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A University President Responds to Those Who Have Suggested the School Should Dip Into the Endowment

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To the esteemed members of our faculty and staff,

First of all, let me say that I sincerely hope you are all safe and healthy during this trying time. As president of this University, there is nothing more important to me than the health and safety of our community. Though I’m currently away from campus, summering on my private island off of Maine, my thoughts are almost always with you, and my secretary is literally always available to field your questions and hear your concerns.

What’s not here for you, however, is the University’s endowment.

I bring this up because a number of you have reached out to provide us with valuable feedback regarding our recently announced budget adjustments. Specifically, many of you have asked why an institution with a $46 billion endowment is freezing salaries, rescinding job offers, refusing to adjust tenure tracks, and laying off staff instead of using an endowment the size of Iceland’s GDP to keep our community afloat.

Let me say this: We hear you. You are valid. You. Matter. Secondly, and no less importantly, let me make something clear: The. Endowment. Is. Not. For. You.

I know what you’re thinking: “Sir, we dip into 5 percent of the endowment per year to cover operating costs, so why don’t we just go up to, like, 7 or 8 percent instead of leaving our employees to twist in the wind?” Let me personally assure you that I hear what you’re saying, and it’s horseshit. Under no circumstances may we touch the endowment. We would sooner take Henry Kissinger’s name off our Center for the Study of Human Rights than take another penny out of the endowment.

To be frank, I don’t even know how to dip into the endowment. Just after I was appointed president, in one of the most memorable luncheons of my academic career, the Board of Governors sat me down and forced me to sign a document promising to never ask them about the endowment. They told me the first rule of the endowment was “Never talk about the endowment.” At the end of every quarter, they blindfold me, take me to an undisclosed location which I suspect is the Chairman of the Board’s rumpus room, show me the quarterly returns, rough me up a little, then blindfold me again, and dump me on the lawn of my University-owned home. This is as close as I’ve ever gotten to the endowment, so good luck getting anywhere near that money.

The Board has, however, asked me to convey this message to our valued community: “What is good for the endowment is good for us all. All things flow to the endowment and from the endowment. We love our beautiful endowment…” It goes on like that for a while, but the gist is that, if you think about this whole thing less as a school with an endowment and more as an endowment with educational benefits, our budget adjustments start to appear quite reasonable, and you start to sound pretty crazy for even bringing up this endowment nonsense.

I’m sure you’ll have many follow-up questions, some of them likely pertaining to the perceived contradiction between our current cost-cutting measures and our decision to forge ahead with construction on the new racquetball center and the campus in Doha. Feel free to reach out to my secretary with these and any other concerns, but please know that the answer will almost certainly be that the endowment has spoken. Thanks for understanding.

Best wishes, stay safe, and keep positive!
Your University President

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hannahdraper
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“Let me personally assure you that I hear what you’re saying, and it’s horseshit. Under no circumstances may we touch the endowment. We would sooner take Henry Kissinger’s name off our Center for the Study of Human Rights than take another penny out of the endowment.”
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Report reveals Otis Spunkmeyer was Nazi muffin scientist who defected to US

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Report reveals Otis Spunkmeyer was Nazi muffin scientist who defected to US
WASHINGTON — Documents from the late 1940s declassified Monday contain shocking revelations regarding famed muffin patriarch Otis Spunkemeyer. The documents outline a secret US program called Operation Banana Nut which repatriated top Nazi muffin scientists to the US and allowed them to continue their work under assumed aliases. This confirms decades of speculation that Spunkmeyer...
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hannahdraper
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Coronavirus slang and the rapid evolution of English

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People describe the experience of living through COVID-19 lockdowns and extreme social distancing as being "weird", "strange", "unsettling", "disturbing", and so on.  As such, the current circumstances give rise to all sorts of new expressions to express their feelings and activities which are so different from "normal" times, one of the most common terms for what we're going through often being called "the new normal".

Jason Kottke, meister of one of the most venerable blogs, kottke.org, has written about these changes in "Covid-19 Slang and How Language Evolves Quickly in Stressful Times" (5/13/20). He draws on two other articles.  From Tony Thorne's "#CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral – 2", language and innovation (4/15/20), he garners the following:

Quarantimes – a hashtag or label for the prevailing circumstances under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic

Rona, Lady Rona, roni, rone – the coronavirus personified/familiarised

Boomer remover – the coronavirus viewed as a phenomenon resulting in the decimation of the baby boomer demographic

Covidiot – a person behaving irresponsibly in conditions of containment

Doomscrolling/doomsurfing – obsessively accessing upsetting news online

Infits – outfits worn in conditions of confinement

Zoom mullet – a hairstyle developed in lockdown which is 'camera-ready' (presentable to a webcam) at front and sides and dishevelled at the rear

Covid waltz – manoeuvring to avoid close contact with passers-by while distance restrictions are in place

And, from Kate Burridge and Howard Manns "'Iso', 'boomer remover' and 'quarantini': how coronavirus is changing our language", The Conversation (5/10/20), he gathers these interesting terms:

In these times of COVID-19, there are the usual suspects: shortenings like "sanny" (hand sanitizer) and "iso" (isolation), abbreviations like BCV (before corona virus) and WFH (working from home), also compounds "corona moaner" (the whingers*) and "zoombombing" (the intrusion into a video conference).

