No More Teachers, No More Books ... No More Notes, Either!
College students, drop your pencils! StudentU.com, an Internet startup conceived by 27-year-old Oran Wolf, may make note-taking in class obsolete. Wolf is developing a professional online note-taking service to help students augment their own notes or to catch up after a sick day, he told the New York Times. Student stenographers are paid $300 per semester plus $200 for every five additional note-takers they recruit for the company. In return, they must post their jottings within 24 hours on the StudentU.com Web site, which is open to all and financed by advertising revenue. Todd Gitlin, a professor at New York University, railed against the concept in a Times op-ed: "The very act of taking notes ... is a way of engaging the material, wrestling with it, struggling to comprehend or to take issue, but in any case entering into the work. ... A download is a poor substitute."
Caltech: No. 1 With a Bullet
The California Institute of Technology stormed from ninth place to top this year's rankings of universities by U.S. News & World Report ... but how? The magazine explains that a "technical change" in its methodology accounts for the move. Writing in Slate, Bruce Gottlieb charges that "U.S. News fiddled with the rules." U.S. News editors Brian Duffy and Peter Cary responded in Slate, defending their ranking methodology as an improvement over their previous techniques.
Bury My Heart at a Toxic Waste Dump
The most controversial academic book of the season is The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, by Brown anthropology professor Shepard Krech III. Working from firsthand reports as well as archeological and scientific data, Krech asserts that Native Americans are not the proto-environmentalists so fondly imagined by "spiritually undernourished Americans" (in the words of The New Yorker's Nicholas Lemann). Rather, they hunted species into extinction, exhausted large stretches of land, and mismanaged natural resources. Jennifer Veech, writing in the Washington Post, points out that: "[Krech paints] us a more complex portrait of Native American peoples, one that rejects mythologies, even those that both European and Native Americans might wish to embrace."
Tell It on the Cold Mountain
Katherine Beal Frazier, a tenured accounting professor who is married to Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier, has returned to North Carolina State University, where she was fired a year ago for "neglect of duty." Last year, NCSU accused Frazier of neglecting to complete paperwork and of raising her personal and professional problems in the classroom, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Frazier denied the claims, saying that she missed deadlines because she was suffering from depression, which was a result of sex discrimination she faced within her department and in the College of Management beginning in 1993. Frazier sued the school for sex discrimination and retaliation in 1998, just before the decision to dismiss her was finalized. Now she is settling with the university and will be reinstated to her full professorship, receive back pay of $100,000, benefits, and a cash payment. She will be on leave, retroactively, from the end of the 1998-99 academic year through 2002-03. Frazier told the Chronicle she would not have been able to pursue her lawsuit had it not been for the commercial success of Cold Mountain.
What Said Has Said
Literary critic, Columbia University professor, Palestinian spokesman, and public intellectual Edward Said has responded to the accusation that he has systematically distorted his life story. In the September issue of Commentary, Justus Reid Weiner, a lawyer and scholar in residence at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, accused Said of lying about his childhood in order to portray himself as a Palestinian refugee, when in fact he grew up in Cairo, Egypt. Said has responded in an article published in the Cairo newspaper al-Ahram, London's al-Hayat, and online at Counterpunch. Said disputes the charges and challenges Weiner's research methods. Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens and Alexander Cockburn have stepped up to bat for him in The Nation and the New York Press, respectively. Still, others have taken Weiner at his word: The New York Post has labeled Said the "Palestinian Tawana Brawley," and others have called for his replacement as president of the Modern Language Association.