Spreadin’ Love 584

Here's some good stuff that I've read this week.

Timothy Noah calls a halt to university construction

Kay Hymowitz explains why women make less money than men. 

Herd thinking about vaccinations

My twitterfeed has been a steady stream of anger at university publications for the past few weeks. Here's one about Harvard being unable to afford the subscription costs for journals. 

The 3 main obstacles to education reform.



9 thoughts on “Spreadin’ Love 584

  1. Harvard can afford $4 million a year for journals. They are lying. This is a pressure play to destroy the for-profit journal model. I like it, I think the for-profit journals deserve to die. But in no way is Harvard University having trouble paying for them. They would do better to simply say: the structure is rotten, and we are trying to push it over. We invite other universities to join us, including many for whom this is a far greater financial burden than it is for us.

  2. Dave is right that it’s not strictly true that Harvard “can’t afford” the journals- but so what? If they have the power to push a change from what is a really bad system, all the better. I’d rather see them be honest about it myself, but we should be happy about it any way.
    The construction piece is too simplistic. In many ways the last few years have been excellent times to do construction- lower labor costs, low commodity costs, very low interest rates, etc. So, it would be short sighted and pro-cyclical to not do construction now if one could. What would have been better would be to focus on whether what’s being built was reasonable or not. Sadly, too many journalists are either not able to provide any more careful analysis or think their audience is too stupid to accept it. Both are sad.

  3. RE vaccinations: A lot of people forget that well before anyone believed there was a link between the MMR and autism, a lot of people distrusted vaccines because they felt they disrupted other natural immunological responses, injected poisons (preservatives) into their children’s bodies, and were often unnecessary (polio, varicella). Screaming “It doesn’t cause autism!” is not sufficient to convince the non-believers, yet virtually all the pro-vaccine messages focus on that.

  4. “The construction piece is too simplistic. In many ways the last few years have been excellent times to do construction- lower labor costs, low commodity costs, very low interest rates, etc. So, it would be short sighted and pro-cyclical to not do construction now if one could.”
    Totally right.
    We’re the victims of this trend right now, as we are losing our beloved rental house in about two months to the Caterpillar tractors and Peterbilt trucks of progress. A couple streets away, there are two square blocks of raw dirt that are going to be a new residential complex while our neighborhood is going to be a new building for one of the more prominent departments. There’s also going to be a very expensive new stadium. Is this all necessary? Heck if I know, but I know the college (which never had much dormitory space) wants to get more students into on-campus housing.
    However, as Matt points out, it’s not such a dumb time to build (some relatives are doing a commercial project right now for exactly the same reasons). Also, for at least some of these projects, the college has cash in hand, so it’s virtually risk free. I’d also add that there have been major improvements in college architecture since the last national building spree that left so many colleges disfigured by 1950s-1970s architecture (my husband’s last posting had a main library that looked a lot like a crematorium or the Mordor Central Book Depository). Just about every college building I’ve seen go up over the last few years has had real beauty and style. I’m going to miss my cheap rental, but I rejoice at the disappearance of the ratty two-story apartments that used to disfigure the current construction area. The new buildings also are way more handicapped accessible than buildings of an older vintage. Oh, and the new buildings generally have coffee shops and big open study spaces with lots of outlets for laptops. There are actual differences in functionality.
    Lastly, for the better off colleges who have cash money, this is an opportunity for real Keynesian practice, not spend-in-good-times-borrow-in-bad-times (which is our national political practice), but save-in-good-times-spend-in-bad-times. Just think of the college building spree as a smaller scale, more fiscally responsible ARRA.

  5. So, about Noah: here’s a college to stay the Hell away from: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-04-19/bubble-u-dot-high-point-university
    My guess is that we really have more than enough built college environment for the kids who actually belong in college, and that we’re going to have a lot of kids and parents figuring out that colleges are snookering them by admitting them and taking their money, soon, so enrollment will drop. So more construction is pretty wasteful.

  6. I liked this line from the High Point U. comments: “My family and I live two blocks away from HPU. We used to live five blocks away. (We haven’t moved.)”

  7. LOL, I noticed that line, too, Amy.
    Yeah, I feel the urge to stay the hell away from HPU also. However, it sounds like it wants to be the college for the 1% in all their overpaid mediocrity. I was, however, intrigued by the comments by the writing center director. I’m curious to know more about that (and will probably research further).

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