The Silence of the Bunnies

The bunnies have at last stopped screaming. The threats of glocks to the head and drowning like an alleged witch have been to put rest. The President Simon has resigned from Mount St. Mary’s University, effective immediately. And thus, this is (probably) my last post about drowning bunnies.


Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming…?

Your lambs are still for now, Clarice, but not forever… You’ll have to earn it again and again, this blessed silence. Because it’s the plight that drives you, and the plight will never end.

Yes. Vigilance is necessary. There will always be another.

Out of a sense of mercy for the outgoing president and the clueless board chair, I offer this song and hope it will give them peace.

The End of Pell

It is an article of faith of certain conservative groups that the US Department of Education (USED – USDOE is the acronym for Department of Energy which predates USED) is unconstitutional. Frequently, Republican candidates campaign on promises to eliminate the Department on Day 1. Certainly this is true of the current crop of candidates.

From the Department’s website:

When Congress created the Department in 1979, it declared these purposes:

  1. to strengthen the Federal commitment to ensuring access to equal educational opportunity for every individual;
  2. to supplement and complement the efforts of States, the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States, the private sector, public and private educational institutions, public and private nonprofit educational research institutions, community-based organizations, parents, and students to improve the quality of education;
  3. to encourage the increased involvement of the public, parents, and students in Federal education programs;
  4. to promote improvements in the quality and usefulness of education through federally supported research, evaluation, and sharing of information;
  5. to improve the coordination of Federal education programs;
  6. to improve the management and efficiency of Federal education activities, especially with respect to the process, procedures, and administrative structures for the dispersal of Federal funds, as well as the reduction of unnecessary and duplicative burdens and constraints, including unnecessary paperwork, on the recipients of Federal funds; and
  7. to increase the accountability of Federal education programs to the President, the Congress and the public. (Section 102, Public Law 96-88)

I don’t know, these look pretty reasonable to me. We can certainly argue over how well the Department does these things. I know I can. But, of course, there is very little of anything that is being done that can’t be done a little better. Further, it is easy to argue about how any one of these purposes is fulfilled.

I suppose none of these are really critical to the nation. Clearly, nothing is needed to ensure access to educational opportunity for every individual. We are long past issues of racism, sexism, and classism, right? States and localities long ago ensured all school have equable funding across all divisions and neighborhoods.And we have no shortage of involved parents.

Since the Department’s creation in 1979, all these problems have been solved.

And the Pell Grant probably really isn’t going away. It was originally created in the 195 Higher Education Act and so it predates the Department. I’m sure we’ll just find someone else to administer the program, maintain the FAFSA, and create the inevitable performance metrics. Unless you assume that these are either trivial activities or there is excess capacity to take on these tasks elsewhere, a new entity will have to be formed or an existing one expanded.

And we haven’t even talked about the federal student loan programs.

Or aid to states and local divisions.

Of course, we really don’t need to any type of performance measurement for $33B in Pell Grant funds, or $104B annually (and growing) for student lending,or the billions of dollars in funds for K12 education. We can just use an algorithm and someone somewhere, maybe the vice president,can administer everything on his phone.

Or we can block grant everything to the states and we’ll just expand our roles there. I have no doubts at all about the ultimate popularity of that proposition.

Blow it all up, sure. If you really want to get the “government out of our public schools” (actual reader comment on an anti-common core blog), let’s just be clear about what you really want to get rid of because government money programs have to be administered.

Let’s also remember, it wasn’t just a bunch of Acts of Congress that created all the federal education programs. There were a number of court cases that decided issues such as “separate is not equal” and every child is entitled to “a free and appropriate public education.”

From Wikipedia:

In 1975 Congress passed Public Law 94-142, also known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which defined and outlined that all public schools should provide all students with a free appropriate public education at public expense, without additional charges to parents or students, and must be under public supervision, as well as appropriate for the child’s needs.

PL 94-142 also included the following points:

• Special education and the specific services tailored to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities.

• The rights of the students and their parents are to be protected by the law, under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment.

• Schools are not required to find students with disabilities within their settings and refer those students for service eligibility.

• Students with disabilities are required to have an individualized education plan.

• Students with disabilities should receive instruction in a least restrictive environment along with nondisabled peers.

• Student must be assessed before being labeled with a disability.

• If a student is identified as having a disability appropriate services for their disability must be provided by the state.

• Students are entitled to a due process rights of notice and consent.

• Students with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education.

• Congress would fund up to 40% of excess costs of educating students with disabilities.

There are a lot of reasons USED exists, almost all involve carrying out laws that Congress passed because of court rulings or constituent efforts seeking fairness. Ripping out USED would simply mean the cost of recreating later, or moving a lot more functions than people realize elsewhere.

I suspect it would be cheaper to fix it rather than blow it up.



What if Mary or Wendy said, “No?”

The screen door slams
Mary’s dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again
I just can’t face myself alone again
Don’t run back inside
darling you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking
That maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me
There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they’re gone
On the wind, so Mary climb in
It’s a town full of losers
And I’m pulling out of here to win.
“I’m sorry. I’ll wait for someone that thinks I’m beautiful. Besides, I have homework to do.”

Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs ’round these velvet rims
And strap your hands ‘cross my engines
Together we could break this trap
We’ll run till we drop, baby we’ll never go back
H-Oh, Will you walk with me out on the wire
`Cause baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta know how it feels
I want to know if love is wild
Babe I want to know if love is real

Oh, can you show me?

“You’re kidding, right? Just run away with you so *you* can find out if love is wild and real? I don’t think so.”

I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The girl that’s driving me mad
Is going away
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care
She said that living with me
Is bringing her down, yeah
For she would never be free
When I was around
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
She’s got a ticket to ride
But she don’t care
I don’t know why she’s riding so high
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me
Before she gets to saying goodbye
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me
I think I’m gonna be sad
I think it’s today, yeah
The girl that’s driving me mad
Is going away, yeah
On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha
You can listen to the engine moanin’ out its one note song
You can think about the woman, or the girl you knew the night before

But your thoughts will soon be wandering, the way they always do
When you’re riding sixteen hours and there’s nothing there to do
And you don’t feel much like riding, you just wish the trip was through

Here I am, on a road again
There I am, on the stage
Here I go, playing star again
There I go, turn the page

Well, you walk into a restaurant all strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you as you’re shaking off the cold
You pretend it doesn’t bother you, but you just want to explode

Most times you can’t hear ’em talk, other times you can
All the same old clichés, is it woman, is it man?
And you always seem outnumbered, so you don’t dare make a stand

Here I am, on a road again
There I am, on the stage
Here I go, playing star again
There I go, turn the page

-Thunder Road & Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen; Ticket to Ride, The Beatles; Turn the Page, Bob Seger.
Last Sunday, on SXM Classic Vinyl I heard Thunder Road, Ticket to Ride, and Turn the Page in a segment and thought it was a really smart sequence.

(When Wilt Thou) Save the Bunnies?

When wilt thou save the bunnies?
Oh God of mercy, when?
Not presidents, but freshmen,
Not thrones and crowns, but freshmen!
Flow’rs of thy heart, o God, are they;
Let them not pass, like weeds, away,
Their heritage a sunless day.
God save the bunnies.
Shall crime bring crime forever,
Wealth aiding still wealthy?
Is it thy will, o Father,
That freshmen shall toil for wrong?
“No”, say thy mountains;
“No”, say thy skies;
Bug’s clouded sun shall brightly rise,
And songs be heard instead of sighs.
God save the bunnies.
When wilt thou save the bunnies?
Oh God of mercy when?
The bunnies, Lord, the bunnies,
Not presidents, but freshmen!
God save the bunnies, for thine they are,
Thy children as thy angels fair.
God save the bunnies from despair.
God save the bunnies.
Oh God save the bunnies!
God save the bunnies!
Oh God save the bunnies!
God save the bunnies.
Oh God save the bunnies!
God save the bunnies!
Oh God save the bunnies!
When wilt thou save the bunnies?
O God of mercy when?
The bunnies, Lord, the bunnies,
Not thrones and crowns, but freshmen!
God save the bunnies, save us,
For thine they are, for thine they are.
Thy children as thy angels fair:
O, God save the bunnies,
Save the bunnies,
God save the bunnies,
From despair.
God save the bunnies!
God save the bunnies,
O, God save the bunnies,
God save the bunnies,
O, God save the bunnies,
God save the bunnies,
God save the bunnies,
God save the bunnies.

–Stephen Schwartz

a Sermon on Mount St. Mary

It was a pleasant Friday afternoon in September, about tea time.

Chairman Gimme Coin and President Simon Bar-Judas Newman were walking across campus to hear a guest speaker giving an outdoor lesson.

“He sure looks like a hippy from here. Long hair, sandals. Geez, what bleeding heart group chose him?” asked Newman.

Gimme Coin said, “Beats me. He’s got an awfully big nose, too. Oh well, enough of him. We’ve got to talk business out here away from prying ears.”

In the background, the speaker can be heard. “Blessed are the poor, for they shall bring Pell.”

“I’ve had it up to my ass with talk about the poor. Our average net price is over $29,000. We need some rich kids. Unfortunately, rich people are generally too smart to send their kids to a place like this.”

“What do you think the problem is, Simon?”

“Too goddamned religious. It’s a downer. Bloody crucifixes everywhere. Plus all these useless liberal arts majors. Does anyone do anything useful? Do they make real money?”

“Good question. You know, I looked our numbers on the College Scorecard when it came out, and the earnings aren’t bad, it’s all above average.”

“Tuition is also above average, well above average. We are having to buy students to get them here. Catholicism doesn’t sell today. Maybe if we had Catholicism Wow! or Sister Act, but I doubt it. Any chance of getting Whoopie Goldberg on campus? Maybe that would silence the social justice crowd for awhile. They make my teeth ache.”

“Blessed are they who do not need aid: for they will be shown mercy.”

“You’re the president, what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to clean house. We’ve got people on campus that need to go. Staff and students.”


