November 25, 2003
The Invisible Adjunct Is Non-Plussed

The Invisible Adjunct is non-plussed, dismayed, disarrayed--but not defeated: Invisible Adjunct: A Brief Note on Parody and Self-Parody: But damn. I was in the midst of a blog entry on Roger Kimball's caricature of the Enlightenment, but I've lost my momentum. It's not always easy to be a liberal. You want to resist the right-wing attacks on the academy, which too frequently involve grossly inaccurate caricature and grossly unfair parody. And then you come up against this sort of self-parodying gesture: 'Going to the bathroom is a moment where definition is very important in choosing a door,' said Mary Anne Case, one of the panelists. She pointed out that many women's restrooms have a caricature of a person in a dress on it. 'Going into it implies that we are willing to be associated with that image. There are only two [images] to choose from. This moment involves an act of self-labeling.' But I'm not so easily defeated......

Posted by DeLong at 07:42 PM

November 21, 2003
Exam Time Approaches

Exam time approaches. And the King of Mockery has advice for all of his professors: Says Rex ...: A chilling realization has hit me - something I was peripherally aware of but had been ignoring until now. We OU Law students have only a week and a half of class left before Thanksgiving, then we return for one more week before finals. I would like to offer my professors some advice.Professor Miller - someone who asks you a question in class, even if you "thought we had covered that adequately already," probably is interested in the answer.Professor Swank - I know the whole Federalism thing probably seemed like a good idea to the Framers of our Constitution, but really, learning both State and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is unduly burdensome on us law students. Could you please limit your final to the Federal Rules only?Professor McNichols - ("Yes? Yes!!!!") I have it on authority of a 3L that you teach the hell out of torts, and that there is a lot to learn in your class for a student who can rise to your level. But please remember, we are 1Ls. ONE ELS!. Really, I dig the stories about...

Posted by DeLong at 05:39 PM

October 11, 2003
Getting Incentives Right

Thrasymachos: "So how did the course go?" Diotima: "Very well for a summer school course, except for one thing." Thrasymachos: "What?" Diotima: "They knew no economics. To try to teach the international trade and exchange rate side of international relations to people who have no idea that David Ricardo or John Maynard Keynes ever lived was a real trial." Thrasymachos: "Ah." Diotima: "Why don't they know any economics?" Thrasymachos: "Well, they have to take Introductory Economics, Intermediate Micro, and Intermediate Macro for the major to graduate, but..." Diotima:"But?" Thrasymachos: "It's a capped, restricted major. They have to maintain a B+ average in courses that count for the major in order to get admitted." Diotima: "And?" Thrasymachos: "A lot of them worry--those who are not confident of their quantitative reasoning skills worry--that they'll pull a C in an economics course, and that that will kill their chance of ever getting into the major. So they wait until their senior year to take Introductory Economics, and then crowd the other two courses into the spring semester." Diotima: "But!" Thrasymachos: "You are about to say that these Economics courses are foundational 'tools' courses? That the whole point of including them in the major...

Posted by DeLong at 01:05 PM

September 29, 2003
Tired of London?

Overheard in the Berkeley Faculty Club: "So how's your [business school] Dean [Tom Campbell]?" "You know. A Republican. A politician. A lawyer. Very different from Laura Tyson." "And you won't tell me which you prefer?" "Of course not." "So do you think Laura Tyson will be the next Chancellor [of the University of California at Berkeley]?" "I don't know. It's a wearing job at the best of times. And this is the worst of times. I do think she's getting tired of London." "I heard she loved London, and that it was her husband who was tired of London." "I heard her husband loved London, and that it was she who was getting tired of London." I almost stood up and said, in a loud voice, "As Samuel Johnson said, 'When a woman is tired of London, she is tired of life!'" But I didn't. I hereby award myself five self-control points....

