This Week’s Cavalcade of Campus Crazy

Some times one thing leads to another, and you end up going down a rabbit hole of campus crazy. Wait—isn’t “rabbit hole” a speciesist metaphor? I’m sure it is somewhere. Will Rogers used to say that it’s no trouble being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you; my paraphrase is that who needs joke writers when you have most of the professoriate working for you.

Have you ever wondered why there are fewer women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields in higher education? Obviously it’s because they’re gendered, you troglodyte! Or so says a new paper in a journal ironically called The Qualitative Report:

Are STEM Syllabi Gendered? A Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis


This study explored the gendered nature of STEM higher education institution through a feminist critical discourse analysis of STEM course syllabi from a Midwest research university. I explored STEM syllabi to understand how linguistic features such as stance and interdiscursivity are used in the syllabus and how language and discourses used in the syllabus replicate the masculine nature of STEM education. Findings suggest that the discourses identified in the syllabi reinforce traditional STEM academic roles, and that power and gender in the STEM syllabi are revealed through exploration of the themes of knowledge, learning, and the teaching and learning environment created by the language used in the syllabus. These findings inform and extend understanding of the STEM syllabus and the STEM higher education institution and lead to recommendations about how to make the STEM syllabus more inclusive for women. [Emphasis added.]

If you read to the end of the paper (ah, the things I do for Power Line readers!), you find this among the suggested remedies:

This suggests that there is an opportunity for STEM courses to reduce the perception of courses as difficult and unfriendly through language use in the syllabi, and also as a guide for how to use less competitive teaching methods and grading profiles that could improve the experience of female students. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, dumb it down and practice grade inflation for the girls in the class, who are no different from boys, don’t you ever forget.

Next up: Somehow I made my way over to Feminist Theory, a journal published by the supposedly serious Sage Journals, which has this on offer at the moment:

The unruly queer figure’s phallic seductions and the re/production of sexual (in)difference

Corie Hammers

Macalester College, Saint Paul, USA


This article interrogates a psychoanalytically inflected strain of anti-social queer theory that in privileging refusal and negation, views as paradigmatic of ‘queerness’ the destructive, annihilative aspects in (queer) sex. In this view, sexuality is a product of the unconscious, thus irreducible to gender, such that gender is irrelevant to (and indeed hinders) understandings of desire. Informed by feminism, which views gender as crucial to any theory on sexuality, I expose that which ‘sexual negation’ masks through this very disavowal – that of gender and the body itself. I argue that subtending the figural representation of queer/ness is a deep-seated, albeit disguised, masculinism that, through negation, works to re-centre and re-virilise (gay) men’s sexual economies. I take up Butler’s lesbian phallus to de-idealise and thus challenge this privileging of the penis operating within this strain of queer – as only phallic sexual economies can, it seems, deliver the very annihilation we (all) seek.

Sage actually wants to charge you $36 for full access to the article if you’re not a subscriber to Feminist Theory. I’m sure they’re getting lots of takers.

I could go on and make this a daily—even hourly—feature, as there is no end to this kind of nonsense in higher ed. But the worst thing you can actually do to these folks is simply quote what they say.

This is all prelude to suggesting that higher education is now so ridiculous that even some people on the left are starting to notice. The story of the week is the article in the left-leaning American Prospect entitled “Academic Drivel Report,” where Occidental College professor Peter Dreier reports having pulled off another Alan Sokal-style hoax:

Six years ago I submitted a paper for a panel, “On the Absence of Absences” that was to be part of an academic conference later that year—in August 2010. Then, and now, I had no idea what the phrase “absence of absences” meant. The description provided by the panel organizers, printed below, did not help. The summary, or abstract of the proposed paper—was pure gibberish, as you can see below. I tried, as best I could within the limits of my own vocabulary, to write something that had many big words but which made no sense whatsoever. I not only wanted to see if I could fool the panel organizers and get my paper accepted, I also wanted to pull the curtain on the absurd pretentions of some segments of academic life. To my astonishment, the two panel organizers—both American sociologists—accepted my proposal and invited me to join them at the annual international conference of the Society for Social Studies of Science to be held that year in Tokyo.

There’s much more to the story, and it is worth reading the whole thing, but here’s one key judgment of Dreier’s article:

I also have little patience for the kind of embarrassingly obtuse writing style preferred by many postmodern and allegedly leftist academics that obscures more than it enlightens and is often a clever mask for being intellectually lightweight. Professor Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University made a similar point in an article published in the October 2005 issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology entitled, “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.” The Atlantic in March 2006 summarized Oppenheimer’s point thusly: “Insecure writers tend to reach for the thesaurus.”

Actually most of the deliberately obscure or nonsensical terms in academic papers don’t even appear in a thesaurus.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.