A Mammoth Portion of Saturday Evening Potpourri

Things have been pretty busy at the Mid-Century Mondohaus this week, as this was the college’s annual Greek Week. The Spawn has done her part, most notably by participating in the week’s climactic Lip Sync competition. While her group didn’t win that particular showdown, they did well enough overall to clinch the overall sorority chapter title, having dominated several other events (charity fundraisers, athletic events, trivia competitions, and such) in the week. Her sorority practiced intensely all week, and she wound up not getting to bed until after midnight a couple of times. Fortunately, she kept up with her studies, but she was pretty bleary by last night’s conclusion, and she sacked in this morning.

Although I’m wrapping up my thirteenth year here, I had never attended a Greek Week event before last night. The Lip Sync was supposed to take place at the football stadium, but rain necessitated a move to a downtown theater with great potential, but a constant struggle against the forces of penury and entropy — it could use a lot of restoration, but the bones are good (a statement I could probably make about many things, including myself, now that I think of it.) Mrs. M and I got there about half an hour before starting time, and a good thing we did, as we wound up in the last row, just behind our county’s sheriff, whose two children would be performing as well. The venue was packed to levels that might have disturbed the fire marshal, but the aisles were kept clear, so we were good to go.

Sororities and fraternities alternated performances, and a colleague of mine (who happens to be a former student — pretty cool) was the MC for the event. As the name suggests, the performances (which average about ten minutes or so) are made up of snippets of various popular songs, which are mimed in some sort of interesting way by members of the group. Sometimes the performances are themed, but not always.

The winning sorority (which apparently has a history of winning the event, and kept their streak alive) did a nice blend of songs with a theme of fire, with ladies dressed as the various performers — my favorite was the version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, complete with mustachioed trumpeters and a pompadoured “Cash.” Their version of “Great Balls of Fire” with a Jerry Lee Lewis impersonator was good as well. In a blow for us old folks, one fraternity concluded their set with a cover of “Shout” from Animal House. Thanks, fellas.

The sororities seem to take the business Very Seriously, as one might guess from the practices I mentioned before. At least one group dropped some change on costuming and banners (which would serve as backdrops or announcements about each song), and some numbers were marked by serious efforts at choreography. After all, this is the South — I’d be willing to bet that a large percentage of these young women went to dance classes, which are a rite of passage down here. The fraternities make an effort as well, but their performances are characterized by slapdash elan.

The winning fraternity was one of three groups that did sets based on watching TV. Because I’ve spent way too much time watching cartoons with the Spawn as she has grown up, I found myself able to keep up with the references for these in a way I couldn’t for some of the hip-hop numbers. And it would seem I wasn’t the only one — although I may have been the oldest. The place erupted when the men’s winners did a medley of songs from Nickelodeon cartoons The Fairly Oddparents and Spongebob Squarepants.  Later, the Spawn said “I knew I had watched all these, but I hadn’t realized how much a part of our shared culture they were until I realized that all of [the kids] knew every single word of these songs.” I’m not surprised — I would be stunned if a friend in my demographic didn’t know “Ragtime Gal” or “The Michigan Rag”, to say nothing of “Kill the Wabbit.”

elmer-fudd

Pictured: How I learned about Wagner

In any case, it was great fun, and the Spawn dragged home, exhausted but happy, while various others of her Greek comrades celebrated in ways I don’t even want to contemplate. Not a bad Friday night, and I’m already kind of looking forward to next year.

***

The Spawn’s birthday was three days ago, and she received copious quantities of books and exotic unguents. It’s really nice to see her becoming the smart, beautiful young woman I envisioned when she arrived nineteen years earlier. I’m glad you’re here, kid — both at Mondoville and in general. I love you, with all my heart.

***

However, the birthday was not without some tumult. While I was at lunch, I received a call from the Spawn, who informed me that a Chihuahua had decided to hole up in a corner of the garage. As we don’t own a Chihuahua, and have no desire to expand our current menagerie beyond the Hound of the Basketballs, this was not a desirable situation. The dog was uncollared and a bit grungy, but appeared to be well fed and in decent shape, which led us to wonder if he had run away or been dumped (we live in a cul-de-sac with very few neighbors.) Mrs. M and the Spawn decided to haul the little guy around the neighborhood to see if anyone was missing him, but no dice.

Little Bit

Likes: Towels and Water. Dislikes: Being mistaken for Ren Hoek.