Posted by DeLong at 05:37 PM

September 25, 2003
The Crisis in Scholarly Publishing

Chun the Unavoidable writes about the crisis in scholarly publishing: university libraries can no longer afford to buy as many books as they bought two decades ago (they are spending their money on computers and database access). So what happens? Chun the Unavoidable: Scholarly Publishing: The Invisible Adjunct has a post on a recent Chronicle article by Cathy Davidson on the crisis in scholarly publishing. Those of us in the field have been hearing a lot about this lately, from Lindsay Waters, William Germano, Stephen Greenblatt, and pretty much anyone else with an interest and/or brain. As I understand it, all research institutions and an increasing number of liberal arts colleges and comprehensive universities require assistant professors to publish a book before being granted tenure. Academic books do not sell, of course, and the university presses which publish them are coming under increased economic pressure.... I find most interesting about the piece the fact that she doesn't seem to acknowledge the universe of non-book requiring tenure-track jobs. In English, I'd guess that there are about 150 programs which would definitely require a book-for-tenure. Of the faculty in these programs, I suspect that 80% of them were trained at the same...

Posted by DeLong at 03:40 PM

September 20, 2003
Moderator Failure

What you do if you find you've seriously misjudged how long people are going to talk, and thus that your session is going to run fifteen minutes into lunch: Moderator Failure: So far in this session we have heard a lot about market failure and government failure. I am here to report a third kind of failure: moderator failure. Our time has already come to an end. But I still want to give the audience an opportunity to ask questions, and our paper-writers a chance to reply, giving Alice Amsden the last word. So I will now take eight brief, well-pointed questions or incisive, single-point comments before calling on our paper writers in inverse order to give their final replies....

Posted by DeLong at 10:55 PM

Claudia Goldin's Advice for Would-Be Professors

If you (all 1500 or so of you) are trying to get a job as an assistant professor of economics this year, Claudia Goldin has some very well-thought out Information for Economics Graduate Students on the Job Market that she has put together in her role as Harvard's placement director. Our Berkeley placement page of students on this year's job market will be (but is not yet) here....

Posted by DeLong at 10:09 PM

September 11, 2003
Am I Doomed?

Arnold Kling thinks that I AM DOOMED!! Economics: information technology - Corante: The Bottom Line: I think that ultimately even college professors will not be able to enjoy the combination of a regular paycheck and almost complete autonomy.  They'll have to join the rest of us in Real World 101. Not if I can help it. I'll fight!...

Posted by DeLong at 02:42 PM

September 08, 2003
But Soft!/What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks?/It Is the East, and Juliet Is the Sun!

It's gotten to the point that whenever I go to hear one of the Berkeley humanities faculty talk, more likely than not I wind up frustrated: it's as though their eyes have been blindfolded and their ears plugged up by their disciplinary training, and they concentrate on small and boring but approved facets of their topic, while enormously exciting things lie ignored all about them. For example, today I heard Bill Worthen from our Theatre Department talk about printing plays--how Harold Pinter wants his printed plays to have lots of white space on the page, how George Bernard Shaw wanted his plays to look as novel-like as possible (and also to be vaguely reminiscent of early printers like Caxton), how (until the first folio) it was not worth putting the fact that the plays were written by Wm. Shaxpur on the cover, and how people laughed at Ben Jonson when he included plays among his "works." But from my perspective, he missed all the big and interesting issues, which all revolve around just what we are doing when we read a play. And why and under what circumstances do we decide to read (rather than watch) a play? Two nights...

Posted by DeLong at 04:16 PM

September 07, 2003
Ronald Ehrenberg, Tuition Rising

The Invisible Adjunct finds another book I have to add to my to-read pile: Invisible Adjunct: Why are Tuition Costs Rising?: I've just come across Ronald G. Ehrenberg's Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much. Though I haven't yet read the book, I'm intrigued by the following description: America's elite colleges and universities are the best in the world. They are also the most expensive, with tuition rising faster than the rate of inflation over the past thirty years and no indication that this trend will abate. Ronald G. Ehrenberg explores the causes of this tuition inflation, drawing on his many years as a teacher and researcher of the economics of higher education and as a senior administrator at Cornell University. Using incidents and examples from his own experience, he discusses a wide range of topics, including endowment policies, admissions and financial aid policies, the funding of research, tenure and the end of mandatory retirement, information technology, libraries and distance learning, student housing, and intercollegiate athletics. He shows that elite colleges and universities, having multiple, relatively independent constituencies, suffer from ineffective central control of their costs. And in a fascinating analysis of their response to the ratings published by...

