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May 05, 2008

OMG!!! They're So Meeeeeeeean!!!!

Teh Patriarchy is at it again, damn their guts and livers! When we first read this horrifying story, we didn't know whether to run from the room, black out, or throw up. Thankfully, we remembered the sterling example of one Nancy Hopkins, MIT professor of biology and proved our irrefutable equality with men by forcing them to walk on verbal eggshells in our presence, lest they bring on a sudden attack of those gender-specific vapors which should in no way indicate inferiority (much less cause one to treat us any differently -- unless of course we want you to!).

In a tale fit to freeze the very marrow of your bones, not only the administration of Dartmouth College, but those 18-22 year old intellectual bully-boys have inexplicably managed to make a fully-equal and intellectually capable female professional look like a complete idiot:

Often it seems as though American higher education exists only to provide gag material for the outside world. The latest spectacle is an Ivy League professor threatening to sue her students because, she claims, their "anti-intellectualism" violated her civil rights.

Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of "French narrative theory" that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional exposé, which she promises will "name names."

The trauma was so intense that in March Ms. Venkatesan quit Dartmouth and decamped for Northwestern. She declined to comment for this piece, pointing instead to the multiple interviews she conducted with the campus press.

Ms. Venkatesan lectured in freshman composition, intended to introduce undergraduates to the rigors of expository argument. "My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful," she told Tyler Brace of the Dartmouth Review. "They'd argue with your ideas." This caused "subversiveness," a principle English professors usually favor.

Quelle horreur! Can one imagine anything more unprecedented or alarming to a progressive eco-feminist than a classroom full of American college students arguing about ideas? Unless, perhaps, it is the prospect of a classroom full of young people Questioning Authority?

Clearly the dominant patriarchal hegemony is rife with rigid, authoritarians threatened by anyone who challenges their ideas... by which we mean Ms.Venkatesan, who not only cancelled a week's worth of classes in a fit of pique, but sent the following unintentionally hilarious email to her students:

Yesterday evening, to the students of her winter class, Ms. Venkatesan dispatched this message:

Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2008 20:56:35 -0400 (EDT)
From: Priya.Venkatesan@Dartmouth.EDU
To: “WRIT.005.17.18-WI08”:;, Priya.Venkatesan@Dartmouth.EDU
Subject: WRIT.005.17.18-WI08: Possible lawsuit

Dear former class members of Science, Technology and Society:

I tried to send an email through my server but got undelivered messages. I regret to inform you that I am pursuing a lawsuit in which I am accusing some of you (whom [sic] shall go unmentioned in this email) of violating Title VII of anti-federal [sic] discrimination laws.

The feeling that I am getting from the outside world is that Dartmouth is considered a bigoted place, so this may not be news and I may be successful in this lawsuit.

I am also writing a book detailing my experiences as your instructor, which will “name names” so to speak. I have all of your evaluations and these will be reproduced in the book.

Have a nice day.


But it gets better (oh yes - you knew it would). Ms. Venkatesan sent a similarly illiterate email to a smaller group of students against whom (she said) she was planning to file suit specifically. Joe Malchow responds with withering commentary:

At least seven members of the Class of 2011 received this grave epistle, indicating that they are to be named as defendants in a legal outing under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The students, of course, are entirely safe; as they do not employ the writing instructor, it can only be said that their evaluations of her performance—de rigueur, frank, and ostensibly anonymous—did not flatter, and that she is upset. But of course the students could not have discriminated against her.

Ms. Venkatesan also informs Dartblog that she is “pursuing a legal suit against members/former members of the Dartmouth community,” those being Christopher H. Lowrey of the medical school and his four-person research team. “Another faculty member,” Ms. Venkatesan tells us, “that figures prominently in my list of grievances…is Thomas H. Cormen, Ph. D., Director of the Writing Program (now the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric) and Professor of Computer Science.”