Well, no dice until a neighbor  who lives around the corner rang our bell and asked if anyone had claimed the dog. I told her no, and she lit up. “Do you think I might see him?”

Absolutely, and I’m pleased to report the dog and the neighbor hit it off immediately, and the dog, now dubbed “Little Bit” — another Southern thing, I think — is now safely ensconced a few houses from here. As it happened, I saw the neighbor’s husband working in the yard yesterday, and I asked him how things were going with the new addition. He said, “Well, we’ve spent $300 on him already, but it gives [his wife] something to take care of, and I figure that’s a pretty good bargain.” On the way to Lip Sync last night, Mrs. M and I saw Little Bit’s new mom carrying him around the yard. He had a leash and harness, but I’m not sure he’ll touch the ground all that often from here on out.

So happy Spawn’s birthday, Little Bit. I think you lucked out.

***

Moving from the pleasant to the less so, I noticed the Chronicle of Higher Ed ran an opinion piece — behind a paywall, unfortunately — entitled “Academe is Overrun by Liberals. So What?” The subhead (which may not have been written by the author — Russell Jacoby of UCLA — but likely isn’t entirely unconnected to the thesis) reads: “The relationship between political diversity and intellectual diversity is, at best, tenuous.”

That’s an interesting hypothesis, particularly in view of WSJ article by Georgetown U’s business professor John Hasnas that ran two days ago. This, too, is behind a paywall, but National Review‘s David French offers some interesting quotes:

In the more than 20 years that I have been a professor at Georgetown University, I have been involved in many faculty searches. Every one begins with a strong exhortation from the administration to recruit more women and minority professors. We are explicitly reminded that every search is a diversity search. Administrators require submission of a plan to vigorously recruit applications from women and minority candidates.

Before we even begin our selection process, we must receive approval from the provost that our outreach efforts have been vigorous enough. The deans and deputy deans of each school reinforce the message that no expense should be spared to increase the genetic diversity of our faculty.

Yet, in my experience, no search committee has ever been instructed to increase political or ideological diversity. On the contrary, I have been involved in searches in which the chairman of the selection committee stated that no libertarian candidates would be considered. Or the description of the position was changed when the best résumés appeared to be coming from applicants with right-of-center viewpoints. Or in which candidates were dismissed because of their association with conservative or libertarian institutions.

The result is an academic world that is staggeringly one-sided:

According to data compiled by the Higher Education Research Institute, only 12% of university faculty identify as politically right of center, and these are mainly professors in schools of engineering and other professional schools. Only 5% of professors in the humanities and social-science departments so identify. A comprehensive study by James Lindgren of Northwestern University Law School shows that in a country fairly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, only 13% of law professors identify as Republican. And a recent study by Jonathan Haidt of New York University showed that 96% of social psychologists identify as left of center, 3.7% as centrist/moderate and only 0.03% as right of center.

I would like to pose a question or two to Professor Jacoby. If we grant his hypothesis that political diversity — which in many cases is the result of different ways of thinking (the seeming sine qua non for intellectual diversity) — has only “a tenuous connection to intellectual diversity”, does it mean that a link between what Hasnas calls “genetic diversity” (and Rachel Dolezal notwithstanding, one’s genes are not typically the product of choice, which is an intellectual activity) is equally tenuous and therefore as worthy of a “So what?” Or is Jacoby contending that members of specific identity groups have some difference in processing information that is beyond conscious control and must be nurtured like a rare species of plant, whereas Whitey T. Man is somehow simply another dime-a-dozen atom in the Honkylith? If it’s the former (Genetic diversity=So what?), what does he see as the appropriate response to folks like Georgetown’s administration? If the latter — the view that intellectual diversity is strictly a product of one’s genetic classifications, that one’s identity characteristics are the determinant of one’s worldview — how does his position differ in basis from that of any other racist/sexist/bigot? If two white guys with opposing views are not intellectually diverse, how about if we have two black women who disagree? Are they interchangeable, as he contends the two white guys are? Why or why not?

On second thought, maybe I don’t want to pose those questions. I suspect I may already know the answers.

***

Tomorrow afternoon, I’m bound for Atlanta, where I’ll be reading along with several very fine crime writers as part of the “Noir at the Bar” series. I hope to see you there!

