Odds and ends to begin spring break

For the first time I can recall, my children and I are on spring break the same week, which given that we are talking the coordination of three different systems, is Spring Break Convergence. It’s great to have our college junior home from the Northeast; on the downside, we cannot complain about the weather for the next nine days.

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Breaking News: Hugo Chavez is still dead.

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I highly recommend Leonard Susskind and George Hrabovsky’s The Theoretical Minimum (2013), which covers Susskind’s first set of continuing-education lectures. I mentioned those lectures last summer, and my only advice for those interested in the book is to brush up on some multivariate calculus and be prepared to reread material frequently in the second half of the short volume. One more fact: it’s the first physics book for a general audience I’ve read that ends with a cliffhanger.

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I guess that at this point, Hugo Chavez is not eligible to be the next pope?

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Another example of why university administrators should be very wary of ad-hoc investigations: apparently Harvard administrators read through email accounts of several residence deans to figure out where the media was discovering details of the cheating case last year. Apparently, Harvard has a policy in place covering faculty (on a general do-not-read basis), but nothing on student-affairs professionals such as the the residence deans in this case.

Here is a situation where I can absolutely brag that USF is better than Harvard: our institutional policy on email, network access, and information technology explains the differences between access to accounts for network maintenance and the types of investigation that apparently happened at Harvard without careful thought. I strongly suspect that Harvard’s leadership will claim they knew nothing about the email access. Our policy is not perfect, but it makes clear that any access to employee emails (whether faculty or hourly staff) must be approved by the relevant vice president, which means that there is no plausible deniability for upper-level administrators in similar cases.

Do you need a policy for everything? No. But where administrative action could be seen as threatening the privacy or jobs of someone, maybe you don’t want to wade in without some structure, eh?

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Something that can no longer be said, thanks to Rand Paul: “In Venezuela, you embalm droning leaders. In the U.S., drones embalm you!” What is most shameful is that it took a filibuster by Rand Paul to get Attorney General Holder to say the sensible thing in public.

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Congratulations to Dan Cohen, currently the head of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and soon to be the first executive director of the Digital Public Library of America. This is wonderful news for everyone who had watched the first discussions of the digital public library idea–Dan has great academic values, is extraordinarily thoughtful about technology and the humanities, and is an experienced, successful administrator. George Mason is now searching for Dan’s replacement. I guess Hugo Chavez is also ineligible for this post. But you may be the perfect person to head up the center.

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