This column solicited a thought or two from Priya Venkatesan, and was rewarded with the following:

The students I am naming in this suit were mostly from Winter 08 term with a few from Fall. Essentially, I am pursuing litigation to see if I have a legal claim, that is, if the inappropriate and unprofessional behavior I was subjected to as a Research Associate and Lecturer at Dartmouth constitutes discrimination and harrassment [sic] on the basis of ethnicity, race and gender. This includes not just students, but a few faculty members that I worked with. At this stage, I am making a detailed list of names in a chronology of what people said and did while I was at Dartmouth in a very factual manner and approaching a New Hampshire attorney who specializes in professional malpractice with the chronology and he will make the determination if I have grounds for litigation.

A redaction of errata seems a suitable place to begin. A class action suit? This involves a population of plaintiffs similarly aggrieved; Ms. Venkatesan is contemplating legal action against a population of defendants similarly, in her mind, guilty. Classes bring suit; they do not answer it. Thus it is not a class action, but a series of civil complaints against students and employees of the College and, perhaps, the College corporate.

Title VII does not include language about harassment—only about discrimination. Courts have occasionally elected to find harassment illegal under the code, but only, like discrimination, employer-perpetrated harassment. Since students are not Ms. Venkatesan’s employers, they cannot be named as defendants in a Title VII case.

Finally, there is the bit about “pursuing litigation to see if I have a legal claim.” This is not an advisable course of action. In fact, legal experts consulted by this page suggest that litigating to explore the possible existence of a legal claim is the precise opposite of how the modern judicial system operates.

The big bully. He is undoubtedly motivated by a desire to crush her strong, womanly essence. And isn't that just_like_a_man?

In a final update, our Derring Doyenne displays more of the singular steadfastness of purpose and mental acuity that have made her a veritable poster girl for the eco-feminist movement.

All of which just goes to prove what we often remark: Charlotte Allen was right. Some women seem determined to play into the worst stereotypes about females. In fact, we just made that a category.


Update: The Editorial Staff swears we did not make this up to make Ms. Venkatesan look smarter:

HEH. The biter, bit. "It seems that white feminists and Leftists are a big bunch of racists, too. . . . White Privilege was to blame… No wonder Amanda Marcotte thinks Free Will is overrated."

And doesn't this echo (eerily) our earlier Obama post?

You're not racist because of the content of your character, you're racist because of the color of your skin!

Posted by Cassandra at May 5, 2008 08:00 AM

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My recent prof was a mean-spirited poopyhead too.
She INSISTED that we disagree with each other, but in a respectful manner and USING THE COURSE MATERIAL.

So, I disagreed, using kind language and the course material. I had fun, remembering the VC fairness doctrine: Never flog dead equine flesh more than once. If the horse is dead, it is dead.

Posted by: Cricket at May 5, 2008 09:52 AM

After I picked myself up from the floor after laughing my head nearly off, I really got mad.
What in the world is academia coming to? If she expected discourse, she should have laid the ground rules for it in her classroom from day one.

If she wishes an abjective overview of her teaching, she will have to remember that no one gives a damn about her race or ethnicity. If she can speak and write literate English and can understand the course material and communicate her
objectives to the students and have them achieve same, she has succeeded.

But to sue them for disagreeing with her? Good hell.

Posted by: Cricket at May 5, 2008 10:00 AM

I meant 'objective' not abjective. I need to sleep. I have been many days without sleep.

Posted by: Cricket at May 5, 2008 10:02 AM

My college English Lit teacher told me to leave her classroom in 1970 because I was filling out my veterans paperwork before class. My wife, at the same college was given a "C" in one of her classes for writing a paper on the virtues of assimilation and the "Melting Pot" theory. She taught at Schofield Barracks, HI. which diminished her in the eyes of the hippies who had invaded California colleges after Viet Nam.

Do we have a case?!

Posted by: vet66 at May 5, 2008 10:11 AM

My experience working computer hardware tech support for the faculty at the University I graduated from taught me one very important lesson. Someone holding a PhD is not necessarily a smart person. I believe the actual term I used at the time was "very well educated idiots". I'm not saying they weren't "tech-saavy", I'm saying they were dumb. Examples include disabling the anti-virus on your computer because it won't let you open an email attachment that IT TELLS YOU IS A VIRUS... in order to open that attachment. Funny how it ended up having a virus, huh?

