Academic Lackey to the Gallows!
The arrest of Dickinson College research librarian Yongyi Song by police in Beijing has earned China the condemnation of the world academic community. The charge against Song—"the purchase and illegal provision of intelligence to foreigners"—came during his visit to China to collect artifacts from the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. Because Song is in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, the arrest has taken on international importance, put a cloud on the future of Chinese-American academic exchanges, and called into question Chinese faithfulness to academic freedom. Meanwhile, Dickinson has established an online petition demanding his freedom.
Montréal, C'est Numéro Un!
Researchers at Montreal's McGill University have crowned the city the "university capital of North America" because it has the highest per-capita concentration of college students of any city (4.38 students per 100 residents). Edged out was Boston, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education, with 4.37. Milwaukee ranked sixth, beating out Denver, New York City, and Atlanta, validating the efforts of local college heads to raise the city's profile as an academic bastion. (Click here for more on the story.)
The Seal Press anthology, Adiós, Barbie: Young Women Write About Body Image, has drawn a copyright infringement suit from Mattel Inc., even though the 1998 title included a disclaimer distancing the book from the toy giant. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Mattel feels the book "misappropriates the famous doll by using her name in the title and also by using her hairbrush, her shoe, and her foot on the book's cover." Mattel is seeking unspecified damages from Seal and is demanding recall of the book.
The Sound, the Fury, and the Money
In December, W.W. Norton announced the winner of its second annual Norton Scholar's Prize. Awarded annually for an outstanding undergraduate essay on a literary topic, the 1999 prize of $2,500 went to Caleb Smith of the University of California, Berkeley, for "The Fantasy of Orality in Absalom, Absalom!" Smith is currently enrolled at Duke University's English graduate studies program.
After signing poet Billy Collins to a six-figure, three-book contract, Random House asked the University of Pittsburgh Press for permission to reprint 61 older poems in a new Collins collection. But Pittsburgh declined the request, arguing that the reprint would diminish the value of Collins' earlier books, which are still moneymakers for the university press. Collins, an NPR favorite, says that if the Random House book curbed sales of his Pittsburgh books, he'd gladly forgo royalties from Pittsburgh to make up the difference. (Click here for Pittsburgh's statement on the flap.)
Officials at the University of Vermont canceled the remainder of the men's hockey season Jan. 14 after learning that some players had lied about a serious hazing incident. The team was originally put under investigation after a player complained about a party where freshman players had been forced to eat seafood pie until they vomited, walk naked holding each other's genitals, and drink warm beer and shots of liquor—all in violation of Vermont's hazing policy. If the players suspected of lying come clean, the school has said it will allow them to keep their scholarships and remain enrolled at the university.
The library at SUNY-Buffalo has received a donation of 25,000 pulp fiction titles worth millions of dollars. The George Kelley Pulp Fiction Collection, named after its donor, a teacher of English literature at Erie Community College, includes titles by authors including Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Carver, Jack Woodford, and Ellery Queen.
Yale Beats Yale
Yale University has persuaded Yale College, an unrelated vocational institute in Wales, to change its name, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Welsh school does not grant degrees and has a mostly part-time student body. The other Yale will become Coleg Iâl Yale College of Wrexham. The school agreed to the change because it "could not afford to engage in litigation," said its chief executive. Yale University's student newspaper noted that the school had filed similar complaints against institutions in South Korea and Venezuela in the last three years.
"If You Paid List Price for Elements of Calculus …"
The National Association of College Stores has filed a lawsuit against online textbook seller VarsityBooks.com, accusing the Internet retailer of advertising nonexistent price discounts. VarsityBooks.com calls the suit a publicity stunt intended to harm the company's IPO and alleges in Publisher's Weekly that NACS has singled it out because, unlike other online booksellers advertising discounts, it is not an NACS member.
Wall to Wall Paneling
From adjunct professors at this year's meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago: "The New Academic Labor System and Its Discontents: Contingent Faculty and the Future of the Profession." For the jobless: "Postacademic Careers in the Twenty-First Century: Continuity and Change beyond the Academy." For those who've resisted Clinton fatigue: "The Impeachment Imbroglio: History and the Role of Historians." And for the club profs: "Hip-Hop History: New Directions in Scholarship and Thought."
He Also Disputed the Existence of the Universe
Slate's publication of a weeklong diary written by academic entrepreneur and literary provocateur Stanley Fish revealed some surprising secrets harbored by the University of Illinois, Chicago dean. Explaining why he never stays at a conference until its very end, Fish writes, "the letdown is too great, the hollowness of the event, and perhaps of yourself, is too apparent." He also discusses his fear of loneliness, the equal satisfaction he takes in designing a syllabus and making a bed, and why long, seemingly unproductive managerial meetings are really good for all the parties involved.