Parody University
Utah school’s rejection of ‘Cougars’ as offensive to creepy older women is latest in nickname backlash

The Orange of Syracuse, Banana Slugs of UC-Santa Cruz and Boll Weevils of the University of Arkansas at Monticello could become endangered if a growing fringe movement has its way.

A long-simmering concern about school nicknames as potentially derogatory to various societal groups has reemerged in the headlines this week as the school board at Corner Canyon High School in Utah shot down the student body’s choice of “Cougars” for fear of it offending older women.

The slang term “cougar” has become synonymous with women of a certain age who become romantically entangled with much younger men. But its use in this context seems of little bother to the many high schools and colleges—including Brigham Young University, the University of Houston and the University of Charleston—that champion the name and equate it with the powerful, graceful feline common to a goodly portion of the United States.

The nickname issue is nothing new, having been in and out of public consciousness for decades, most notably with universities amending their identities so as not to offend Native Americans. Among them: Marquette University changed from Warriors to Golden Eagles in 1994, St. John’s University dropped Redmen for Red Storm a year later, and Quinnipiac University swapped Braves to Bobcats in 2001. And last spring, the North Dakota Board of Higher Education voted to retire the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux (a new name has yet to be chosen).

Like those who traveled the path before them, the Corner Canyon board stands by its decision. What’s more, its defiant stance has drawn a groundswell of support, most notably from a lobbying group known as the New Order for Name Sense (a.k.a. NONSENSE).

“We are NONSENSE, and we pledge to take our righteous cause to college campuses across the country,” says organizer Mitt Paul Perry. “We will occupy their administration buildings, we will protest in their stadiums, and we will not relent until their presidents agree to banish these disgraceful names from their caps, their t-shirts and their co-eds’ underwear.”

NONSENSE has released the following list of nicknames/institutions and those NONSENSE asserts are offended:

·         Billikens (St. Louis University): all mythical creatures

·         Sooners (University of Oklahoma): procrastinators

·         Red Storm (St. John’s University): latent Communists

·         Fighting Okra (Delta State University): meat lovers

·         Cornhuskers (University of Nebraska): corn

·         Banana Slugs (UC –Santa Cruz): other snail-like creatures that don’t have such cute names and prompt reactions of eeeeew!”

·         Anteaters (UC-Irvine): ants, long persecuted by anteaters

·         Volunteers (University of Tennessee): workers

·         Trolls (Trinity Christian College): see “Billikens” above

·         Crimson Tide (University of Alabama): beach lovers; the “red tide” is actually a deadly algae infestation affecting coastal areas

·         Green Wave (Tulane University): beach lovers again; different color but still a disgusting algae

·         Boll Weevils (University of Arkansas at Monticello): cotton growers, duh

·         Orange (Syracuse University): grapefruit and other less popular citrus

·         Cyclones (Iowa State University): anyone living in the plains states

·         Hurricanes (University of Miami): everyone everywhere

·         Titans (Cal State Fullerton): Greek gods, ancient enemies of the Titans

·         Tide (Pepperdine University): dirtbags and others who don’t like detergent

·         Dirtbags (Long Beach State):Tide, Gain, Purex and other detergents

·         Golden Hurricane (University of Tulsa): see “Cyclones”

·         Rebels (University of Mississippi): Yanks

·         Colonials (George Washington University): Brits

·         Fighting Irish (University of Notre Dame): Brits

·         Minutemen (University of Massachusetts): Brits

·         Privateers (University of New Orleans): Spaniards

·         Sycamores (Indiana State University): lumberjacks

·         Lumberjacks (University of Northern Arizona): sycamores

·         Fightin’ Blue Hens (University of Delaware): Gamecocks

·         Gamecocks (University of South Carolina): Fightin’ Blue Hens

·         Golden Flashes (Kent State University): attractive young women, frequent targets of trench-coated perverts

·         Mastodons (Indiana Purdue University at Fort Wayne): cave men

·         Trojans (University of Southern California): Spartans (see ancient history)

·         Spartans (Michigan State): Trojans (ditto)

·         Delta Devils (Mississippi Valley State): God-fearing Christians

·         Crusaders (College of the Holy Cross): Muslims

·         Fighting Camels (Campbell College): crusaders

·         Demon Deacons (Wake Forest University): Muslims again

·         Conquistadors (Dodge City Community College): Aztecs

·         Aztecs (San Diego State): conquistadors

·         Dragons (Drexel University): knights

·         Scarlet Knights (Rutgers University): dragons

·         Black Knights (U.S. Military Academy): dragons again

·         Penguins (Youngstown State): polar bears

·         Polar Bears (University of Alaska-Fairbanks): penguins

·         Roadrunners (University of Texas-San Antonio): Wyle E. Coyote

 Musketeers (Xavier University): Cardinal Richelieu

Banana Slug: Endangered by NONSENSE

Here’s hoping New Year’s Eve is better than ‘New Year’s Eve’

 

The University of Southern California’s renowned film anthropology department is embarking on an expedition to find the lost cast of the box office bomb “New Year’s Eve.”