But I digress. The point is, I can hardly say I am suprised at this professor's behavior. It has nothing to do with male/female... it has to do with her sense of entitlement. She does not like people challenging her authority, and seems to be under the impression that hurt feelings are actionable in a court of law. Dumb.

Posted by: MikeD at May 5, 2008 10:14 AM

Oh, I don't think she is acting like an idiot because she is female.

I merely point out the irony of an eco-feminist who spends all her time berating the Patriarchy (who presumably oppress womyn with their rigid, authoritarian intolerance for dissenting viewpoints from The Other because they are male refusing to allow dissenting viewpoints from...

[wait for it]

The Other :p


Posted by: Cassandra at May 5, 2008 10:20 AM

It's precisely the same point I am about to repeat in a post about Obama.

IOW, maybe it isn't always racism. Maybe it's just people being human beings: people doing predictably human things in certain situations regardless of gender or color?

Posted by: Cassandra at May 5, 2008 10:22 AM

Surprised she didn't think to include the Dartmouth Bookstore in her non-sequitorial pursuit of vindication.



Posted by: BillT at May 5, 2008 10:36 AM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 05/05/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at May 5, 2008 11:17 AM

The question that really ought to be answered here is, how did someone whose thinking is so bad ever obtain an advanced degree?

The problem with American academia is it no longer has the old standards of rigor and logic that the system of education was created to develop. That was the point of the thing -- to build careful, rational, insightful minds and give them the background knowledge to understand the world and address its problems.

Posted by: Grim at May 5, 2008 11:21 AM

These days I spend a fair amount of time mentoring young scientists and engineers. On occasion I am left muttering: where the heck did you go to school? Apparently these students were of the other stripe, they wanted to learn. When she couldn't deliver she got panned.

Posted by: Allen at May 5, 2008 11:54 AM

Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. [snip] Dear former class members of Science, Technology and Society

So she was being paid to teach English, but instead taught Sociology. Seems the students might have a leg to stand on if they countersued for Fraud.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 5, 2008 12:12 PM

Imagine, if you will, that you hire Big Name Architects to design a home for you and your family. Big Name puts an associate on the job without any supervision, and the plan produced by this associate is a crayon drawing of a beehive. You scratch you head. "This isn't what I wnated," you say. "I want a design for a home." Oh but, a beehive is without a doubt a fabulously designed structure, the associate tells you. It's strong,efficient, biodegradable, and it has the added bonus of being run by nature's strongest Matriarch. We should all live in beehives, the associate architect tells you.

You are not pleased, however, due to your preconceived notion that humans are not the same as bees. "We need indoor plumbing and prefer furniture and windows without a coating of honey!" you tell the associate. "This will never do."

The associate is devastated at your rebule. She immediately quits Big Name and sues you for making her feel bad about herself. Obviously, she tells the world, you are an idiot if you can’t appreciate the pure genuis [sic] of her design, and your rejection of her plan fro [sic] your home was nothing less than a hostile act. You scratch your head some more, and then ask Big Name for your money back. Good luck, they say. You wanted a home design, and that’s what you got. The associate had an architect's degree, and therefore was fully qualified to design a home. If you wanted a home design that you could actually use, then you should have gone to a different company.

Question: Do you have a cause of action against Big Name for fraud?

Posted by: spd rdr at May 5, 2008 12:27 PM

You're the lawyer, son: you tell us. :)

Posted by: Grim at May 5, 2008 12:47 PM

The associate had an architect's degree, and therefore was fully qualified to design a home.

But didn't. A hive is a honey-and-baby-bee factory with RON facilities for the workers.

Do you have a cause of action against Big Name for fraud?

Of course not -- I'm a white male...

Posted by: BillT at May 5, 2008 12:52 PM

No professor is an idiot,
Entire of themself.
Each is a piece of the department,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the student's critique,
Postmodern Bolshevik Educratdom is the less.
As well as if an assistant professor’s predominant idenity-ism were.
As well as if a manner of thine own differences be not valued
Or of thine friend's weren't.
Each oppressive humiliation diminishes me,
For I am involved in grievancekind.
Therefore, send not to know
For [whom][who]whom the belle toils,
She toils for thee.

