Archive for April, 2007

Red Sox Fans, Rejoice

Posted on April 30th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

Your team thumped the Yankees again this weekend, taking two of three and continuing to look awesome.

The Yankees have used at least five pitchers in ten straight games, which appears to be a record of pitching ineptitude unequaled in the history of baseball. What the team wouldn’t do for John Wetteland now….or, for that matter, Roger Clemens?

There is even talk that George Steinbrenner will fire Joe Torre, which is bizarre on so many levels, not the least of which is that Steinbrenner’s brain is supposedly turning into mashed potatoes, so how does he even know what’s going on?

More seriously, how could you even think about firing a manager for the Yankees’ current dilemma? Torre has had three hurt starters—Mike Mussina, Chien Ming-Wang, and Carl “Even My Girlfriend Thinks I’m a Wimp” Pavano. His ace reliever has an ERA around 10, and his set-up guys aren’t doing much better. HIs hitters are also flailing. Bobby Abreu can’t buy a hit, Hideki Matsui is ice-cold, Robinson Cano isn’t hitting well, Johnny Damon is at .240-something, and even A-Rod has dropped off a bit.

So, let’s see: no pitching, not much hitting. Definitely must be the manager’s fault.

As for the Sox, they look very impressive…if their pitching can sustain its current level, and they can stay healthy, they’re going to be tough to beat.

Yale on the Move

Posted on April 30th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

In the Times, Peter Applebome writes about Yale president Rick Levin’s push to add two residential colleges to the undergraduate population. Levin frames the idea as partly intended to relieve the pressure of the application process.

…after Yale expanded to its current size in the 1960s, there were roughly 4,000 to 5,000 applicants a year for 1,300 positions in the freshman class. The size of the freshman class has remained about the same, but now there are some 20,000 applicants, including a growing number of international ones, plus all the other desired niches of minority students, athletes, children of alums and the rest.

“Expansion could help relieve those pressures and create more opportunities for students who are just ordinary, extremely brilliant and talented students who don’t have any of those other connections,” Dr. Levin said. “We have astonishing educational resources here. If we can educate more students and give them exposure to the opportunities here, I think we can make an even more substantial contribution to the nation and the world.”

Applebome points out that Princeton too is enlarging the size of its undergraduate population, and the Yale Daily News has a nice piece about enlarging campuses at Yale*, Columbia, Princeton and Harvard. Surely increasing the size of the undergraduate population is being considered at Harvard, but is there any public debate about the idea? Not that I know of.

Dr. Levin says there’s something perverse about the current system, where “prestige and reputation tend to depend on how many students you reject.”

This is true, of course, and good of Levin to say so. But a couple caveats: Yale had some opportunity to calm the application waters a bit by terminating its early admissions program, but has so far declined.

Moreover, isn’t there a sense in which saying that more admissions will ease admission pressures is like Robert Moses saying that we need more highways to ease traffic? If you build it, they will come.

Nonetheless, what with this article and the implosion of MIT admissions chief Marilee Jones, I sense we’re on the verge of a backlash against admissions insanity. This might be one backlash that Harvard wants to get in front of…..

P.S. Incidentally, I recently met a current student at the Yale School of Organization and Management. We agreed that New Haven was becoming a very pleasant place in which to live….

Crimson Blues

Posted on April 30th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 39 Comments »

Four Harvard students were arrested for disrupting a speech by FBI director Robert Muller. Some of them wanted justice for former Black Panther Herman Bell. One of them was upset about history, shouting, “We will never forget the role of the FBI in McCarthyism!” Another wanted to “stop the unconstitutional repression of the environment.”

Two of them were Harvard Crimson editors.

This is, of course, unprofessional and inappropriate behavior for a newspaper editor, who is supposed to be covering the news, not engaging in protest, and promoting free speech, not threatening it.

Nor is it the first time in recent memory that Crimson editors have behaved in ways that cast doubt on the paper’s objectivity. A couple years ago, several Crimson editors threw a party to cheer up Larry Summers after his ouster. Given the high feelings at the time, and widespread concern that the Crimson was pro-Summers, it was exactly the wrong thing to do.

I wrote about that at the time and received a deluge of mail from Crimson folks explaining to me that the term “Crimson editor” doesn’t actually mean that they are a Crimson editor, it’s a blanket term referring to anyone who was at some point a Crimson editor. As in “Crimson editor David Halberstam….”

There are only two reasons I can think of for this bizarre usage. One is for the Crimson to associate itself with successful alumni. The second is to create bonds between current and former Crimson people, so that the alums will hire the current students.

But the policy does more damage to the paper than good. Two Crimson editors impinging on the free speech of a Kennedy School speaker? That makes the paper look awful.

There’s a simple solution: the word “former.” As in, “…former Crimson editor David Halberstam…” (Which, to be fair, the Crimson does seem to use.)

Of course, I don’t actually know if the two students arrested the other night are former editors. But if they aren’t, they should be.

Perhaps the ombudsman should weigh in?

Blog-nost at Harvard?

Posted on April 30th, 2007 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Kennedy School economist Dani Rodrik has a new blog!

And pretty high-level thinkin’ it is, too. All those who say that Harvard professors would have to dumb themselves down to write a blog—an argument I’ve never understood, since a blog is essentially a big, blank sheet of paper—should take a look.