Posted by DeLong at 09:51 PM

September 04, 2003
Professor-Saving Technology

Professor-saving devices: Unfogged Archives: From an NYT story today on computer-automated grading of essays on standardized tests: For example, a high score almost always contains topically relevant vocabulary, a variety of sentence structures, and the use of cue terms like "in summary," for example, and "because" to organize an argument. By analyzing 50 of these features in a sampling of essays on a particular topic that were scored by human beings, the system can accurately predict how the same human readers would grade additional essays on the same topic. None of the current algorithms can detect illogical arguments, though. GMAT essays are already read by computers -- and by human readers -- and the computer and the readers agree on scores 97 - 98% of the time. Having the computers write the essays is the obvious next step (the ultimate in "teaching to the test"). Currently 40% of Ogged's entries are written by an algorithm which assembles sentences according to a frequency analysis and a list of fifteen key nouns, including political, RSS, and Aguilera....

Posted by DeLong at 10:57 AM

August 22, 2003
A University Administrator Who Understands!

Ah! Finally! A university administrator who understands that the purpose of a university is to spread knowledge around--not to see how many people it can hold up: John Quiggin: Patently right: There's an interesting piece in today's Fin (subscription required) about Uni of NSW Vice-Chancellor Rory Hume, who says universities should give away (nearly all) the research they produce rather trying to make money out of intellectual property. I think he's right for a number of reasons. First, despite some impressions to the contrary, the returns to universities from commercialising research have been very poor, even in the US where this has been going on for a long time. The Australian Research Council did a study on this and found that the returns from commercialisation were about 2 per cent of the cost of research. In fact, if unis fully costed their commercialisation outfits, including land and administrative overheads, I suspect that the true figure would be negative. Second there's the standard public good argument. The social benefits are greater if the results are free to use. Third, the university's intellectual "property" has already been bought and paid for--by the donors in the case of a private university, and by...

Posted by DeLong at 04:26 PM

August 21, 2003
Microcosmographia Academia

Ah. I've been looking for this for quite a while: Cornford: Microcosmographia Academica BEING A GUIDE FOR THE YOUNG ACADEMIC POLITICIAN by F.M. CORNFORD. First published 1908: If you are young, do not read this book; it is not fit for you; If you are old, throw it away; you have nothing to learn from it; If you are unambitious, light the fire with it; you do not need its guidance. But, if you are neither less than twenty-five years old, nor more than thirty; And if you are ambitious withal, and your spirit hankers after academic politics; Read, and may your soul (if you have a soul) find mercy!...

Posted by DeLong at 03:28 PM

August 16, 2003
Some Philosophers Are Really Strange

Professor Richard Heck writes: General Remarks about the Philosophical Gourmet Report: ...Even if they were accurate, the rankings by specialty would still be misleading. What they purport to measure is the quality of faculty working in a given area in a department. But, and this point really can not be stated with sufficient emphasis: The quality of the education a department is able to provide to students who are working in a particular area does not depend upon the number and quality of the faculty who are working in that area. I can testify that--in Economics at least--this claim that the quality of education does not depend on the number and quality of faculty in a subdiscipline is completely, ludicrously, laughably false. After Ken Rogoff and Jeff Frankel left Berkeley--reducing our international economics group to Maury Obstfeld and that half of Barry Eichengreen not committed elsewhere--the quality of graduate education in international economics at Berkeley did suffer noticeably. Which is one reason that I am very pleased to note that both Chang-Tai and Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas has now arrived......

Posted by DeLong at 09:36 AM

August 15, 2003
The Other Side of the Hill

Phu K. Dui, Berkeley Economics major, tries to get into classes he would like to take: From the Files of Phu: Adding classes in Berkeley must be the most stressful situations I go through. I feel like I'm gonna have a coronary heart attack any minute. There's just too many people and not enough classes offered at Berkeley. Even though I'm in the econ program and it's suppose to be easier to add the lecture class, I can't add the lecture class if the section class is full. Like I really need the section classes. More often than not, it's taught by some Graduate student who could care less and are heardly audible through their thick accent. Last semester, I shouldn't have gone to 2 out of 3 of my sections. What an utter waste of time, those TA's were. They did not offer any insight onto the course material. In fact they were actually hazardous as one of them taught wrong material. Other times, they just try to regurgitate facts that were not as polished as that presented earlier in lecture. Anyways, I imagine my situation for the fall semester is better off than some people. It certainly is...