Posted by: Professor Irwin Coree at May 5, 2008 01:42 PM

You're the lawyer, son: you tell us. :)

Why do I always have to answer these kinds of of questions? I think that you are picking on me!

Posted by: spd rdr at May 5, 2008 01:47 PM

You know, maybe this poor woman was just suffering from Trimethylaminuria of the lesson plan.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 5, 2008 02:16 PM

vet66, you can only have a case if the ACLU recognizes you as having 'victim status.'
Unfortunately, your wife is going to be left out as well because even though she taught at what is probably one of the most culturally diverse areas of the USA, namely a Military Base in Hawaii, she was Blinded By Her Association.

She was too close to her subject, so she can't be truly objective.

Now I have to strike Dartmouth off the list of possible colleges to send the eldest CLU. No biggie. If they are going to charge outrageous student fees to cover the cost of this suit, I refuse to pay for it on the grounds that I wasn't a party to it except to agree.

What say we call Dartmouth and put a little pressure on them? anyone for some cyber protesting? Hm?

Posted by: Cricket at May 5, 2008 02:33 PM

So she was being paid to teach English, but instead taught Sociology.

Thereby improving the quality of Dartmouth's Lib'rul Arts Program...

Posted by: BillT at May 5, 2008 02:44 PM


Damn! Thought we were onto something there! I guess being happy and living well is worth something...


Posted by: vet66 at May 5, 2008 03:47 PM

If you haven't read Dennis' Westerville Chronicles you're missing a real treat.

Posted by: Allen at May 5, 2008 04:30 PM


I live in Westerville (well, since 2002 we actually moved about a mile north into Genoa Township, but it is all the same), and believe me, this is....funny. I need to identify who this Dennis really is.

Living the tedious life in Central Ohio,

Don Brouhaha

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at May 5, 2008 05:17 PM

Dennis is incredibly funny. He's worth reading for all the times he hates on Amynda alone, but he writes a lot of other funny stuff.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 5, 2008 05:20 PM

Heh... my Dad still has one of those Indian canes, Bill!

Prof. Coree has the right of it. During my all too brief tenure at Dartmouth, I always loved the acronym for the women's group at the College: Women at Dartmouth, or WAD as I affectionately called them.

The term is still in my personal lexicon after all these years.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 5, 2008 05:25 PM


Well I'll be, I wasn't even sure it was a real place. Some of his stuff leaves me in stitches, and when he gets on a roll, watch out!


Posted by: Allen at May 5, 2008 06:16 PM

Yes, Westerville is a real place; kinda Twilight Zone real. It was named after the Dutch founders, the Westerveldt family (way back in the 1830's or something). Norma Westerveldt was a recent town council member and mayor (she's a lawyer, too). In the Fall, we sometimes buy firewood from her cousin Reed, who makes an honest living and is somewhat embarrassed by Norma, the lawyer and politician.
Dennis's little essays have some "recognizable" characters, with the names changed to protect the innocent, but they are probably typical of thousands of other towns in the Middle West of America.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at May 5, 2008 08:25 PM

Here is proof that Maureen Dowd was right! Men don't pursue "strong" women like Maureen and Priya because they are intimidated by their female superiority. The whole smug arrogance, narrow-minded narcissism and overall bitchiness thing obviously has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: a former european at May 5, 2008 08:46 PM

Geez, the parents who pay for their kids to go to these institutions of hired learning are such saps. Makes me glad my fartling is working her way through school.

Posted by: Scherzo at May 5, 2008 09:34 PM

"Ms. Venkatesan sent a similarly illiterate email to a smaller group of students..."

An English instructor, no less. So much for an Ivy League education.

Posted by: camojack at May 6, 2008 12:32 AM

I'm not sure which is worse --that a teacher wants to sue her students for arguing about ideas, or that an English professor, at Dartmouth no less, doesn't know the difference between "who" and "whom." You truly could not make this stuff up -- academia has gone far, far beyond parody.

