The argument for investing in research universities, with a bit of irony

The video, which makes a popular appeal, accompanies a report developed by the Research Council, which is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It was sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council make up the National Academies.

It seems to me really good; it makes a great case that research is not some excuse invented by lazy academics, even though it leaves out a lot of academia. It is really about the STEM fields.

And the irony? It’s connected to the immediately preceding post. That is, in among all these academics and corporate CEO’s is Teresa Sullivan, the recently ousted president of UVa. The Rector, a developer from Virginia Beach, became convinced early on that Sullivan didn’t really have the right ideas or the courage to lead a research university.

The UVa mega-kerfuffle

Brian Leiter is giving us an excellent account, from a sensible academic point of view, of the UVa mess-up; see the first page here. Still, there is one point that is often noted in the coverage, but not discussed. Not only has Rector Dargas basically fired President Sullivan after less than two years, which is astonishingly quick, but, as WaPo notices:

Nearly everyone at the Charlottesville campus thought Sullivan was off to a promising start. She spent her first year in office installing an estimable team of top administrators and her second year strengthening the university’s academic model, just as she had been tasked by the board that hired her.

But at least one key player did not agree: Helen Dragas, a savvy, fiscally conservative developer from Virginia Beach appointed to the board in 2008 by then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and promoted to rector of the 16-person board last summer. Her misgivings about Sullivan would pit the university’s first female rector against its first female president.

The WaPo article shows elements that could make the whole think look like a terrible muddle. But, as academic commentators stress, underneath is a hijacking of an academic structure by some of the most questionable business values. And behind that is a woman convinced another woman did not have the needed mettle. That’s despite Sullivan’s very distinguished career in academic leadership.

The fact that the whole thing appears to contain many of the tropes of a feminist critique does not mean they were really operating. But let’s just note: the first woman in a position can seem to some to lack credibility. And women are very often as much in the thrall of such doubts as men. Even a Virginia Beach developer, which actually seems crazy to me.

To their credit, many members of the campus are appalled.

On News-stands Now(ish): Scientific American Mind

Did anyone pick up a copy of this special issue by any chance? And if so, is it as bad as it sounds? (e.g.: WE chaps make the jokes, and YOU ladies laugh, all right?)

UPDATE: Apologies for the excessive size, I’ve trimmed it down now. Also, I saw this on a news-stand in Cambridge a matter of a few weeks ago, so I’m surprised to discover in comments that it’s from 2010. Maybe just overstock being sold off? Anyway, thank you to commenters for the links. Sounds like there was a touch of the usual sensationalist false advertising being employed here.


Reassessing princess diana?

I’ve often thought Diana exhibited some genuine courage and caring during her life.** I was less than keen on the thorough drubbing she received at the hands of many in British learned society. So I was interested in a revision by a former editor of the Tatler.

Tina Brown, now editor-in-chief of Newsweek, has some interesting new things to say about Diana here.

Her overall assessment is that Diana managed to take an incredibly painful experience caused by others and to do some good with it. She has a number of reasons for this assessment, including the contrast betweeen how great effort has been made to bring Kate Middleton into the monarchy, while Diana was largely hung out to dry.

In addition, while Diana was labeled paranoid for extended sense she was spied on, we now can see she probably was a victim of the Murdoch Empire phone hacking.

What do you think?

**Added: She was one of the first – perhaps the very first – public figure to challenge by her behavior the idea that AIDS could be transferred through touch. Her campaign against land mines was very important and hardly typical royal stuff.

“My moobs and me”

Reflections from a man with gynacomastia

We’re so entrenched, we can’t accept bodies that don’t fall on either extreme of the gender continuum. Transgender men and women encounter these attitudes in direct and sometimes life-threatening ways. And, given the misogyny that pervades society, these pressures are even harder for women and girls, whether they’re cisgender or transgender. Their bodies are hated and desired in equal measure. When my bully grabbed my breasts and called me “Tits”, he was taking what he wanted. He was also reminding me that I was no better than a girl. I was beneath him.

…Perhaps because of my early struggles to accept my body, I’ve found a measure of freedom in appearing naked on stage as a performance artist. And now, 20 years after my surgeries, I find I miss my breasts. Looking through childhood photos, I was astonished to find a picture of myself at 12, dressed for Halloween in full drag as Dolly Parton. In the photo (left), I have a big smile and my boobs have been pushed up and exaggerated. The photo touches me, because it suggests that even while I was facing intense bullying and social stigma, I was already using my body to comment on gender with humour and strength.