The Academy

The Academy and the Cartoon Controversy

Those hoping for insight from Middle East Studies specialists, however, will be sorely disappointed. Last year’s events at Columbia, which featured credible allegations of anti-Israel bias in the classrooms of several Middle East Studies professors, provided only the highest-profile example of a field whose faculty too often seem to view demonizing Israel as an academic responsibility. Israel can’t be blamed for the current controversy. But that hasn’t stopped many of the academy’s experts on the Middle East from using the controversy to recycle their customary critiques.

A Modest Proposal for University Reform

07.25.2005 | Jonathan Leaf | The Academy | 7 Comments

What if Paul Allen were to offer a billion dollars to a leading university to pay every undergraduate's tuition — if the school’s faculty would in return agree to tenure reform?

The First Flush of Ambition and Other Follies

07.18.2005 | Scott McLemee | The Academy
Principle of the Dangerous Precedent: “...Every public action which is not customary, either is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time.”

Cheating Honor

06.15.2005 | Eric Adler | The Academy | 2 Comments
If a university were to dedicate itself to a “Sobriety Code,” students would transfer. If it were to formulate a "Sex Code", it would disturb parents or the women's studies department. But an “Honor Code” troubles no one.

Cafeteria Culture & the Kettle Choppers

"The cafeterias and the automats were the center of New York intellectual life back then," they told me, each one finishing the other's thought, as old couples often will. "You'd buy a sandwich or a piece of pie, both if you could afford it, but what you really went there to do was talk." It was they who explained to me the odd Yiddish idiom, "to chop a tea kettle." "It means," they said, "that a person makes a lot of noise without accomplishing anything."

Bellow and the Communion Wafers

Bellow had made a bitter jab at multiculturalism, asking who the Tolstoy of the Zulus might have been. He made plenty of other irritable gestures disguised as grand pronouncements, or maybe it was vice versa. But no effort to dismiss his comment really worked for me. It stuck in my mind like a burr: “If you don’t give literature a decisive part to play in your existence, then you haven’t got anything but a show of culture. It has no reality whatever.”

A Crypt Full of Professors

03.31.2005 | Scott McLemee | The Academy | 1 Comment
“It was like they wanted to finish their youth through you, somehow,” he said. “They needed your energy. They needed you to admire them. They were hungry for it. It felt like I had wandered into a crypt full of vampires. After a while, I just wanted to flee.”

The Hamlet of Morningside Heights

03.28.2005 | Jacob Gershman | The Academy | 2 Comments
What remains to be seen is if President Bollinger can translate his vision of academic freedom into a course of action that will restore the now tarnished reputation for integrity of one of America's great universities.

Rise of the Aca-Deaniacs

03.22.2005 | Fred Siegel | The Academy | 13 Comments

"Bush is bullshit," the student told me, "the most evil man in the world." Like the fascist writers of the 1930s from whom their postmodern teachers had drawn their ideas, these Deaniacs were both engaged in politics and deeply cynical about democracy. Doubtful that informed debate could settle much, they hoped to impose their will on a backward country that wickedly refused to see the appeal of a "Fuck Bush" platform.

Massad & the Paradox of Self-Censorship

02.15.2005 | Minnie Quach | The Academy | 2 Comments
If Massad is innocent of the allegations against him, why did he not steadfastly defend his academic freedom and continue teaching his course? By dropping a course that he would have taught if the controversy had never arose, Massad (not a university official or outside critic) has done an injustice to Columbia students.

Sol Stern & Fred Siegel -- Morningside Intifada

02.7.2005 | Sol Stern | The Academy
When Ilan Pappe bizarrely insisted that the destruction of Israel would pave the way for enhanced rights for women, the feminist students in the audience cheered.

Summers v. Women, Times v. Idol

01.26.2005 | Russ Smith | Media Affairs, The Academy | 1 Comment
If Idol was on ABC, say, the editorial "American Awful" wouldn't have seen print. But with Rupert Jacob Marley Murdoch lurking between the lines, the Gray Lady saw red.

Derrida (1930-2004)

12.24.2004 | J.E. D'Ulisse | The Academy | 1 Comment
The accusation that Derrida was an obscuritanist is absurd. There has never been a writer of greater clarity.

Socrates, Chomsky & the Taliban

12.13.2004 | Jonathan Leaf | The Academy | 11 Comments
He knew a better way, one in which philosopher-kings like himself would rule for the benefit of all. Just as Chomsky enjoys his tenure in Cambridge while denouncing America, Socrates chose to live where there was freedom.

"LOVE IS FEAR" -- A Report From the Academy

05.21.2004 | Sam Munson | Literature, The Academy | 1 Comment
While we are talking to Z., his co-editor and collaborator Brian H. hangs palely in the background, muttering to Timothy L. Brian H. has terrible posture, hipster glasses, and a soul patch. He teaches English, and has just written a book on James Tate, called "On James Tate." S. and I once declined to publish H.'s poems in our college magazine. Being an established and important figure, and ten years our senior, he was rather huffy about it. He has not spoken to us since.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.: Fraud?, cont.

05.16.2004 | Jonathan Leaf | The Academy | 2 Comments
...Nor was Schlesinger a terribly prescient writer: in his The Cycles of American History, he insisted that Reagan's foreign policy towards the USSR would prove counterproductive.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.: Fraud?

05.10.2004 | Jonathan Leaf | The Academy | 2 Comments
But The Age of Jackson is a book much like those Hollywood costume dramas that pretend to be about Queen Elizabeth's time as they try to teach the audience a valuable lesson about tolerance or the need for unity during wartime. The book's real subject is the era in which it was written, the 1940's -- not the 1830's. It was only because the work's Democratic populist message resonated with Liberals anxious to unite different regions and party factions that no one bothered to consider if it adequately treated its subject from a social, political or economic perspective.

Clarity Is King -- Eric Adler on Postmodernists' Limpid Bursts

05.7.2004 | Eric Adler | The Academy | 4 Comments
The question beckons: Why can Spivak express herself so lucidly in Commentary, but offer only linguistic legerdemain elsewhere? In short, why can Spivak only occasionally write a sentence?

The Failure of "Creative" Writing

03.22.2004 | Jonathan Leaf | The Academy
The term "creative writing" suggests that fiction in its many forms -- novels, plays, screenplays -- is somehow creative, while non-fiction is not. Yet has there ever been a law brief in a hotly contested divorce case that did not involve creativity on the part of its author? Are bad novelists in some way more heroic than good non-fiction writers? Are we to value Howard Fast more than H. L. Mencken, or to rank Tom Clancy above Spinoza?

Hate Crimes and Hate Itself

The professor whose car was vandalized had earlier the same day spoken up at an event dedicated to distinguishing "free speech" from "hate speech." I wonder sometimes whether people who need to define the difference between the two might in fact be opposed to both. And now it appears that she slashed the tires and smashed the windows herself, painted the slurs and threats on her own car.