Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A man in full

Tom Wolfe is dead, and there will never be another one like him. He was a giant. This 2015 article in Vanity Fair by Michael Lewis is about the best piece about Wolfe that I've ever read. It's definitely the most fun to read -- almost as fun as reading Wolfe himself.

Friday, May 11, 2018

"Michigan State’s knee-jerk defensiveness, exhibited time and again as allegations of abuse surfaced, fits into the decades-long story of an institution where leaders have seldom acknowledged mistakes or countenanced any information that might threaten the narrative of Michigan State’s excellence."

Here's a cautionary tale from East Lansing, home of serial sexual abuser Dr. Larry Nassar, but the lessons apply far more broadly. It's titled "How a Transformational President Set Michigan State on a Course to Disaster."  A sample:

Instead of “leading for the public good,” Fear said, the administration was consumed by a focus on winning at sports and raising more money. The humanities and social sciences, for instance, didn’t win as much support from Simon because the grants in such fields aren’t as lucrative.

As her administration became increasingly closed off, many faculty members said, the academic side of the campus became fragmented. The deans rarely met as a group. Faculty members grew disengaged. Their role in governance shrank. Their voices got quieter.

“This is a Michigan State problem,” said Deborah Moriarty, a professor of piano and vice chair of the Faculty Senate. “We have an amazing faculty. And then we have an administration that oftentimes just meets and meets and meets, and talks to each other.”

Faculty members often used to write articles in the campus newspaper expressing their views about what was going on at Michigan State, Fear said. No more. “The silence from the faculty is part of the institutional culture,” he said. “It wasn’t that way before. I’ve lost friends because of my being outspoken.”

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"I can't pay my doctor bills but Whitey's on the moon."

From the New York Times: 

“The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” Jeff Bezos said in a recent interview.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Desperate patients looking for funds often hype unproven stem cell treatments

From the Star Tribune:

People with chronic and terminal illnesses are increasingly turning to crowdsourcing to raise money for experimental stem cell treatments, but a University of Minnesota researcher has found they often use unproven or overly optimistic claims in their pleas.

Associate bioethics professor Leigh Turner also found a direct pipeline from the medical companies — and the language they use to promote stem cell treatments that have not yet been proven through research — to the patients and their appeals.

Examining 408 campaigns on the GoFundMe and YouCaring websites, Turner and colleagues found that more than half made definitive statements about the effectiveness of unproven stem cell therapies provided by 50 companies.

Turner’s findings, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found another 30 percent that made claims deemed at least optimistic about the therapies.

Only 36 of the campaigns mentioned the risks of proposed therapies, but they mostly stated that the risks were lower than those of standard treatments of their conditions.

Friday, May 4, 2018

When will #MeToo come to the U?

I'm struck by two articles that appeared this week.

The first, titled "Eric Kaler looks to stamp presidential legacy in term's final stretch," appeared in the Minnesota Daily. Here's a sample:

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said Kaler warns lawmakers of coming scandals before they reach the press and takes responsibility for the University’s missteps. 

“If it’s contrary to the values of where he wants the University of Minnesota to go, he’s not afraid to take a stand,” Gazelka said. “I would say that he builds trust before he has to repair it, and that’s a big difference.”

The scandals have prompted the University to hire new athletics personnel and establish a campus-wide effort to prevent sexual misconduct. University Regent Richard Beeson said Kaler has an ability to turn “crises into political strengths.” 

The second, titled "How the University of Minnesota hides its professors' sexual harassment," appeared in City Pages. Here's a sample from that one:

"Take off your shirt so I can just see a little.”

Accusers and witnesses detail many other instances of misconduct. Among the allegations: He told lab members he only hired them for their looks; he suggested women’s presentations would be more effective if they dressed in more revealing clothing; he told his female lab members (whom he frequently called “Veglia chicks”) to flirt with prospective students to entice them to join the lab; he even threatened to withhold Ph.D.s if complaints were filed.

Of the 55 sexual misconduct cases substantiated in the university system from 2013 through 2017, more than half ended in the shadows. In 23 of the cases, the responsible employee left the university either through “resignation, lay-off or non-renewal” after the finding but before being disciplined; their names and case files are not publicly released.