The Troves of Academe | The Nation


The Troves of Academe

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"A university," poet John Ciardi acidly observed, "is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students." Add this contemporary counterpunch: A college is what a university becomes when its faculty and administrators lose interest in truth. Though liberal arts colleges don't acknowledge it in the snazzy brochures they express-mail to high school seniors, many elements of all but the best institutions--the modest franchises, the flimsy finances, the self-preservationist instincts of timeserving faculty--subvert the visionary claims historically made on behalf of higher education.

About the Author

Carlin Romano
Carlin Romano, literary critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer and critic at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education,...

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As truth-tellers, journalists remain the undocumented aliens of the
knowledge industry, operating in an off-the-books epistemological
economy apart from philosophers and scientists on one side

Devotees of "balanced," "objective," "fair" and "evenhanded"
nonfiction--well, they be hurtin' in these early days of the
twenty-first century. Enough, perhaps, to demand that self-help, how-to
and "wisdom of menopause" books return to dominate, as they once did,
the now separated-from-birth (and diet and crosswords) New York
nonfiction bestseller list. In the
April 21 issue of the Sunday New York Times Book Review, nearly
half the top ten nonfiction bestsellers belong to a genre that
middle-of-the-road innocents might label "one-sided," "unbalanced,"
"exclusionary" or worse, though the Times's blurbs artfully avoid
the issue.

Michael Moore's Stupid White Men, which manages the non-Euclidean
trick of being centrifugally one-sided, denounces us as a racist, sexist
"nation of idiots" even though we're plainly not a nation of idiots.
Whether you love Moore for blasting the "Thief-in-Chief" or adore him
for bashing Clinton and paying dues to the NRA, he's still guilty, as
Ben Fritz's stiletto review in Salon demonstrated, of being "One
Moore Stupid White Man," because "Moore gets his facts wrong again and
again, and a simple check of the sources he cites shows that lazy
research is often to blame."

David Brock's Blinded by the Right castigates the conservative
movement, which Brock recently fled, as "a radical cult" bored by ideas
and committed to a "Big Lie machine that flourished in book publishing,
on talk radio and on the Internet through the '90s." Brock insists on
that even though many conservatives believe in right-wing principles as
honestly as leftists and liberals believe in theirs. While it was lauded
by Frank Rich as "a key document," by Todd Gitlin as a book that "rings
with plausibility" and in these pages by Michael Tomasky as essential to
understanding this "fevered era," its credibility on the left seems
largely based on Brock's hawking a story the left wants to hear, just as
the right thrilled to The Real Anita Hill: that a "convulsed
emotional state," as Tomasky construes it, rather than an ideology, "is
the real binding glue among the right." Despite Brock's repeated
acknowledgments that he's been an unscrupulous, self-serving liar
throughout his life, flatterers of his book give little credit to the
possibility voiced by Slate's Timothy Noah that lying may be "a
lifelong habit" for the author. Bernard Goldberg's Bias, in turn,
offers mirror-image goods to true believers on the right: chapter and
verse on how his old employer, CBS News, and the media in general,
"distort the news" in a liberal direction, even though the media, by and
large, do not distort the news--they report it. On the strength of one
purported conversation with CBS News president Andrew Heyward, however,
and his own epiphanic experience after writing an anti-CBS Op-Ed for the
Wall Street Journal, Goldberg sounds certain that he's packing
smoking guns. No matter that he fails to clarify, in case after case,
how "bias" differs from a presumptive judgment held on the basis of
revisable evidence, or why conservative bias poses no problem within
eclectic media.

Finally, Kenneth Timmerman's Shakedown, another targeted killing
by the only national publishing house with the reflexes of a helicopter
gunship, leaves Jesse Jackson barely breathing as a political player.
But if fairness ruled the world of book manuscripts, this one would have
swelled to far more than 512 pages. Because while Rod Dreher of The
National Review
complimented the author for "collecting the dossier
on Jackson between two covers," a dossier in court or an academic
department typically contains both good and bad. The Washington
's Keith Richburg, crediting Timmerman's "meticulous research,"
rightly noted that the author also wholly ignores "Jackson's
accomplishments," like his registration of millions of new voters.