“You heard me. We’ve got some weak-ass students on campus. If we can get rid of them, we’ll save money and improve our retention rates. I’m pretty sure they are all poor, so getting them to leave will help the financials. We are buying students at an average of over $17,000, if we can get 25 to leave, that’s quite likely almost half a million dollars, assuming the weakest students are as poor as I think. We also have staff whose loyalty I doubt. I need absolute loyalty from my people to do the job you want me to do. Do I have your support?”

“You got it my friend. It sounds like you have a one hell of a plan here. We’ll back you all the way…after all, we really can’t afford your golden parachute.”

“Thank you.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the Golden Parachute.”

“Finally that damn hippy says something I can get behind.”

“Like I said, Simon, the Board is behind you all the way. You’re our guy. A quick word of prayer before I leave?”

“If it’s quick. I’ve got shit to do and a house to clean”

“Let’s bow then. Dear father, God bless the revenue units and keep them safe, and self aware enough to know if they should leave….”

The Bunnyman will Get you!

During part of my childhood was in Annandale, Va, my sisters and I, along with the other kids in the neighborhood delighted in threatening each other with the Bunnyman. The Bunnyman was an axe-wielding psychopath that kidnapped children and chopped them up while wearing a furry grey and white rabbit costume.

I never knew where the story came from until a few years ago when I was talking with a colleague at work who grew up not far from there and got on the topic somehow. “You know, ” he said, “there was a place called Bunnyman Bridge.”

Say what?

Thank God for Google and Wikipedia!  It’s all documented here. From Wikipedia:

Fairfax County Public Library Historian-Archivist Brian A. Conley extensively researched the Bunny Man legend. He has located two incidents of a man in a rabbit costume threatening people with an axe. The vandalism reports occurred a week apart in 1970 in Burke, Virginia.

The first incident was reported the evening of October 19, 1970 by U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Bob Bennett and his fiancée, who were visiting relatives on Guinea Road in Burke. Around midnight, while returning from a football game, they reportedly parked their car in a field on Guinea Road to “talk“. As they sat in the front seat with the motor running, they noticed something moving outside the rear window. Moments later the front passenger window was smashed, and there was a white-clad figure standing near the broken window. Bennett turned the car around while the man screamed at them about trespassing, including: “You’re on private property and I have your tag number.” As they drove down the road, the couple discovered a hatchet on the car floor.

When the police requested a description of the man, Bob insisted he was wearing a white suit with long bunny ears, but his fiancee remembered something white and pointed like a Ku Klux Klan hood. They both remembered seeing his face clearly, but in the darkness they could not determine his race. The police returned the hatchet to Bennett after examination. Bennett was required to report the incident upon his return to the Air Force Academy.[citation needed]


There are also these stories at WeirdUS.

Somehow I think it is delightful that my worst childhood fears were kind of real. Of course, this story is not nearly as scary as a college president that talks about students as cuddly bunnies that need to be drowned or Glocked. (Glocking them is probably the way to go since you leave a tiny suicide note in their paw.)

And some topical music:



Thousands of crucified bunnies

I woke up and read InsideHigherEd and instead of a field of poppies, blood red in the morning sun, I saw a field of thousands of crucified bunnies.

“Despite Brown’s proven capacity for doing the impossible, as for example starting a magazine about mercenaries, he has a boundless talent for mismanagement.”

Life With Bob: A Sordid But Instructive Interval At Soldier of Fortune Magazine, March 1984.

This is such a good line. I read it and re-read it, thinking about all the college presidents, provosts, and vice presidents, I have known for which it is an apt description. If you doubt me, just look at recent editions of InsideHigherEd or the Chronicle, especially if you include mismanagement of self and the spoken word. It has not been pretty.

This would be a good time for the literature professors of Mount St. Mary’s U. (I really don’t want to call it a university at this point) to require students to read Watership Down by Richard Adams. It is a story of brave rabbits and rabbits that aren’t so brave (and thus die). And a rabbit, General Woundwort, who is not very nice, but has a clear vision.


The HigherEd Policy Cult

How to know you are in higher ed a cult:

Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
  2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
  3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
  4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
  5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
  6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
  7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
  8. Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
  9. The group/leader is always right.
  10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

Apologies to the Cult Education Institute

The higher ed oyster farm

The bills were debated daily
Debated day and night
They did their very best to make
Sheets of text smooth and bright
And this was odd, because it was
Not a question of right.

The clerk was smiling sulkily,
Because he thought Speaker
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” he said,
“To come and spoil the fun.”

Higher ed bills flew far and fast
Their ink was dry and dry
You could not see a smudge
No smudges were on the bills.
No lobbyists could be seen
Something about forests and trees.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of students:
“If they were only cleared away,
The campus would be grand!”

“If we made student aid
Harder to get, a year at a time,
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of loans–and loans–the FAFSA
Of Pell grants –work study
And will we pass free college–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait, there’s more!” said the Walrus.
“We’ll add standards,
We’ll make them take 15 credits,
And keep a  3.0 GPA, or else
They’ll pay us back, as they go.
We’ll call it free, or at least affordable.”