Plenty of nouns have been "verbed" too — the toilet paper/pasta/tinned tomatoes have been "magpied". Even rhyming slang has made a bit of a comeback with Miley Cyrus lending her name to the virus (already end-clipped to "the Miley"). Some combine more than one process — "the isodesk" (or is that "the isobar") is where many of us are currently spending our days.

*[Dialectal alteration of Middle English whinsen, from Old English hwinsian.] AHDEL

 

Selected readings

"Viral gender dispute" (5/14/20)

"The impact of COVID-19 on Russian" (4/18/20)

 

[h.t. Meg Davis]

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hannahdraper
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Yikes!

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Noted Philosophers Reconsider Their Key Insights After a Month of Social Distancing

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Sartre

1944: Hell is other people.

April 2020: All this time, I thought the problem was viewing myself through the lens of others’ subjectivities. Now I come to find that the problem has always been me. Take away other people, and all I do is play video games and eat Sara Lee frozen desserts. Hell is knowing this: I’m never going to refinish those goddamn kitchen cabinets, and I have no one to blame but myself.

- - -

Arendt

1963: Evil is not interesting, but instead stems from vacuity and stupidity; evil is banal.

April 2020: Ditto what I said there, but also, every single thing is not interesting. From this Hannah Arendt-shaped divot that’s formed in my couch, I hereby declare the banality of everything.

- - -

Plato

Ca. 360 B.C.E.: The human soul is a charioteer trying to drive, simultaneously, one bad horse and one noble one.

April 2020: This holds up for like a week. The noble horse asks your elderly neighbor if he needs help with anything. (He doesn’t.) The bad horse charts a rough looting strategy for the inevitable riot phase of the crisis. But numbness sets in quickly. Pretty soon your noble horse is just compulsively refreshing your state’s infection and fatality webpage. Your bad horse is too lazy to pick up the binoculars for a better peek through your other neighbor’s bedroom window. The human soul is a charioteer sleeping 14 hours a night but still napping 4 times a day.

- - -

Descartes

1637: I think, therefore I am.

April 2020: I was so lonely and disoriented, I started doubting the reality of everything, even myself. But if I didn’t exist, then how could I already have over a dozen subscribers on Spotify? I started a podcast this month, therefore I am.

- - -

Heidegger

1927: The human essence, Dasein, can only fully comprehend the meaning of its life when faced with the certainty of its death.

April 2020: Hoo boy, was I wrong. When faced with the certainty of death, people freeze dozens of gallons of milk. They make jokes complaining about their “coworkers” (who are really just their children and pets, because, working from home, get it?). They record parody performances of “One Day More.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s adorable, I love it, but we’re not exactly achieving hard-won glimpses into the meaning of existence.

- - -

Nietzsche

1883: In the absence of God and conventional morality, the übermensch creates his own moral code.

April 2020: Oh my God, people, if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: 5/8ths of a college degree and a plane ticket to a warm beach town do not make you the übermensch. Just follow the CDC guidelines, for Christ’s sake — that’s our new secular morality. And yeah, I said “oh my God” and “for Christ’s sake.” Deal with it.

- - -

Confucius

Ca. 500 BCE: Courteous, respectful support of one’s parents and elders is the foundation of civilized society.

April 2020: Nope. Your parents have chosen this moment to revive their teenage sense of invincibility, and for some reason they go to Costco like twice a day. The only way to get through to these dum-dums is to lose your shit. Just shriek at them until the ringing in their ears paralyzes them, and they have no choice but to stay home. Filial piety, my ass.

- - -

Kierkegaard

1844: Angst, the constant anxiety that is a defining feature of the human condition, stems from our consciousness of the unfettered freedom to choose.

April 2020: Great point, former me! Turns out when you have no choices, all your anxiety just melts away like snow in spring, or like glaciers in any season. That’s why this past month has been so existentially carefree!

- - -

Smith

1776: The invisible hand of the market will ensure that each self-interested economic act performed by an individual will ultimately benefit society as a whole.

April 2020: Shoot, y’all, in my day we didn’t even know about viruses, so how could I have foreseen a ventilator and mask shortage? My bad. If it’s any comfort, I tried to be a rational actor in a logical, self-regulating market, and now I’ve been out of toilet paper for three weeks. So let’s call it even?

- - -

Plato again

Ca. 375 B.C.E.: Society would be best ruled by a class of philosopher kings.

April 2020: Still kinda feeling it.

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hannahdraper
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Plato again
Ca. 375 B.C.E.: Society would be best ruled by a class of philosopher kings.

April 2020: Still kinda feeling it.
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diannemharris
11 days ago
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