going to be some very interesting actual histories written of the first decades of the 21st century, but it will take a long while for honesty to set in.

The First Year students get here tomorrow –

. . . and as per usual, I’m more worried about their parents than about them. The little lambkins will be shell-shocked and ready for a nap by the time I see them at 2:45 p.m. In fact, I always think I might just as productively play soft music and let them snooze for an hour as try to talk to them about their college careers on the first day they arrive.

One week and counting…

The First Year Students get here Friday, but classes start a week from today. Syllabus time for almost everyone. Some of the architecture students who are back (I guess folks who are TAs or assistants) were cleaning out last year’s models. Construction was going ahead noisily for the Performing Arts Center on Pulteney – and I’m afraid Pulteney is going to be an awful mess all weekend.

I did a good bit of laundry this afternoon to try to get ahead of the curve!

New Faculty Orientation

I attended a reception yesterday evening for new faculty members and their families. For a good number, this will be their first year of a tenure track job. For the rest, it’s the start of a year of the temporary appointment system (I think all these folks were full time). At least at an event like this we make no distinction, but it’s just under the surface.

Of course I started here at these Colleges on a one year contract, which transmogrified into a 2 year contract by November (they had already figured out that I wasn’t an axe murderer). I didn’t get on the tenure track until year 5, and came up for tenure in year 8. In other words, I’m an unrealistic optimist about my own career, like many people who start Ph.d. programs. More depressing to think about than how closely we’ll stick to these syllabi this semester!

One down, two to go.

Syllabi, that is. I have European Studies 101 laid out – just need to add a new type of quiz and fiddle with the percentages.

further: Religious holidays! I forgot religious holidays. Our chaplain emails a list. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Jain student, but I know there has been a Sikh student (no classes from me). Zoroastrians? Not sure. Once again, she left John Henry Hobart’s day, September 12 in the Episcopal Calendar, off the list.

It’s a fallacy, but it’s one to which I fervently subscribe

I will do better work in a prettier library / better tricked-out study.

Not usually. But I live this way.

I got home from Rome to find my back bedroom/study a big ol’ mess. At least since mid-November I’d been stacking stuff everywhere and the desk and guest bed were entirely invisible.  I dumped a few more things and left it.

For the last 10 days or so I have been working to restore it to usefulness. I’ve shelved and re-shelved books. I’ve recycled a bunch of paper. I hung things in the appropriate seasonal closet.

I had already ordered my new laptop. The black MacBook I took to Germany in 2009 with the cracked LCD screen has been running the external monitor and speakers since that summer – and it was time to replace it with my retired 3 year old MacBook Pro (in between was a MacBook Pro I passed on to my mother as soon as I was eligible for another interest free computer loan on campus).

So I hook up the MacBook Pro to the monitor – and the monitor is dead. As in doornail. Well, it’s at least 10 years old itself, so I bought a remarkably inexpensive replacement (less than $100 at Staples). Then it turned out I didn’t have the right dongle! Well, I went to the office and dug through my electronica there and found a likely candidate – which worked!

So I replugged everything, sat down, and tried to configure the Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. The mouse paired up immediately. The keyboard was recalcitrant. I decided to change the batteries – only to find that they were corroded in place in the oh-so elegant battery-compartment cum keyboard angle-stand.

So, I had to order a new bluetooth keyboard. I’m ashamed of myself, but for once I paid for Amazon next-day delivery.

And here I am typing at my newly restored desk set-up. I’ll straighten more later. I promise I’ll do better work on a sharper screen and with a new keyboard!


Argh – course prep

File under: Things I should have done online from Chattanooga in June.

I got so busy this mid-summer that I let something slide.

A book about the Elgin Marbles I wanted for my First Year Seminar is out of print (of course), but should be fairly easy to reconstruct with PDFs of articles. After all, it started as a Christopher Hitchens screed somewhere.

But there turns out to be an oversupply of good essays about the Elgin Marbles – and I can’t decide!

One had a better opinion of the Oxford University Press

I’m reading an interesting book* but came across three typos in one chart. The author is comparing the Hebrew Torah to the Septuagint version for textual differences**

on page 47, quoting Deuteronomy 6:4 from the Septuagint we read: “And these are the statues and judgements with the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel….”  Statues? With?

And then on page 48, quoting Deut 32:43, “…let all the angles of God prevail for him.” Angles? That’s one of the oldest mistakes in spell-check, so common a typo that when I have any angels in a piece I do a SEARCH just in case some of them get geometrized.

This is particularly conspicuous because the book has the passages in tabular form, so there’s a lot of white space around them and it’s very easy to notice. No one proofreads with eyes any more. No one. *sigh*

*Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

**he says the correlation between the two versions is actually quite high, but in this chapter he is specifically pursuing differences. His working idea is that the Septuagint reflects now lost variant Hebrew versions, much like the ones found at Qumran, rather than just misunderstandings of the Hebrew.

A new science building at Penn

I’d actually like to walk up the staircase here (you may have to scroll through the slide show to see what I mean). 

There’s been a lot of thought over the last decade or so about how buildings can encourage serendipitous collaboration. Hanging the little seating areas along side the staircase? Interesting idea. I suppose the architect sold it as “you bump into someone on the staircase, he asks you a question, you offer to sit down and talk about your answer.”

I’m starting to look at science buildings — our next capital campaign had better be for that!

Corrupting the admissions process

The University of Texas is a big school and can absorb a lot of sub-average students. But when the corruption seems to be driven by the president, that’s pretty bad.

Of course, the old Rice joke was that UT was the best faculty a student body had never deserved. I’m sure that was very mean of us, and not nearly true. But one wonders what percentage of the law school were legislative admits?


My father would never have let me get away with that . . .

I threw away TWO (2) containers of honey mustard dipping sauce from a take out meal today. He would have been appalled. My mother said “oh, fine.”* But here’s the real question — is frugality like that really why there’s so much money in TIAA CREF?

*However, she is resisting letting me give an unopened case of pre-packaged mandarin orange slices (I’ve never seen her open a container!) to the poor. I may have to sneak. I’m gradually emptying the shelves of the upstairs bathroom (stuff which they abandoned in 2006).