Monday, May 05, 2008

Into your heart it will creep...

Wow. My finals remain unwritten, my morning shower un-taken because I am mesmerized by the fascinating case of Priya Venkatesan.

If you've missed all the hubbub, she was a lecturer at Dartmouth (and also an alumna), and currently has a fellowship at Northwestern (and a PhD from UC-San Diego), who is threatening to sue her students and the leadership of her department essentially for being too stupid and racist to understand her erudition.

The WSJ provides a summary of the case here, and Ivygate is a treasure trove of info on the subject.

The Dartmouth Review presents a long interview with Dr. Venkatesan here. I reproduce a long but choice excerpt below where Dr. V decodes the hidden meaning behind one hated student's spelling question:

TDR: There is one specific incident where I heard from one of the girls in your class who was pretty outspoken, and one day she hadn’t spoken for a while and you said, “Could we have a round of applause for this girl, she hasn’t spoken in ten minutes?”

PV: She was probably the most abrasive, the most offensive, the most disruptive student. She ruined that class. She ruined it. She ruined it. That class actually had a lot of potential, there were some really bright kids there, but every time she would do a number of things that were very inappropriate. For instance, I had basically gotten a hold of Blackboard technology, but I was making some mistakes too because I was new to the system, and every time that some link was wrong or some link wasn’t set up right, [girl x] in the beginning of class would point this out to everybody. Then what happened was, I was lecturing on morals and ethics and she just gave me this horrible look, and I was pretty disturbed. I just said what is going on here? The problem with [girl x] is that she can’t take criticism. She can’t take the fact that there is something wrong with her work. Now, some people are like that, a lot of people are like that, unable to take criticism, but the fact of the matter is that I have the PhD in literature, I make the assessment if someone has talent for philosophy, literary theory, and literary criticism. A student might say, well, the hell with you I’m still going to become a literary critic, I had to do that, there were people who criticized me while I was a student, you’re not a good writer or whatever, but I said well I’m still going to go ahead with my goals, but I never made any personal attacks on them or made life difficult for them or was rude to them. I just did the socially acceptable way of dealing with criticism, and [girl x] is the kind of student who does not know the socially acceptable way of dealing with criticism. She thinks the way to go about doing it is to go to my superior or to try to undermine my ability to teach the class. One of the things that she did, this is also really interesting, was that she would always ask me how to spell things. That was her thing. She would say how to do you spell this? How to you spell that? I mean—what am I supposed to do?—so I would tell her. One time Tom Cormen was sitting in the class, and she asked me, how many T’s are in Gattaca. This was the kind of question she was asking, “how many T’s are in Gattaca?,” and I was about to answer her and Tom Cormen pre-empted me, “two t’s.” I’ll leave you to interpret it.

TDR: No. No, I don’t understand that.

PV: I have to tell you: it means tenure track.

TDR: Oh, okay.

PV: Because I wasn’t tenured track.

TDR: Oh, okay, yes.

PV: They were trying to intimate that I wasn’t ready for tenure track.

TDR: Yes, okay, I didn’t realize that’s what that meant.

PV: I’m kind of making this leap because this is the kind of subversiveness that was going on in that environment. That [girl x] would ask how many t’s are in Gattaca and that Tom Cormen would respond, “two T’s” as if I had no grasp on tenure track. ..but with [girl x], something’s going on with her. I’m not a doctor, but she’s not all there.

Wow, now THAT'S paranoia!


Shawn said...

nutty, coincidentally, also has two t's.

Anonymous said...

Maybe she should have studied Finance, since her initials are "PV."

Shawn said...

well, there's this one study that makes me think she'd do well in chemistry...or, at least, she'd have a lot of pressure and volume.

Ah! well, there we go; this woman was predisposed to be under high pressure and high volume.

And who says that study was worthless?

Nathanael D Snow said...

"Failure to refrain" from taking things personally.
(nod to Lee Craig)

Unknown said...

Boo, JN. Boo.