Posted by DeLong at 02:04 PM

August 14, 2003

ECONOMIC HISTORY SEMINAR FALL 2003 September 8 Marc Flandreau, (Economics, Sciences-Po, Paris), "Understanding Globalization: Sovereign Risk and Financial Integration Before WWI" September 22 open September 29 Trevon Logan, (Economics, U.C. Berkeley) October 6 Chang (Economics, U.C. Berkeley) October 13 Muge Adalet, (Economics, U.C. Berkeley) October 20 Caroline Fohlin (Johns Hopkins University) October 27 open November 3 Rick Steckel (Economics, Ohio State University) November 10 Bishnupriya Gupta (Economics, University of Warwick) November 17 Kris Mitchener (Economics, Santa Clara University), "Sovereign Debt Restructurings and Workouts: Lessons from the Gold Standard" November 24 (or, December 1 if Claudia declines) Dora Costa, (Economics, MIT), "Shame" December 4 (moved from Dec 1) ???Claudia Goldin???...

Posted by DeLong at 06:00 PM

Room 290, Hearst Mining Building

Room 290 in the newly-renovated Hearst Mining Building is furnished with Aeron chairs--20 Aeron chairs. That's a lot of Aeron chairs. I hope they got them really cheap off some dot-com fire sale, because if these chairs weren't gotten really cheap--if the university spent serious money to fill these conference rooms with Aeron chairs--I'm not going to be a happy camper....

Posted by DeLong at 05:57 PM

July 03, 2003
New Dean

FACULTY, STUDENTS, AND STAFF: College of Letters and Science I am pleased to announce that the Chancellor has appointed Professor Robert C. Holub as Dean of the Undergraduate Division, effective July 1, 2003. Professor Holub joined the faculty at UC, Berkeley in 1979 and is an individual of immense energy, capabilities, and effectiveness. With extensive experience in both the administration and on Senate committees, he commands remarkably detailed knowledge of the workings of both campus and College. He chaired the German Department, of which he is a distinguished member, for six years, served as chair of CEP, and is just finishing this year as chair of the Budget Committee. He has been a member of the L&S Executive Committee, which is primarily focused on undergraduate education in L&S. His commitment to undergraduate education is also indicated by his service on the Marshall/Rhodes Prize Committee......

Posted by DeLong at 11:55 AM

June 25, 2003
Committtee on Educational Policy

Aaauuugghhh! They got me. On behalf of the [U.C. Berkeley College of] L[etters ]&[ ]S[cience] Committee on Committees, I am writing to thank you for your willingness to serve on the L&S Executive Committee for the 2003-2004 academic year and to confirm your appointment on behalf of the Committee on Committees. Enclosed is a copy of Bylaw 10, which describes the duties of the committee... 10. Executive. This committee shall have at least seven members, including the Chair of the Faculty, the Chair of the Deans of the College, and the Dean of Undergraduate Education. The Chair of the Faculty shall be chair of this committee. (A) The committee shall have general oversight of the welfare of the students of the College. It shall serve as a Committee on Educational Policy for the College and shall make such studies, reports, and recommendations considering questions of educational policy as it may from time to time deem advisable, or which may be referred to it by the Faculty of the College or other appropriate authority. The Faculty may, howver, establish committees to deal with special aspects of educational policy or other matters. (B) Requirements for departmental, group, and major programs, including prerequisites...

Posted by DeLong at 04:45 PM

May 24, 2003

It is nice that they have duct-taped pictures of little feet onto the stage to show us where to stand. But why do the feet have only four toes?...