But I’ve got other writerly news as well, or Lawrence Block does, so I’ll defer to the Grandmaster:

In Sunlight or in Shadow: stories inspired by paintings of Edward Hopper is Pegasus Books’ lead title for the fall In Sunlight or in Shadow_CVR-01season. I’ve seen page proofs, and it’s going to be the most beautiful book with which I’ve ever been associated.

Who’s in the book?

Oh, nobody special. Just Megan Abbott, Jill D. Block, Robert Olen Butler, Lee Child, Nicholas Christopher, Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Craig Ferguson, Stephen King, Joe R.Lansdale, Gail Levin, Warren Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Kris Nelscott, Jonathan Santlofer, Justin Scott…and, um, me.

Last but least.

Exactly. It’ll be out in December, but they’re already accepting advance orders, and if you order now you can lock in a very favorable price. Or you can wait—you’ll certainly hear more about this one.

I’ve been vagueblogging about this one for a while, but I can tell you I’m prouder than you can imagine to be part of this roster. As I said — the cheapest house on the nicest street. And as LB, says, you’ll certainly hear more about this one.

***

I’ll tie this one up with some music. Junkhouse was a band from Hamilton, Ontario, that I discovered while on my honeymoon with Mrs. M back in 2003. Vocalist and songwriter Tom Wilson has gone on to some success with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and has done some fine solo work as well, but this track has stuck with me for nearly a quarter-century now (as, thankfully, has Mrs. M). Hope you like it!

See you soon, and with luck, I’ll be less longwinded next time.

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About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Education, Family, Literature, Music, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Mammoth Portion of Saturday Evening Potpourri

  1. Jeff says:

    Congrats on being published among such august company in the Hopper-themed book! I’m only an occasional noir/crime reader, but I’ll be buying this one; the Hopper connection and the art/fiction connection are both the sort of thing that intrigues me.

  2. Jimmy Huck says:

    Hi, Prof. Mondo – Your nice tweet congratulating my daughter (whom I call fondly Squirrelly Girlie the Elder) brought me back to your blog after a long while. (Aside: I wish we were colleagues at the same place because I think we’d be fast and good friends.) I just wanted to comment on the section of your posting regarding Jacoby’s “so what?” argumant on intellectual/ideological diversity. You ask some great questions. I, too, have thought long about these issues, and I’d like to offer some strands of possible answers. First, I think the focus on race/gender diversity is important because of patterns of exclusion in the past that are rooted in race/gender. One’s place on the ideological spectrum has not been a basis of systematic exclusion from the academy in the way that race/gender has been. In my experience, I think most institutions of higher education would welcome more racial minority faculty irrespective of ideology as a means of breaking systems of exclusion. There’s more to say on this, but I’m typing on my phone, so I’m trying to keep it short, as insufficient as that may be. The second point I’d like to take issue with is the implication that somehow the need for ideological/intellectual diversity is necessary because “liberal” professors are somehow incapable of being able to engage fairly and honestly with ideas and thinking that opposes their worldview. I reject this implication, and o think you would, too. Aren’t you able to fairly represent (and critique) Marxist approaches to your subject? Aren’t you capable of providing students with a diversity of intellectual perspectives? I’d guess (and would actually hope) that you and most other libertarian/conservative professors are adept at this. And I like to think that I and my liberal colleagues are, too. So there is, I think, a questionable contention underlying this claim to need “intellectual/ideological” diversity as a hiring practice akin to other forms of diversity hires. Finally, there is also an underlying call for a kind of ideological/intellectual affirmative action in all of this, and I find that odd coming from those who normally resist such impulses in other areas.

    • profmondo says:

      Hey — thanks so much for swinging by! I actually agree with you about the silliness of the affirmative action argument for right-leaning academics, and wrote about this in the very early days of the blog.

      The problem as I see it isn’t so much the incapability of honest engagement as it is that perspectives and ideas can get overlooked in an ideologically homogeneous academy. I would see the problem as being more like Glaspell’s “Trifles” than Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. Sometimes we need different perspectives to spot the things we might overlook.

      But I think you’re offering fair responses here, and I’m glad you stopped by! Now go hang with your grad-to-be! (Where’s she headed, btw?)

      • Jimmy Huck says:

        Thanks, Prof. Mondo. Squirrelly Girlie the Elder is walking across the stage tonight, and she’ll be headed to American University in DC in the fall. She wants to study politics and environmental policy. I guess DC is a good place to be for that. But all I keep saying is: “Thank God for tuition exchange!”

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