So is Moore a direct literary descendant of Adolf Hitler, that
over-the-top idea man whose snarly diatribes grabbed Publishers
's number-seven bestseller slot for 1939? Will self-confessed
"right-wing hit man" Brock--political sex-change operation or not--be
remembered as an heir to the legacy of Barry (Conscience of a
) Goldwater? Should Timmerman, whose Shakedown
batters Jesse so badly his reproductive equipment may never recover, be
considered just another scion of Victor Lasky, whose ferociously
critical attack on John F. Kennedy awkwardly arrived in 1963? And what
of Goldberg, our redemption-minded spy who came in from the ill-told?
Will his Bias someday be taught in the Columbia publishing course
alongside that 1923 bestseller, Emile Coué's Self-Mastery
Through Conscious Auto-Suggestion
, whose system apparently involved
repeating to oneself, "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and

Yes, Flannery O'Connor was right: "There's many a best-seller that could
have been prevented by a good teacher." Each of these polemics keeps
rolling as a big commercial success for its publisher, even though, by
any standard of evenhandedness, each practices the big lie by what it
omits. Are they skyrocketing hits because they're tantamount to "big
lies," texts unwilling to address contrary views?

Maybe we've entered an era in which publishers and readers no longer
care about two hands working at complementary tasks--about evidence and
counterevidence, arguments and counterarguments, decency toward subject
matter. One way to interpret the ascent of the Feckless Four is to
accept that literary producers and consumers think we should leave all
that to college debating societies, scholarly journals and books,
newspapers of record and the courts. That's truth territory--this is
entertainment. And could that actually be the crux of the putative
trend? The recognition, by publishers, buyers and canny trade authors
alike, that well-balanced, evenhanded, scrupulously fair nonfiction
books bore the hell out of readers, however many prizes they may win?

Perhaps, in other words, the rise of the polemic is not simply a passing
curiosity, a reaction to political correctness cutting both ways in 2002
America, but a stage of evolutionary development in a post-
eternal verities culture. Educated readers--whether right or
left--hunger for books that simply smash the opposition and make one
feel the only sensation sweeter than orgasm: the sense of being utterly,
unimpeachably right. To update an old saw by publisher William Targ, too
many people who have half a mind to write a nonfiction bestseller do so,
and that's roughly the amount of brainpower the reader desires.

It certainly feels as if we're facing an epiphenomenon of the moment, an
upshot of the electorate we saw polarized on that red and blue 2000
electoral map. And yet, over the decades one spots many precursors of
Moore, Brock, Goldberg and Timmerman (a crackerjack adversarial firm
that might cost hundreds per hour if journalists billed like lawyers).
Michael Korda's recent Making the List: A Cultural History of the
American Bestseller, 1900-99
(Barnes & Noble), suggests
that curators of American bestseller lists could have put up the neon
Onesided Books 'R' Us sign long ago. Diet books, medical guides, how-tos
and self-improvement schemes, after all, ritually command readers to do
it this way, not that way. Dale Carnegie made it to the list with How
to Win Friends and Influence People
, not How to Win Friends,
Influence People and Also Estrange a Ton of Other Folks
. Books by
political candidates advancing their platforms may not sizzle with
Moore's streety phrases or Brock's inside snitching, but they slant the
truth just the same. Similarly, the titles of leading bestsellers of the
1930s--Ernest Dimnet's What We Live By, Walter Pitkin's Life
Begins at Forty
and Walter Duranty's I Write as I
--suggest unshakable points of view promised and delivered.
Even in that war-dominated decade, one sees the forerunners of today's
divided left/right list, with Mission to Moscow, which offered,
Korda writes, a "benevolent view of Joseph Stalin," coming in second on
the 1942 bestseller list, while John Roy Carlson's Under Cover,
"an expose of subversive activity in the United States," rose to number
one in 1943. Yet, Korda observes, while Americans favor books that
"explain to them what is happening," they "still want to be amused,
entertained, and improved." So when authors like Moore, Brock, Goldberg
and Timmerman bring added assets to their unbalanced texts--Moore's
over-the-line wit, Brock's salacious gossip, Goldberg's hate-the-media
vibes and Timmerman's avalanche of dirt--it's like attaching an extra
rocket to the binding.

The presence of one-sided books on bestseller lists, in short, is no
fleeting phenomenon. It's a tradition. But might their increase threaten
the culture? Not likely. Here an insight from Korda fuses with a larger
appreciation of how philosophy in the broadest sense--the way we
organize what we know into views that hang together--operates in
American culture.

