Time for a break

I’m reaching a point in some difficult projects where I need to devote extra attention. So I’ll be posting rarely, if at all, for a while. Thanks to all of loyal readers for your comments and messages. The good news is that this is not a new topic anymore. Most of the press get the problem and there are others addressing it, some with the aggression it needs.

Corinthian Students Not Completely Screwed

Ashlee Kieler at the Consumerist looks into the problems confronting the students at one of the colleges under Corinthian umbrella, colleges that are all slated to die to save the student aid game.

It turns out that someone once wrote in a magic clause to the student aid bill that lets you walk away from your loans if the school closes. It doesn’t happen that often so no one is that versed in it but it could mean that everyone at Corinthian could magically walk away from their debt and dump it all on the back of Uncle Sam. Whoo hoo!

But if Corinthian is allowed to “teach out” their students, well, no dice.

Too Big To Fail Comes to the College Industrial Complex

San Francisco is filled with people who shook their fists at the way the government industrial complex coddled the banking industrial complex by bailing them out in the last collapse. And given the prevalence of banking hate in SF, I’m sure the faculty at the City College of San Francisco had plenty of choice, twenty-five cent words condemning the government’s action. Diverting attention by getting the people to hate the bankers is an easy trick around the schools.

As everyone is trying to get their heads around Corinthian College(s), comes the news that the accreditor are giving the CCSF even more time to do what they were told to do several years ago. Why? Well, everyone is realizing that killing the colleges could sort of be bad for the students who will be stuck with debt and no degree. And so we’ve got a combination of two powerful political rhetorical devices: Too Big to Fail and It’s For the Kids. So let’s just keep shoveling more money into the debt factory, okay? It’s for the kids.

Are they really better off with the school surviving? I’m not sure. A completed degree doesn’t make much difference at Starbucks. The ones who are headed there– and it’s got to be a big percentage– don’t gain much except more debt. Given the status of the CCSF in the hierarchy, I’m not sure if many would be better off without the debt.

For more, read Kevin Carey at the NY TImes. 

Meet the College Industrial Complex’s 1%ers

They may prattle on at the faculty club about the evils of the capitalist system. They may bend your ear for hours about the crooked capitalism of the wealthy 1%. But when it comes to running their own world, they’re not any big fans of egalitarianism or sharing the wealth.

Erik Stokstad at Science Magazine reports on the 150k scientists who together have their names on 41% of the papers. If you narrow the set to the most highly cited papers, they’ve got their names on a frightening 87% of the work.

Now if you’re a big believer in social darwinism, it all makes sense. They worked hard. They got the grants and now they’re reaping the rewards.

Who does the work? Why the grad students and post docs, of course. They make up the other 99% and only a few of them will be let into the elite group. Do these grad students make much money? Do these post docs work long hours? Please. We can’t change the system. It’s feudal.

Remind Me Why We Believe Scientists

Dina Spector at Business Insider wastes some time wondering why the Europeans don’t refrigerate their eggs but the Americans insist upon it. It turns out that both continents have good scientific evidence from earnest university types insisting that their way is the best.

Yes, I know that the world is a complicated place and I couldn’t do much better. But still, these are the folks who will drone on and on about “evidence-based decision making” about global warming. Yet they can’t even use evidence-based reasoning to come up with a consistent answer about whether we should refrigerate our eggs.

Let’s Game the Graduation Stats

Carrie Wells at the Baltimore Sun brings us a happy story about how some schools are deferring admission for some students. They let them in, but it’s with a caveat: they must start in spring and they must attend a community college in the fall.

This is often a gift for the students in several ways. First, it gives them time to adjust to college in a less stressful environment. Second, it allows them to attend a school that wouldn’t normally admit them.

But who am I kidding? The reasons the schools like the game is buried in the piece. The government only tracks the graduation rates of students who start in the fall. Those that start in the spring don’t affect that graduation rate, a number that’s going to get even more important as the student loan debacle unfolds.

And I’m sure that these students also aren’t included in the average SAT scores either. IT’s a simple way to keep the students with bad numbers from dragging down the school.


The College Industrial Complex Treats Us All as Lab Rats

Remember the dustup last week over the way that Facebook was monkeying with the news feed to experiment with manipulating our moods. Vindu Goel at the NY Times famously said that we’re all lab rats in Facebook’s petri dish.

Jay Rosen at the Washington Post points out that this is just a minor blip for Facebook, but a deeper issue for the college industrial complex. After all, Facebook is in the business of selling ads, not selling research. The college industrial complex needs new paper ideas and new studies to fund their expensive overhead. If other people start complaining about being lab rats, well, that wouldn’t be good for business.

Rosen points out that the brilliant researchers at Cornell dodges all of these questions by bamboozling the Institutional Review Board by saying that they weren’t going to collect the data themselves. It would be Facebook doing the dirty work. It’s sort of the same argument that the CIA, the NSA or whomever uses when they say, “We’re not spying on Americans.”

Rosen writes:

If you experiment on human beings you have to follow them. Academic research is not some free-for-all. It has to meet certain standards. When those standards become controversial in the public square we are happy to explain them. Because we know what we’re doing—

Except when we don’t.


Just another issue tossed aside in the race to publish.

Where the money goes: Studying Beyonce

Now if Kevin Allred happened to be a red-blooded frat boy oogling Beyonce, he would be wrong because he would be objectifying her or perhaps abusing the male gaze. Luckily Prof. Allred is a card-carrying member of the professoriate and he’s got the vocabulary to prove it. Instead of simply looking at Beyonce because she’s hot, he’s able to dispense big words that make it all okay:

When seen in this context, it becomes clear that Beyonce isn’t sensationalising her own body and putting it on display for viewers to gawk at. Rather, she performs the historical objectification of black female bodies and replays that objectification in order to point out that, stereotypically, black women have had few means of garnering attention beyond sexual performances. She goes so far as forcing the viewer to be complicit in this objectification by positioning them as the direct viewer of the show she is enacting. 

See! He didn’t gawk at Beyonce, he was forced to be complicit in the objectification as a direct viewer. It’s different. Honest.

And here’s the best part. Your tuition dollars spent on junior can get a semester long dose of gawking. I’m sorry. Forced complicity in objectification. Whoo hoo!