Major Setbacks

Philosophical ruminations.
April 3 2000 11:30 PM

Major Setbacks

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The New New Left Review After decades in the California sun, the eminent historian Perry Anderson has returned to London to reinvent the New Left Review, the influential Marxist journal he founded 40 years ago. A sweeping editorial by Anderson lashes out at trendy cultural studies scholars, defends the "classical courtesy" of the traditional footnote, and calls for right-wing critics of NATO (but no Clintonites or Blairites) to join the journal's ranks. An article by Columbia University professor Franco Moretti argues for the replacement of "close reading" with "distant reading": To make the study of literature truly scientific and systematic, literary scholars must abandon the quaint aspiration to actually read all the books they write about.

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Major Problems

Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education wants the state's eight public colleges and universities to cut back on the number of majors they offer, because its study found that 47 percent of the state's 1,120 degree programs don't meet minimum standards for producing well-informed graduates. The council has given the schools until May to decide whether underachieving programs such as geology and drama studies should be dropped, altered, continued, or given more time to show results.

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Corporate Speech

The president of Hastings College, a small liberal-arts school in Nebraska, resigned after he was accused of plagiarizing a former Coca-Cola executive's speech. Richard Hoover explained that a relative e-mailed the speech to him, and that because no author was listed, he believed the speech was in the public domain. Although Hoover had been planning his retirement, he told the Associated Press that the scandal had "compromised" his leadership position and prompted him to resign.

Game Over

Dartmouth Collegecharged 78 students with cheating on their computer science assignments after a visiting professor claimedthat at least 15 students had downloaded the solution to an assignment directly from his (accidentally unsecured)Web site and then e-mailed it to their classmates. Shooladministratorsdropped charges because the high number of suspects made ittoo difficult toseparate the cheaters from the innocent. Some students speculate that Professor Rex Dwyer set a trap for students because they were disrespectful. And they were. "We were blatantly rude to him," student Julie Green told the Boston Globe. The students considered Dwyer incompetent, and they let him know by reading newspapers during class, making audible jokes about him, and passing around porn magazines. Dwyer has since resigned and returned to North Carolina State University. Dartmouth administrators doubt that he sought to entrap students.

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Smashed to Bytes

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by several educational organizations and Ralph Nader's Public Citizen to preserve electronic copies of government documents. Currently, federal agencies may destroy computer files as long as paper and microfilm copies are retained. The public interest groups point out that electronic records are easier to search than paper ones. However, National Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin, who was named in the suit, told the Associated Press that he is considering revising the current policy.

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