Korda extrapolates from bestseller history that "American readers have
been, since the 1940s, increasingly willing to be challenged and even
attacked. They might not have been eager to accept these challenges in
person...but they were willing to buy and read books that criticized the
status quo." He cites fiction as well Laura Hobson's novel
Gentleman's Agreement (1947), with its critique of anti-Semitism,
and Sloan Wilson's The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955), which
eviscerated the "white upper-middle-class lifestyle." It's equally true
that American bestsellers from the beginning sometimes set themselves
against a prevailing yet vulnerableview. Tom Paine's Common Sense
took off and became common sense after he insulted George III and monarchy
the way Moore zaps George the Second, and, well, monarchy.

Korda's insight jibes with a larger truth. Our growing readiness not
only to tolerate but to prefer lopsided views of things arises from our
gut-level understanding that America, at the dawn of the twenty-first
century--and contrary to its clichéd cultural image--stands as
the most vibrant philosophical culture in the history of the world, an
unprecedented marketplace of truth, argument, evidence and individuated
positions on sale to any browser with a browser. Anyone with a pulse and
a laptop can access material supporting the right, the left, the up, the
down, the Israeli view, the Arab view, the Zoroastrian, the pagan, the
poly, the foundationalist, the nonfoundationalist, the libertine, the
puritanical, the environmental, the deconstructionist, the Lacanian, ad
infinitum. That reservoir of opinions, attitudes and slants lifts our
tolerance for one-sidedness into an appetite for edifying entertainment.
Because we can order or click our way to the other side of almost any
viewpoint, and can get it wholesale or retail, we forgive omissions. In
our cornucopia culture, only diners have to offer everything.

TV executives, of course, knew from early on that brash, partisan
talk-show hosts would outrate scholarly balancers every time. (The talk
show, from Alan Burke and Joe Pyne to Bill O'Reilly, has mainly been an
exercise in getting someone to scream uncle.) So, in turn, canny
commercial publishers know that supplying "the other hand" can safely be
left to the equally one-sided polemicist around the corner, or to the
culture at large (particularly if the status quo is the "position"
omitted). The nonfiction polemic, like provocative theater, demands an
interactive audience member who'll supply or obtain elsewhere whatever's
missing, up to the level of individual need. The upshot of rampant
American pluralism, if not neatly packaged truth or beauty in marketable
texts, is an unburdening of public intellectuals and trade authors from
the academic obligation to be fair, judicious and open-minded. Like
artists, they're simply expected to arouse.

It's an unholy system, all right. A typically American market solution
to our supposedly innate demand for equity in the pursuit of knowledge.
But it's ours. And the big bucks it produces for paperback and foreign
rights? Don't even ask.

That "genus gap" between aspirational ideal and quotidian reality may explain what draws protean novelists like Philip Roth and Francine Prose to campus, following in the tracks of such earlier anthropologists as Mary McCarthy, Randall Jarrell and Bernard Malamud. With the exception of Christian churches, no American institutions provide so much yawning space between appearance and reality for the novelist of manners to explore. Like Christian churches, charged to live up to the Gospel ideal of love with frail humans driven by what-Jesus-wouldn't-do motives, liberal arts colleges--also handicapped by the challenge of getting good help--march to an oratorical drumbeat of truth and free speech designed for great universities, but imposed on less august institutions as well, and portentous enough to put grown women and men to sleep at commencement time.

"He who enters a university walks on hallowed ground," James Bryant Conant declared at the Harvard tercentenary in 1936, and subsequent declaimers of higher-ed ideology have kept the faith. Harvard's Nathan Pusey asserted in the thick of academe's McCarthy-minded fifties that the task was "to keep alive in young people the courage to dare to speak the truth, to be free, to establish in them a compelling desire to live greatly and magnanimously." Robert M. Hutchins likewise declared that the university "is not a kindergarten; it is not a club; it is not a reform school; it is not a political party; it is not an agency of propaganda.... Freedom of inquiry, freedom of discussion, and freedom of teaching--without these a university cannot exist.... The university exists only to find and to communicate the truth. If it cannot do that, it is no longer a university."

