Pornography 101

Pornography 101

Pornography 101

Philosophical ruminations.
June 24 1999 3:00 AM

Pornography 101


Too Much Porn     How better to understand pornography--than by making it yourself? So thought Wesleyan University Professor Hope Weissman, whose interdisciplinary course, COL 289-Pornography, required students to create their own pornographic works as their final projects. The Washington Times reports that although no student or parent has complained about the course, university President Douglas Bennet suspects it may be too liberal even for Wesleyan. The ultimate fate of COL 289 is undecided, but it will not be offered in the fall. Meanwhile, pornography may be at the root of the resignation of Harvard Divinity School dean Ronald Thiemann. A techie discovered thousands of pornographic images stored on the dean's Harvard-owned computer while adding memory to the system. Soon afterward, Thiemann stepped down from his post and went on a year's sabbatical. Many colleagues and students spoke up in his defense and look forward to his return. But others say they will feel uncomfortable studying with him.


Leopold and Loeb Go to Rome

The trial of two young professors accused of committing murder on an intellectual dare concluded earlier this month in Rome, after 13 months in the courtroom and nearly 30 hours of jury deliberation. The philosophy lecturers, implicated in the murder of a law student at Rome's La Sapienza University, were suspected by police to have committed un delitto filosofico, a philosophical crime. Although police failed to find motives for the accused killer and his alleged accomplice at the time of arrest, they did turn up a philosophical manuscript in which the two men theorized about undetectable murder. The prosecution's key witnesses vacillated on the stand, amid allegations that the police strong-armed her. At the same time, a team of experts deemed the spare forensic evidence inconclusive. The London Independent reports, however, that the jury still found the suspect guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and his alleged accomplice of aiding and abetting. The young philosophers won't be locked up yet, though: They can still appeal to two higher courts.

Monica Lisa

A Penn State art professor has accused The New Yorker of intellectual property theft. Last fall, the Penn Stater magazine reports, Richard Alden gave his Architecture 101 class an assignment in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp: to reproduce the mysterious Mona Lisa ... with Monica Lewinsky's face. When sophomore Alysia DeAntonio did a remarkable job, her professor saw dollar signs. With DeAntonio's consent, Alden put the image on coffee mugs, boxer shorts, and T-shirts, and even hand-delivered a print of the painting to The New Yorker's art department. But in February, when The New Yorker ran a cover with the same theme by a different artist, Alden "felt mugged." The New Yorker denies the claims, calling Alden's accusations "slanderous" and "insulting": and intellectual property specialists, polled by the Penn Stater, are siding with the magazine 2-to-1.


Slumming It

A British professor of architecture has moved into a housing project to prove his theory that the building is, indeed, a masterpiece of modern design. The London Sunday Telegraph reports that Jeremy Till, the 42-year-old head of the University of Sheffield's school of architecture, has taken up residence in Sheffield's Park Hill, which has been nicknamed "San Quentin" by some of its 2,000 residents and called "a blot on the landscape" by outsiders. Till points out the benefits of living in the complex: "It's very convenient, fairly central, has magnificent views of the city and is very spacious." This may be true, but even Till admits a few drawbacks. When asked to comment on the communal waste-disposal system he remarked, "To be honest, it stinks." Plus, Till only calls Park Hill his home for four days of the week. The other three he spends in a caravan in Islington, London, on the site where he is building a new home and office with a 400,000 pound price tag.


Brown Family Values

Brown University has always been a trailblazer. It is the only university to offer an undergraduate degree in semiotics; its modern culture and the media department had the jump on cultural studies; and hypertext guru Robert Coover made Brown the country's trendsetter in experimental fiction. Brown's latest innovation in open curriculum is the formal study of values. To be fair, the idea is more Martha Nussbaum than William Bennett. But Nancy Rosenblum, a political scientist who will direct the new program, told the Boston Globe: "With the decline of personal virtue we see among our leaders and all the collective horrors in our world, these reflections on values come up. There's a kind of exhaustion with cynicism." Freshman seminars on the values required for a "quality life" begin next winter, followed by sophomore seminars on justice and responsibility. As if that weren't shocking enough, Brown officials say that courses in values are likely to become a requirement in most majors. Requirement? There must be some mistake.


School's In

The New York Times reports that "the college application season just ended was the most competitive in the nation's history." This year, a record number of top high-school seniors were rejected by the colleges of their choice, while second-tier and state schools found themselves flooded with excellent applications. But why? The Times points to "a roaring economy, a population boom, an increasingly sophisticated education industry and a growing belief that college is necessary for success." Karl M. Furstenberg, dean of admissions at Dartmouth College, has one positive thing to say about the competition: "It forces us to look at the intangibles, such as critical thinking. But how many more excellent students can we turn away?"

Killing Them Softly

Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes is campaigning against Princeton University's most controversial new hire, Australian bioethicist Peter Singer, reports the Washington Times. As a trustee and major donor, Forbes has asked his alma mater's president to rescind its offer to Singer. The 52-year-old utilitarian has earned an international reputation not only for advocating animal rights, but more recently for arguing that killing certain babies with severe disabilities serves the greater good. Anxious anti-Singerians are calling on wealthy trustees--including Forbes and Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn.--to use their influence and financial clout to force the university to withdraw the appointment. At press time, no financial threats were forthcoming. Singer is due to arrive at Princeton in July.


Going Dutch

Jan Herman Brinks, a research fellow at the University of London, writes in the British magazine History Today that, the Anne Frank story notwithstanding, Dutch resistance to the Nazis is a myth. Dutch political elites collaborated with Hitler even before the war, hoping to stave off an invasion and because they believed the Third Reich was their strongest defense against communism. Dutch authorities willingly deported German emigrants requested by the Gestapo; refused the influx of Jews that sought entry into Holland after Kristallnacht; used its railroads to deport Jews to their death; and confiscated Jewish property and assets for themselves. The SS police chief in the Netherlands reported to Heinrich Himmler in 1942: "The new ... Dutch police do an excellent job in the Jewish question and arrest the Jews by the hundreds day and night." (Also worth noting is that the Franks' hiding place was betrayed by neighbors.)


Chicago Bull

University of Chicago President Hugo Sonnenschein announced his resignation on June 3 after presiding over two initiatives that have been hotly contested during the last three years: Expanding the school's undergraduate student body from 3,800 to 4,500 over 10 years, and reducing its core curriculum from 21 required courses to 18. The increased enrollments, Sonnenschein argued, will bring in more revenue, while the reduced core curriculum should help brighten Chicago's dour image among prospective students. But alumni, faculty, and conservative intellectuals were outraged. How would the university support a thousand new students? And wasn't a rigorous core curriculum what a U of C education was all about? Conservative student leaders organized a "fun-in," mocking the administration's attempt to get the school to lighten up, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Although the undergraduate expansion is scheduled to go forward, the curricular changes are still under discussion.

Riding the Bench

For men who play college basketball, graduation rates are low and transfer rates are high, reports the Washington Post.AnNCAAstudy of the 1991 entering classes found thatonly 41 percent of male basketball players whocompeted in themajor programs earned their degrees, compared with 57 percent of all male college athletes in major programs. The group that produced the study has recommended several rule changes,the most dramatic of which would make male freshmen ineligible to play basketball for their first semester of school or their first season. The NCAA brass supports the idea of limiting freshmen eligibility, but a recent NCAA survey found that 74.7 percent of administrators and coaches disagreed with the proposal, making its adoption iffy.