by Chris Bertram on April 27, 2005

Moves are afoot to get the AUT decision for a partial boycott of Israeli institutions reversed, and for local associations — including my own — to repudiate and refuse to implement the national decision. So far, I haven’t met a single British academic who will admit to supporting the decision which was passed by a very narrow majority after a rushed and unsatisfactory debate by delegates who had mostly failed to discuss the issues with their colleagues in universities across the country. Sadly, but understandably, their vote has been interpreted as being indicative of the attitudes of British university teachers. I hope that impression can be correctly quickly. Meanwhile, a blog called “Engage”:http://www.liberoblog.com/ has been started around the campaign to reverse the decision.

Academics and athletics

by John Q on April 27, 2005

Via Rafe Champion at Catallaxy, I found this NYRoB review of a book Reclaiming the Game: College Sports and Educational Values on the vexed topic of sport in US colleges. Bowen and Levin view the US system, where colleges use all sorts of inducements to recruit students who will play in their sporting teams, as entirely deplorable, and spend a fair bit of time on its various pernicious effects, but don’t really seem to have much of a solution. The reviewer, Benjamin DeMott has a more favorable view, pointing among other things to the fact that sports provide a route to college for working-class kids who wouldn’t otherwise get in, but doesn’t have a very effective response to the central point made by Bowen and Levin about the negative effects of a group of students who are mostly well below the average in ability, not academically motivated and are effectively employed full-time in their sporting careers in any case. Proposals to restore the ideal of the amateur student athlete have gone nowhere, and it seems unlikely that the radical approach of getting large numbers of colleges to pull out of the game altogether will do any better.

I’d like to suggest an alternative that is probably still too radical, but would not challenge the existence of college sports, and would overcome at least some of the problems aired by Bowen and Levin along with many others. College should recruit athletes as they do now, but let them defer all their classes for the four(?) years they play for the college team (unless they get cut earlier on). At the end of that time, a minority will make it into the professional leagues and big money, and won’t need a college degree. The rest will no longer have sporting commitments or the illusory hope of sporting riches. At this point, the college should give them their deferred education, with an explicit recognition that they are likely to need more help than the average student.

This seems like an improvement all round to me, but no doubt there’s lots of things I haven’t thought of, so I’ll let better-informed readers set me straight.

Fetishizing the Text

by Kieran Healy on April 27, 2005

A post over at the “Valve”:http://www.thevalve.org/go/valve/article/going_around_the_room_at_the_desk/ asks, _inter alia_, “Do you compose on the computer? Why or why not? … Do you have a stationary and/or a pen fetish?” Scott McLemee at _Inside Higher Ed_ “chimes in”:http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2005/04/19/mclemee with a column about his own writing habits:

The reading notes, the rough outline, the first draft or two … all will be written there, in longhand. … My friends and colleagues are occasionally nonplussed to learn that someone trying to make a living as a writer actually spends the better part of his workday with pen in hand. … In my own experience, though, writing is … a matter of laboriously unknotting the thread of any given idea. And the only way to do that is by hand. … So the penchant for haunting stationary stores (and otherwise indulging a fetish for writing supplies) has the endorsement of distinguished authorities. But my efficiency-cramping distaste for the computer keyboard is somewhat more difficult to rationalize.

The implication is that, unlike the printed page and the ink-filled pen (or mechanical pencil), composing prose on a computer is different — perhaps efficiency-enhancing but somehow also inferior — and, more importantly, not subject to fetishization in the way that the pen-and-ink method is. But a moment’s reflection shows this to be wrong. Or, in my case, far too much time spent getting manuscripts (scholarly apparatus, tables, figures, indexes and all) to produce themselves automatically and beautifully shows this to be wrong.
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