Against those boosterish toasts to the campus as Free Thought U. ran a countertradition of disdain for higher education's mustiness, an attitude already expressed in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations gibe at the university as a "sanctuary in which exploded systems and obsolete prejudices find shelter and protection after they have been hunted out of every corner of the world." Only in recent times, and distinctively in America, have the university and college been seen as repositories of the new and obnoxiously ephemeral.

Whatever their proper niches in the respective oeuvres of Francine Prose and Philip Roth, the new novels from these prolific masters share this: They precisely inspect a subregion of the American "acascape"--the tony New England liberal arts college--exposing the peculiar corruptions of an environment outsiders frequently consider close to paradise. Both books transcend their settings, expanding into complicated literary accomplishments. But both books also drill home lessons about small-time academe that no April visit to campus, accompanied by your gangly 17-year-old, can provide.

In a freer literary universe, Roth's Coleman Silk and Prose's Ted Swenson would lunch together weekly, swapping the secrets they keep from everyone else. At 71, Coleman (regularly referred to by his first name), is an aging classicist, the longtime dean of Athena College in the Berkshires, who resigned under pressure two years before to end a political-correctness soap opera. After two registered students missed his class for the first few weeks of term, Coleman asked aloud, "Does anyone know these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?" The truants, who turned out to be black, filed charges over the "racial slur." It was a lie that Coleman intended anything racial, trusted old narrator Nathan Zuckerman assures us, but lies thrive in the biased systems of small colleges like Athena. Coleman's defense that he employed old-fashioned diction for "ghosts" is worthless against enemies like Delphine Roux, the 30ish politically correct chair of languages and literature whom he hired despite their instant mutual dislike. So Coleman, known for his "bulldozing vanity and autocratic ego," simply quit, "an act not of capitulation but of outraged protest, a deliberate manifestation of his unwavering contempt."

Now, in 1998, the Clinton sex scandal weighs on everyone's mind, and Coleman has further attenuated his status in the town of Athena by beginning a sub rosa relationship with Faunia Farley, an illiterate 34-year-old Athena College cleaning woman victimized by one man or another since childhood. ("Everyone knows you're sexually exploiting an abused, illiterate woman half your age," announces an anonymous note Coleman receives.)

As Roth artfully unfolds his story in slo-mo, we also learn that Coleman has been living a lie since early manhood. A light-skinned black high school valedictorian from East Orange, New Jersey, and the son of a nurse and an optician turned dining-car waiter, Coleman's been passing himself off as Jewish since lying about it on his application to join the Navy, eager to escape being a "We," determined to be "just on his own and free." By the time we meet Coleman, father of four children and widower since the recent death of his wife, Iris, he's a nineties academic disaster waiting to happen.

By contrast, Ted Swenson at first appears to have made all the right calls, sidestepping clichéd pitfalls of his trade. At 47, still haplessly trying to follow up on the promise of his two successful early novels, he's the tenured writer in residence at Euston College, a third-rank liberal arts school in Vermont with an "alarmingly tiny endowment." Swenson claims he loves his wife, Sherrie (the college nurse). He hopes to melt the late-teen ice that has formed between them and their daughter, Ruby, and to continue to avoid the most obvious temptation: sleeping with his students.

Sure, at the administration-mandated session on sexual harassment Swenson thinks, "What if someone rose to say what so many of them are thinking, that there's something erotic about the act of teaching, all that information streaming back and forth like some...bodily fluid." But "as hard as it might be for anyone, including himself, to believe, he's taught here for twenty years and never once slept with a student.... How hard it is to remember their names, which proves that they meant nothing, nothing worth risking his job for." In Swenson's own mind, "He's the saint of Euston!"

That's particularly prudent since at nearby State U. an art history professor has recently been suspended without pay for saying "Yum" when introducing "a classical Greek sculpture of a female nude." ("The students accused him of leering. He said he was expressing a gut response to art.")

Swenson's time to screw up, however, is now. Because "what really bothers him...is that he was too stupid or timid or scared to sleep with those students. What exactly was he proving? Illustrating some principle, making some moral point?"

Enter punky 19-year-old Angela Argo, a student who shows real writing talent and reawakens romance in Swenson--first for her gift, then for her, a "skinny, pale redhead with neon-orange and lime-green streaks in her hair and a delicate, sharp-featured face pierced in a half-dozen places." Slowly, deftly, Prose orchestrates Swenson's descent into the same humiliation that awaited Professor Rath in the classic Josef von Sternberg movie The Blue Angel (1930). Angela turns out to be a lying, manipulative opportunist, but Swenson, a liar himself, falls into all her traps.