So far, the economists at Harvard are leading the way into the blogosphere. Rodrik is already engaging in a pretty good debate with Greg Mankiw. “Now, neither of Greg’s arguments is exactly right…”

Which Harvard humanist will be first to blog? Hurry, folks, or you will confirm Larry Summers’ suspicions about the superiority of his profession as compared to the humanities….

Professor Rodrik, just one suggestion: How about a name for your blog?

Monday Morning Zen

Posted on April 30th, 2007 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Central Park, New York City

The Case of the Bloody (sic) Sock

Posted on April 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

The Times reports on the controversy that is sweeping the baseball world: Whether Curt Schilling painted his sock red to make it look like he was bleeding while pitching against the Yankees in the 2004 championship series.

Doug Mirabelli now says he was being sarcastic when he said the “blood” was actually paint.

Johnny Damon, another 2004 teammate of Schilling’s, said, “As far as I know, it’s authentic.” Then, he smiled.

I do like that Johnny Damon…..

Looks to me like the blood is real. But then, I’ve always thought that, while Schilling deserved much credit for pitching a great game under tough circumstances, the business about the blood was over-hyped. So you bleed a little? Who cares? I once got kicked in the face playing soccer against, um, Harvard. I got a nosebleed but kept playing; my white shirt looked like a Jackson Pollock in red. It looked macho, but it wasn’t really reflective of pain.

Now, football players whose uniforms get stained with blood—that’s toughness…..

The Schilling sock:
Actually kind of nasty.

The H-Bombed

Posted on April 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 25 Comments »

After publishing two issues in three years, Harvard’s sex magazine has come and gone…..

Is this conclusive proof that sex at Harvard is infrequent and does not last long?

George Tenet Writes a Book

Posted on April 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Don’t you just love it when the bad guys start turning on each other?

The Times reports on a forthcoming book by former CIA director George Tenet:

“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Mr. Tenet writes in a devastating judgment that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.

The evidence that George W. Bush is the worst president in American history continues to build….

The Devil in Ms. Jones

Posted on April 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

The big story in higher ed today is, of course, the resignation of MIT dean of admissions Marilee Jones, who apparently did not go to the colleges that, for 28 years, she said she did.

(A shout-out to the Crimson: You guys had a piece about the resignation posted hours before the MIT Tech.)

Jones’ lies have obviously given her some psychological issues, and it’s interesting to consider how her own lack of degrees have caused her to argue that we need to ease the vicious competition in college admissions.

As Zach Seward writes in the Crimson, in her book “Less Stress, More Success,” Jones…

….warned students against “making up information to present yourself as something you are not.” She wrote, “You must always be completely honest about who you are.”

I know I should be outraged at Ms. Jones’ deceit—and MIT certainly had no choice but to fire her—but I find myself feeling bad for her.

For one thing, her apology is pretty straight-up.

“I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to M.I.T. 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my résumé when I applied for my current job or at any time since…. I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the M.I.T. community and beyond who supported me, believed in me, and who have given me extraordinary opportunities.”

I can think of various Harvard evildoers—plagiarists, Russian rip-off-ers, manure-stealers, and so on—whose mea culpas were considerably less forthright than that.

Second, Ms. Jones was right about the insanity of college admissions, and this is not, frankly, the note one hears from Harvard, which uses students’ mad desire to get into Harvard as a way to promote the brand.

Releasing the number of people who apply every year, for example, seems designed to show the world what a desirable place Harvard is….and attract ever greater numbers of moths to the flame.

Third, Ms. Jones did help increase the number of women at MIT from 17% of the student body to about half. That’s a substantial achievement.

Fourth, Ms. Jones showed that, in fact, you don’t always need a college degree to be a skilled, gifted, and hard-working person. As a result, she showed our society’s obsession with the appearance of qualifications, rather than the reality of them.

Of course, you can’t have a dean of admissions faking her resume. But doesn’t the fact that she faked her curriculars and was still successful suggest the inherent absurdity of the whole college admissions game?

Drew Faust in the FT

Posted on April 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

In the Financial Times, Rebecca Knight has a piece about the challenges lying ahead for Drew Faust.

Some interesting quotes:

Thomas Cech gives his first interview about Harvard (that I know of) since the presidential search:

He says Harvard has not paid sufficient attention to undergraduate education. “Just like deferred maintenance on your buildings, you can live with it for a long time,” he says. “When you are really that great, and have a great reputation, you don’t pay much of a price for certain things – like undergraduate education – going downhill.

Former Princeton president William Bowen praises Faust:

“Her challenge will be to get people to work together, to think – and act – across traditional disciplinary lines,” says Mr Bowen, a senior research associate at the Andrew Mellon Foundation, where Ms Faust is a trustee. “The power of persuasion is very important. She will need to encourage [the faculty], and to inspire. She will be good at that. She has a good sense of inter­personal relations.

Mr. Bowen, as I reported in 02138, did not support the choice of Drew Faust as president.

Also, some blogger pops off.

“Harvard needs to start a capital campaign because: one, it’s overdue, and two, Allston is expensive,” says Richard Bradley, author of Harvard Rules: The Struggle for the Soul of the World’s Most Powerful University. Mr Bradley says that because Ms Faust is “not a celebrity academic, not a larger-than-life personality, or Harvard alumna”, her appeal to donors is uncertain.

That’s true, I did say that. Please note that I did not say she will not be good at it; my quote is purely a “remains to be seen” kind of thing.