Posted by DeLong at 07:50 AM

May 21, 2003
Tough Love for Ph.D.s

The Invisible Adjunct raves and foams at the mouth upon encountering Laura Vanderkam's "System Wastes Ph.D. Brainpower." Vanderkam writes: ...this mismatch between professorships available and Ph.D.s granted is a colossal waste of brainpower sorely needed elsewhere. Universities that glut the doctorate market bear much responsibility for the situation. But graduate students aren't blameless.... the "starving Ph.D." phenomenon is here to stay. Even the ivory tower can't save anyone from that reality. Today's market mismatch began in the 1960s.... But the hiring binge soon turned into a hangover. By the late 1970s, even top students found themselves exiled to places they never imagined. Then colleges and universities realized they could cut costs by hiring on a part-time or temporary basis. The Modern Language Association counted only 431 tenure-track English jobs landed in 2001, compared with 977 English Ph.D.s.... All fine ? if everyone knows the odds.... One survey found only 35% of students received realistic job-placement information from their departments. Even enlightened students, however, delude themselves into thinking they can buck the laws of supply and demand. In graduate school, they experience the rare privilege of devoting themselves fully to learning what they love while being paid a stipend, however small,...

Posted by DeLong at 04:05 PM

May 06, 2003
Elementary Statistics

Eugene Volokh writes: Volokh Conspiracy: People are condemning Bill Bennett, who has taken on the role of a spokesman for virtue and morality, for what seems to be a gambling habit that has lost him $8 million over the last ten years.... Nonetheless, Bennett suggests that he's "come out pretty close to even," though others doubt this... Suppose you play the $500 slots 20,000 times--thus betting ten million dollars in total--on slot machines that are programmed to keep 10% of the take (which is a quite low house percentage for slot machines), and suppose that the standard deviation of payoffs is $1350 (a large number, but then slots do give some very large payoffs). How likely is it that you have come out "pretty close to even"? Anyone a third of the way through their first course in statistics will know that 20,000 times is enough to safely apply the central limit theorem, and thus will be able to quickly and easily figure out that: Your expected loss is $1 million even. There are only five chances in a hundred that you will have lost more than $1.3 million. There are only five chances in a hundred that you will...

Posted by DeLong at 12:27 PM

May 05, 2003
Notes: Berkeley Needs a Strategy

Conclusion: Berkeley needs to build lots of new dorms. Lots of new dorms. Even with effectively zero tuition, it is becoming unaffordable to go to Berkeley. We need to charge higher fees to business and law students (and maybe some of our engineering students?) and use the money to build lots of new dorms......

Posted by DeLong at 04:37 PM

May 04, 2003
The Evil of Academic Humanism?

If this is true (which I doubt: I've heard lots of unpleasant stories about what goes on inside large hard-science labs), then it is because science is primarily about cool ideas and cool facts while the humanities are much more about "this is my opinion." And as long as the personalities are ancillary, it is much easier to get along. But I don't see any reason to think this is true. I mean, it's only Leonard Cassuto's opinion. The only reasons he gives to believe him are (i) that "a well-known member of my field...didn't even bother to reply after I introduced myself. I can still see his dismissive glance," and (ii) that Cassuto "confes[es] that I've been guilty of such status consciousness... after one of my presentations, I realized that the person congratulating me wasn't an anonymous admirer (I'd been treating him with unconscious condescension)... the grinding of gears as I lurched into a more generous tone." Cassuto's second anecdote astonished me. Why would one ever be condescending (unconsciously or consciously) to someone who is so excited by what you had to say that they come up to you afterwards to talk about it? People who are excited by...

Posted by DeLong at 08:22 AM

February 14, 2003
A Faculty Lunch Somewhere in Academe...

Professor #1: "I'm proud to announce that my conference has sold out." Professor #2: "In that case, I'm putting my registration up for auction on eBay tomorrow morning." Someone: "Do we have a nanotechnology program here on this campus?" Research Director: "Of course we have a..." Professor #3: "It's just very small, and hard to find." Somebody Else: "We were investigating joining the campus wireless network, but they wanted to charge the department $40,000 up front." Someone: "My God! So what are you doing?" Somebody Else: "We bought four wireless access points for $500 total, and plugged them into our own network." Professor #4: "We have five assistant professor offers that we've voted, and none of them has cleared the administration." Professor #5: "And the grapevine is that Candidate X really wants to come here to teach--if, that is, his offer appears from the administration in finite time, of course." Still Someone Else: "And why do you need a UniversityNet ID to log onto the campus wireless network? This means that visitors for the day are completely out of luck. Why isn't wireless 802.11b dialtone as much a resource available to anybody walking onto the campus as sunlight or air?"...

Posted by DeLong at 04:42 PM