The surface truth about Athena and Euston is that a college campus today may be the least safe place in America to speak dangerously: less safe than a TV talk show, less safe than a newspaper, less safe than drive-time radio. Comprehensive studies--from Ellen Schrecker's No Ivory Tower, about redbaiting in the fifties, to The Shadow University by Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate, on speech codes in the eighties and nineties--make that no cultural epiphany. On some campuses, academic freedom means freedom for professors to hide when issues of principle threaten business as usual.

But Prose and Roth itemize deeper illnesses on campus, not just knee-jerk PC conclusions and stereotypical faculty cowardice. When Coleman and Delphine Roux try to talk, every contrarian remark by either seems a conversation-ender. ("Coleman, you've been out of the classroom for a long time."/"And you haven't been out of it ever.") When the Euston English department gathers at Dean Francis Bentham's house for a "check-up" dinner, the small talk evolves into an exchange of uncomfortable classroom moments about gender, capped by Swenson's incendiary solution, which comes back to bite him: "Lock them in a room and shout dirty words at them until they grow up."

To both Prose and Roth, the college campus seems a halfway house between rambunctious real life and the microscopic nosiness of the courtroom. It exhibits all the attention to detail, sensitivity to rights and violations of the law, but virtually none of its regard for evidence, fairness or due process. Political correctness, college style, looks to Prose and Roth like execration without representation, primitive stigmatizing gussied up as principle. Both Coleman and Swenson end up pariahs in these books despite being technically innocent of the charges against them.

Both Prose and Roth dig through further layers of pathology. Coleman and Swenson exude a deep-rooted condescension for their work and habitat, unmitigated by healthier thoughts from any character around them. Coleman reflects ruefully, in retirement, on how he had "guided Athena's mediocre students, as best he could, through a literature some twenty-five hundred years old." Clashing with Roux, he rages that

our students are abysmally ignorant. They've been incredibly badly educated. Their lives are intellectually barren. They arrive knowing nothing and most of them leave knowing nothing. Least of all do they know, when they show up in my class, how to read classical drama. Teaching at Athena, particularly in the 1990s, teaching what is far and away the dumbest generation in American history, is the same as walking up Broadway in Manhattan talking to yourself, except instead of the eighteen people who hear you in the street talking to yourself, they're all in the room.

Swenson--guided by Prose's pointillist irony rather than Roth's orotund rage--muses, "When he first started teaching, he'd settled for nothing less than the whole class falling in love with him. Now he's content to get through the hour without major psychic damage." While Swenson thinks he gives students "a useful skill," his approach to his job is largely cynical, aimed at getting the students to "see him as generous, giving--on their side," when he hardly cares. Swenson actually admires the many women who quickly transfer from Euston: "The women are just smarter, quicker to catch onto the fact that they're wasting their parents' money in this godforsaken backwater."

Even after a conference with Angela, his favorite, Swenson feels he's once more "siphoned all his creative juices into a brainnumbing chat with a student." His workshop often consists of trying to remember the details of a student submission, figuring out "some way to improve this heartbreaking, subliterate piece of shit" and achieve "the weekly miracle of healing the terminally ill with minor cosmetic surgery." Swenson and Magda, his poet colleague, don't argue too hard for a creative writing major: "Why would they want the extra work of reading student-thesis novels?"

Swenson's colleagues similarly depress him. "Why not see this scene," he asks himself, scanning the English department dinner party, "as Chekhov might: a gathering of lost souls pretending they're not expiring from boredom and angst in some provincial outpost?" Dean Bentham will "ask thoughtful questions and murmur soft grunts of comprehension as they cut their own throats, one by one, each sounding too jaded, too naïve, too earnest, too complaining, until even the tenured will feel anxious about their jobs as Bentham sits back and watches how badly they're behaving." The dean himself "was hired a half-dozen years ago in a fit of community self-hate; not even when he visited Euston as a candidate did he make a secret of his natural Oxbridge-assisted superiority to these touching but hopelessly naïve colonial morons."

