Academic Malpractice

Via The Other McCain, a post that continues the evolution (devolution?) of Blackmailers Don’t Shoot from a blog about L.A. politics to a blog about things that annoy me. Today’s sponsor: An open letter from University of Connecticut Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies student Carolyn Luby to UConn President Susan Herbst that claims that the university’s new logo contributes to and ignores an atmosphere of violence against women.


Luby uses three arrests of college athletes at UConn to establish a pattern of bad behavior in the sports program. (It should first be noted that in one arrest the charges have been dropped, in a second the student has been suspended from the athletic program indefinitely, and the third arrest took place in Florida.) She uses these three arrests as a bludgeon against Herbst for wanting to re-brand the athletic program through visual media.

Now, first I would like you to read this paragraph, reminding yourself that this is a Senior in college:

These [arrests] are serious marks against both our athletic program and our university as a whole — marks that, other than a decision made by Coach Kevin Ollie to suspend Wolf indefinitely, have gone unaddressed, unmentioned, and unacknowledged by UConn authorities. What does this timeline say when juxtaposed with your justification? It beckons the question, what does UConn do with marks like these? The answer appears to be: we turn them blue and shape them into something new.

It’s bad prose. A Freshman Comp professor worth a dime would draw a fat red line through the attempts at alliteration and rhyme echo, not to mention the phrase “beckons the question,” which is either a misuse of “begs the question” or an awkward rephrasing of “raises the question.” By the fourth year of college, students should be able to write with clarity, no matter how much Judith Butler they’ve read.


This leads to my second point: A thesis is supposed to come from evidence, but in Studies programs the thesis is always “Because of Patriarchy,” and the evidence is made to create the thesis. I had responsible professors in college – and they were hardcore lefties – who loved to destroy these kinds of arguments. In the PC activist departments, though, academic acclaim is given to those who can make the most obscure arguments that will eventually come to the conclusion of “Because of Patriarchy.” It’s messy thinking, and it’s promoted and rewarded.

I sympathize with Luby’s concerns about behavior in the sports program. The community college I attended imported football players from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii. Many of these athletes had criminal records, which lengthened once they reached California. The only brawl I’ve ever seen on a college campus was among a group of these thugs. If bad behavior is really what you’re worried about, say it. It’s fairly simple. Except that it’s not really the broader goal.

Stacy McCain writes,

Certainly, UConn isn’t the only school dealing with “Jocks Gone Wild” issues, but “these problematic aspects of male athletic peer culture,” as Luby verbosely describes them, aren’t really what her letter is about. Her letter is about signifying, about displaying the ideological banner of radical feminism and humiliating President Herbst for her insufficient loyalty to that banner: Betraying the Sisterhood.

I agree that this is what’s happening in the letter, but I don’t fault Luby as much as an academic culture that rewards shoddy thinking in service of a political agenda. And since the goal is always permanent revolution, there will never be a lack of silly things, like a drawing of a dog, to raise the ire of academics. So, in other words, I blame society.

Update: Welcome The Other McCain readers! Take a look around.



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  2. DCE

    Of course she also got the name of the accused (and later cleared) UConn athlete wrong: it’s Wolfe, not Wolf. (A Freudian slip, perhaps? Or yet another indication she’s not as educated as she thinks she is?)

    As a UConn alum, I’m sad to see it has deteriorated from what it once was. When I attended (1974-1978) there was a rather militant feminist movement on campus, but its aims were equality under the law, not the demonization of everyone with a ‘Y’ chromosome.

    • Chandler's Ghost

      Campus feminism really isn’t recognizable as feminism anymore. It’s gone into Cultural Studies, which is kind of like if Karl Marx and Michel Foucault gave birth to a drag queen.