The Weekly Blab
Volume 5, Issue 22—February 8, 2011
Always a Good Day to Quote John Lennon
I’m sick and tired of hearing things, from uptight, shortsighted, narrow-minded hypocrites. All I want is the truth. Just gimme some truth…And I’ve had enough of watching scenes, of schizophrenic, egocentric, paranoiac prima donnas. Just gimme the truth. Just gimme some truth.
I don’t know if you’re as sick of the news as I am, so this week’s Weekly Blab will be devoted to the many weird things that one finds in academia without really looking. And away we go!
How to Handle Theft
When Middlebury College (tuition and fees: $52,000!) saw it had a problem—too many dishes being stolen from its cafeteria—the Chronicle reports that it handled the problem in a unique way: It has created a YouTube character to nag them into bringing the dishes back. Aunt Des (as the character is called) is a red-headed woman who is “hell-bent on recovering the dishes.” You have to see the videos to believe it—they are truly atrocious. Net result of this effort: None. The thefts of dishes still continue apace.
So You Think Your Department is Hostile, Part 1
A faculty member forwarded this gem to me. SFGate, home of the San Francisco Chronicle, reports that a math professor at California State University, Northridge, has been charged with peeing on his department colleagues’ door. Authorities say that the motive was a dispute between the two mathematicians. No kidding.
So You Think Your Department is Hostile, Part 2
An article in the Chronicle this week involved a faculty member (Lisa Chavez) in the English Department at the University of New Mexico who moonlighted as a phone-sex dominatrix named “Mistress Jade”. She also posed for “promotional pictures” for the phone-sex company with one of her own graduate students. This did not sit well with several other faculty at the university, who complained that while Chavez quickly quit the phone-sex job and said she had a serious lapse in judgment, UNM said none of its own policies had been violated and did nothing to address the situation.
So—who do you think the UNM <ahem> punished because of this? Right—the faculty who complained about the behavior. One complainant sued that the university administration had made her life miserable, in effect pushing her out of her job. She went to the state labor board, who ordered the University to pay unemployment benefits to the tune of $11,000. The University appealed, but the decision has now been upheld. Two other lawsuits by faculty in the English department also followed, arguing that they had also been subject to administrative retaliation. A third lawsuit from a psychology faculty member (married to one of the complainants) said that he had suffered a pay loss and was denied a promised private office in retaliation for his wife’s complaining.
Chavez has accused her accusers of bias against her because she is Hispanic and bisexual. There are a thousand more details in an earlier article about this situation, but y’all get the gist by now.
Careful What You Paint
Closer to home, the Chronicle reports that a faculty member at Gainesville State College created some controversy with a piece of his art. A painting known as “Heritage?” depicts a Klansman with a torch and a lynching superimposed on the Confederate battle flag. When the College received complaints, the administration asked faculty member Stanley Bermudez to remove the artwork from the faculty art show, which he did. An artist’s statement explaining what inspired the painting has now replaced the artwork, the Gainesville Times notes.
Careful How You Craft a Law
The Chronicle reports that the state of New York passed a law to allow the children of illegal immigrants who graduated from a New York high school to attend SUNY and CUNY universities at in-state tuition rates. The state was promptly sued by three graduates of SUNY Binghamton, who wanted a partial refund because they were New Jersey residents who had graduated from a religious high school in New York, and argued that they were not informed they were eligible for the tuition break. The University has stated it does not offer retroactive refunds.
In a related story, some nine couples at U. California—Berkeley have married to avoid paying higher out-of-state tuition rates. Married students qualify more easily for in-state tuition rates, since they are assumed to be independent of their parents, a different article notes.
Careful Where You Look
Another article in the Chronicle reports a study published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly. The study, entitled “When What You See Is What You Get: The Consequences of the Objectifying Gaze for Women and Men”, examined the effect of “objectifying gaze” on women’s ability to solve mathematics problems. To ensure that the gazing was done properly, I quote the lead researcher: Ms. Gervais laughs. “In the laboratory, as you might imagine, it’s relatively difficult to get people to gaze at other people,” she says. “So what we did in this study is we trained confederates — those are people that are sort of in on this study — we trained them to visually scan women’s bodies and then to stare at their chests when they were interviewing them, and … we did this also to men.” This reminded me of the old joke about the difference between an introverted engineer and an extroverted engineer—the extroverted engineer stares at your shoes.
The results of the study? “We found that the objectifying gaze caused decreased math performance for women, but somewhat ironically we also found that the same women that were objectified also wanted more interaction with the person that had objectified them,” Ms. Gervais says in a videotaped interview with the editor of the journal.
The paper was reported to have been chosen as the journal’s Best Paper of 2011, despite the fact that it is currently only February. Which leaves me to wonder: what would be the effect of someone peeing on your office door on your ability to solve math problems? A guaranteed journal article to anyone wanting to carry out this research.
Last Week’s Trivia Challenge
Last week’s Trivia Challenge on the Bible was won in an impressive ten minutes by Ronny Richardson (BA).
The last two are more difficult than they seem…
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
This week’s topic is Words that begin with a “Z”. Usual rules apply. No looking on the internet now!
1. What is the gizmo that cleans the ice in the middle of a hockey game called?
2. On The Patty Duke Show’s theme song, where had cousin Cathy been?
3. What are the two elements that begin with a “Z”?
4. What is the name of the currency in Poland?
5. What is the kind of treat that goes best with your Bosco at breakfast?