It's no coincidence that Prose and Roth, coming to college novels at the same time, fail to portray anyone as healthy or admirable, living a life we should envy and respect. Prose, whose "Scent of a Woman's Ink" essay in Harper's two years ago smartly challenged tropistic ways of reading male and female novelists and their subjects, undoubtedly recognizes the campus novel as an equal-opportunity odor du jour, attracting everyone from Coetzee to Jane Smiley. One can emulate her guerrilla tactic of juxtaposing male and female writers--Updike and Mary Gaitskill formed a particularly inspired pair--to support her notion that an adroit woman novelist may well tackle a subject more boldly, crisply, precisely than the male novelist exploring it through a counterlife.

Coleman Silk, despite his unusual ethnicity for a Roth protagonist, eventually becomes one more spokesman for a certain psyche's life as a man, however entertaining and on target the rants of this and all seasons. While some critics have taken The Human Stain as volume three of a trilogy begun with American Pastoral and I Married a Communist--the main reason being that New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani passed on the notion from Roth and the book's publicists in her review--one might as well ask whether the book forms a tetralogy with long-ago Letting Go (and its troubled young Jewish academic at the University of Chicago), or The Breast and The Professor of Desire, in which Professor David Kepesh's transformations were both more and less remarkable than Coleman's.

Regardless, Roth's choices in The Human Stain make Coleman--and Zuckerman as Boswell--less convincing critics of academic hypocrisy than Swenson and the waspish wizard behind him. Prose continues her evolution here from the once remote and redemptionist young novelist, whose earliest books (Judah the Pious; Marie Laveau) arrived like parables at the novelist's ball, to the wickedly observant muralist of tabloid conceits (Bigfoot Dreams), literary envy (Guided Tours of Hell) and many other abundantly alive slices of life. As pointedly reportorial as the more self-anointedly journalistic Tom Wolfe, Prose re-creates the intricate texture of distortion on today's campus by going beyond just the charges against Swenson to marvelously savvy passages about the deceitful dynamics of writing workshops, the abashed stealth with which professors recoil at the pierced faces of students and the glib flexibility of the campus tour for prospectives, in which every college flaw turns into an asset, smallness into "intimacy."

Swenson faces as much damage as Coleman, but because Prose wisely denies him a soapbox on every headline from Monica to the traumas of Vietnam service, both his transparent justifications and those Prose leaves open for fair assessment come as a surprise.

Swenson's anger, to be sure, ends up trained on his colleagues and dean, all too ready to play "by the rules of this cult" to which they've surrendered their lives, to play scripted roles from the top down when the time comes to drum him out as a "predatory harasser." But at the same time, Swenson responds by looking inward while Coleman, eager for an end to "significance," settles for the liberatingly nonverbal obsession with Faunia, leaving it to Zuckerman, more or less, to handle the meaning of it all. Swenson's attempt to understand his respect for Angela's novel, to confront the "erotics of teaching" and "the dangers of starting to see one's student as a real person," all take him into neighborhoods of truth and falsehood Coleman never enters. In the end, Swenson, unlike Coleman, feels sorry for many things, among them wrecking his career and marriage. He is, however, most "extremely sorry for having spent twenty years of his one and only life, twenty years he will never get back, among people he can't talk to, men and women to whom he can't even tell the simple truth." Unlike Coleman, Swenson knows that he's the victim of more than bad trends, bad breaks, too much testosterone. He's learned something about the place where he spent his life, while Coleman, one suspects, would take back his deanship in a flash if he could keep his cleaning lady on the side.

Intricacies of characterization aside, it's no small news that two of our sharpest, most sophisticated culture critics and novelists indict the liberal arts college as a gorgeously landscaped prison, a dysfunctional refugee camp for lost intellectuals, a Kafka neighborhood with Hallmark postcard. A community, thinks Zuckerman, where "simply to make the accusation is to prove it. To hear the allegation is to believe it. No motive for the perpetrator is necessary, no logic or rationale is required. Only a label is required. The label is the motive. The label is the evidence." And all this "in the New England most identified, historically, with the American individualist's resistance to the coercions of a censorious community--Hawthorne, Melville and Thoreau come to mind."

Years ago, University of California president Clark Kerr laughingly described a campus executive's three major administrative problems as "sex for the students, athletics for the alumni, and parking for the faculty." These days, the problems of the liberal arts college are no laughing matter.

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