It’s lucky for Cornel West that the Ivy League apparently has no shortage of universities willing to abandon academic standards in return for the dubious advantage of employing a publicity-loving con man. The latest dupe: Princeton University, which has just hired the black studies “scholar” away from Harvard University. Princeton is crowing about its “coup”; Harvard does not seem particularly distressed.
And no wonder. Unable to quit with dignity or decency, Mr. West used his decision to leave Harvard to inflate his public profile by attacking Harvard president Lawrence Summers. What was Mr. Summer’s crime? Last fall, in a private conservation between the two men, the Harvard president dared suggest that Mr. West spend more time on scholarship and less on salesmanship, especially as Mr. West held one of the highly valued “university professorships” at Harvard. Mr. Summers, who himself had been Harvard’s youngest tenured professor at age 28, believes that the job of a professor entails some responsibility to the institution’s fundamental mission as a center for teaching and research. But Mr. West has long since abandoned serious scholarship for a role as a political cheerleader and self-promoting propagandist. Last year he found time to make 150 off-campus speaking appearances, often at $12,000 apiece, and to record a CD which he describes as “danceable education.” He’s also been happy to lend a hand to anti-Semites: He appeared alongside Louis Farrakhan at the Million Man March, and he worked on a committee exploring a Presidential run by Al Sharpton. And so he was naturally outraged by Mr. Summer’s suggestion that he might want to crank out a few scholarly tomes now and then. Rather than defend himself on academic grounds, Mr. West fanned rumors that this was a racial issue. Like clockwork, Mr. Sharpton and fellow fraud Jesse Jackson loudly attacked Harvard and Mr. Summers. Still, Mr. Summers reportedly apologized to Mr. West for any misunderstanding and made several attempts to patch things up.
Meanwhile, Princeton’s new president, Shirley Tilghman, and new provost, Amy Gutmann, had been fawning over Mr. West. And so Mr. West, apparently realizing that staying at Harvard might mean he’d have to publish some real work, decided to hop to Princeton, where he had previously taught from 1988 to 1994. Rather than leaving Harvard with grace, he showed his penchant for anti-Semitism when he told The New York Times , “Larry Summers strikes me as the Ariel Sharon of American higher education.” When he’s done with Princeton, Mr. West is well-positioned for a job offer from the University of Damascus.
Lawrence Summers deserves praise for acting like a conscientious academic leader, who is clearly strengthening Harvard by creating the conditions for a hack professor to relocate to Princeton. As for Princeton’s academic leaders, they have simply provided a home for America’s most prominent academic charlatan to sell his wares.
Robert Torricelli, Country Squire?
Which smells worse: the New Jersey Meadowlands on a steamy August afternoon, or Senator Robert Torricelli’s public and private finances? Let’s put it this way: We’d prefer the great swamp’s blasts of methane to Mr. Torricelli’s odiferous shenanigans.
Trader Bob, who gained a small portion of his infamy by making scores of stock transitions that reeked of impropriety, apparently is so pleased with his recent good fortune that he’s decided he wants to live life like a country gentlemen in rural New Jersey. According to a report in the Star-Ledger of New Jersey, the Senator is about to buy a $1.3 million historic estate on the banks of the Delaware River. The Star-Ledger reports that the new digs include a 16-room colonial home, a guest house, an in-ground swimming pool and pool house, and a substantial barn. The latter amenity inspired the Senator to offer the following insight into his character: He reportedly bragged that “I have the biggest barn in the county.” As well he might, for in that county of impressive horses, none has hind quarters that can match Mr. Torricelli.
A year or so ago, the Senator had reason to contemplate a move to less plush lodgings. Investigators were looking into his campaign’s shady fund-raising. Now, however, it appears that Mr. Torricelli has beaten the rap, and his re-election prospects this year have improved despite the cloud of suspicion. Republicans with stature chose not to run against Trader Bob once it became clear that he would not be posing for mug shots any time soon.
As he takes the measure of other barns in Hunterdon County, Trader Bob must find this amusing. The rest of us can only throw up our hands in disgust.
The Marriage Clock
While every marriage has trouble spots, new research suggests that there are two periods when couples tend to divorce-either in the first seven years, or at the 14-year mark. The study by two psychology professors-John Gottman of the University of Washington and Robert Levenson of the University of California at Berkeley-published in the journal Family Process , identifies two types of unhappy couples and shows how the type can be used to predict how long a marriage will last. First are couples who fall into what the researchers call an “emotionally volatile attack-defend pattern,” characterized by criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling-living inside what the authors call a “culture of criticism.” Not surprisingly, these are the couples who are likely to divorce within the first seven years. The study suggests that a therapist may be able to help such couples learn how to create a “culture of appreciation.”
The couples who are likely to divorce at the 14-year point are described as couples who avoid all conflict and are stuck in an “emotionally inexpressive pattern.” The researchers indicate this may be “the lowest point in marital satisfaction in the life course,” since the avoidant couple’s problems are often compounded by the fact that they have a teenager at home. To quote the study, each partner experiences “alienation because of long-standing unexpressed marital disillusionment and disappointment in the marriage, which is exacerbated by a midlife crisis, and then expressed via a coalition triangle with an unhappily married (and long-silent) parent and a rebellious adolescent.” The cure for the 14-year blues? The authors suggest that a therapist can help the couple express their avoided feelings; he or she also “helps them to have their midlife crisis together.” Now that’s true romance.