My grandfather went to Dartmouth, and loved it. At one time I was sorry that none of my kids followed in his footsteps. No more!

Posted by: beatrix at May 6, 2008 05:37 AM

Here is proof that Maureen Dowd was right! Men don't pursue "strong" women like Maureen and Priya because they are intimidated by their female superiority.


Ouch. My chest isn't up to laughing that hard early in the morning, you rascal. :)

Posted by: Grim at May 6, 2008 07:29 AM

Gracias, amigo! Hola from las muy bueno, formerly gringo, Arizona bordera! Keyboarda no tenga "uno" por presso por inglais! Ayyeeee! Dios mio!

Posted by: a former european at May 6, 2008 03:48 PM

afe -- Talk Like Cisco and Pancho Day was *yesterday*...

Posted by: BillT at May 6, 2008 04:31 PM


Stop it Cass, you're killing me.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 7, 2008 10:02 AM


Posted by: Cassandra at May 7, 2008 10:33 AM

True gender equality will only be possible when vowels are stricken from the mthr tng completely.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 7, 2008 11:11 AM

Sooo you're saying all we need to have is a *vowel* movement. Which would mean the Democratican party would be voting for or against a "bm".....

Works for me.

Posted by: DL Sly at May 7, 2008 01:29 PM

Amanda has "man" in her name, perhaps explaining her uptightness around the derrière. Cass seeks to alleviate such strain by changing her name to Amynda.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 7, 2008 01:58 PM

All her problems could have been solved if she had a woman to womyn talk with Cassandra here. She didn't need to "explore the legality of a suit".

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 7, 2008 01:59 PM

She didn't need to "explore the legality of a suit".

Of course not. Women have been legally wearing suits for *years*.


Posted by: BillT at May 7, 2008 04:09 PM

Silly man.

I wear my birthday suit every day of the year and it's *perfectly legal*.

Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at May 7, 2008 04:15 PM

I think (or hope at least) that Dartmouth is getting a bad rap here.

I wasn't there all that long - just my freshman year - but my classes were all very interesting and my profs excellent. And in comparison with the other Ivies, at least from conversations with other HS friends who attended them, Dartmouth compared very well. It is a small school and the profs actually seemed interested in teaching rather than research. They held office hours.

I had friends at Harvard and while there were some big name lecturers there, just try talking to one after class! At Dartmouth some profs would actually invite students into their homes during the semester (not singly normally, but in groups). My Russian teacher actually sent a student across the green to wake me up for my 8 o'clock class when I stopped showing up for it :p

I had been doing very well in Russian, but was spending too much time drinking beer and partying. He dispatched a friend of mine to pluck me out of my bed, PJs and all, and carry me across the green in the snow.

Needless to say, I was embarrassed.

And in my seat for the rest of the term :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 8, 2008 05:31 AM

A blotted and besotted young princess in her jammies being trudged across the frozen tundra on the back of a classmate to her Russian History||Language class... Heheheh... There's a Whoa no, William & Mary won't do My Old School sort of song just begging to be written around that vivid piece of imagery.

Posted by: bthun at May 8, 2008 11:36 AM

I'm glad I wasn't the only one who had, um, *trouble* attending class....I had a Western Civ History prof stop his lecture, turn and bow to me - as I was walking in (10 min. late) for the last lecture class of the year - and say, "So glad you deigned to join us today."

Posted by: DL Sly at May 8, 2008 12:58 PM

The ladies must be given respect when they grace us with their presences lest hellfire and brimstone come unto Earth once more. *shivers*

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 8, 2008 01:01 PM

Well if she didn't want to have intercourse why did she? She could "Just Say No" ya' know. A law suit 'cause she didn't wanna' get any?



"Discourse" not "Intercourse"?

Never mind! Pardon the interruption.

Just another waste product of the publik skool system that grew up on Hooked on Phonics proving that print is dead! ;-)

Posted by: JHD at May 8, 2008 01:14 PM