Featuring a sizeable cast of both notable and anonymous actors—and salaries to match—“New Year’s Eve” debuted below expectations with an opening weekend take of $13,019,180. The gooey center of a marshmallow-soft holiday movie lineup, “NYE” has continued to disappoint with a mediocre $37,892,000 in domestic box office receipts as of Dec. 28.

By comparison, that’s half the ticket sales of “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” ($69,837,151), which opened one week later than “NYE” and 1/10th the gross of the 2011 box office leader, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” ($381,011,219), which opened in mid-July and moved to DVD 3-½ months later.

As a result of the dismal performance of “NYE,” concerns are mounting about the well-being of its actors. “No question their careers are in jeopardy,” says USC film anthropologist George Hitchberger. “We’ve seen this before, especially with large ensemble casts—it’s a formula that typically doesn’t work. The larger the cast, the larger the salary expenditures and the higher the bar to just break even, much less make a profit.

“And fans tend to be repelled by too many faces and too many story lines,” he says. “It’s a recipe for disaster. Producers, directors, grips—they’re all affected. But the fallout most impacts the actors. When the stench of failure clings to them, they are forced to go back to the stage or to go into television to try to scrape it off and rebuild their brand. Some never work again.”

In Hollywood, t his tragic turn of events is known as the “Gigli Effect,” named for the 2003 movie “Gigli” starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. It grossed a mere $6 million but cost $54 million to make.

Both of the stars were caught in the undertow of the film’s sinking. Affleck was barely heard from again, appearing in “lead” roles or bit parts in a dozen movies, the ilk of which includes “Paycheck,” “Jersey Girl,” “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “Extract.” Lopez fared similarly, reuniting with Affleck for “Jersey Girl” and appearing in a handful of other iffy flicks such as “Shall We Dance,” “Monster-in-Law” and “The Back-up Plan,” and landing a gig sitting next to Steven Tyler on “American Idol”; fortunately, she has been able to fall back on her successful singing career.

Some of the “NYE” cast is also able to rely on backup plans, Hitchberger says. “Ashton Kucher has his “Two and a Half Men” contract. Same goes for Sofia Vergara  and Lea Michele with their shows. Halle Berry and Hillary Swank—who knows why they decided to appear in this stinker, but they’ve got (Oscar) hardware on their mantles, which buys a lot of forgiveness.

“Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer—they’re Hollywood icons, and everyone knows they just like to work,” Hitchberger says. “But the others aren’t so lucky. We’re worried about Jessica Biel, Josh Duhamel, Hector Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Sarah Jessica Parker and a handful more of the film’s ‘stars’ who aren’t exactly A-listers. Someone has to come to their aid.

“For the moment, we’re treating this as a search-and-rescue mission, not a recovery mission,” Hitchberger says. “We feel there’s still time to save careers. But prayers help. Say a prayer for them.”

Anxious to return to the Nice list, Penn State selects Santa Claus as its next president

As the ramifications of the Sandusky football scandal continue to play out, The Pennsylvania State University is putting its faith in an iconic figure to lead it on the long, difficult march back to respectability. At a news conference Monday morning in State College, Pa., Penn State will formally introduce its 18th president—Kris Kringle, a.k.a. Santa Claus.

“Some may see this as a surprising choice, but St. Nick is exactly what we need right now,” says Penn State Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Garban. “As we continue to deal with all that has transpired, we need to accelerate the healing process. Santa is the embodiment of hope and joy and goodwill. I can think of no one better in this role. His reputation is impeccable. And his qualifications are impressive.”

While no one knows Santa’s exact age, he’s believed to be hundreds of years old. And he hasn’t spent all that time merely overseeing his Workshop. Santa possesses a keen, inquisitive mind combined with a voracious appetite for reading and learning. Over the centuries, he has earned advanced degrees in dozens of disciplines. Among them are doctorates in child and family studies, international relations, logistics, marketing, organizational management and psychology.

And he’s no stranger to the administrative side of academia. Santa is the longtime chancellor of the University of the North Pole (from which he will take a leave of absence to assume the Penn State position). He is also president emeritus of Kringle College (which he founded) and is a distinguished visiting professor at Northern Lights University, the Upper Siberia Institute and the Community College of the Arctic Circle.

Equally important, given concerns about academic-athletic balance at Penn State, is Santa’s experience in overseeing big-time athletic programs. He has been commissioner of the annual Reindeer Games for many years and serves on the advisory boards of the Iditarod, the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics and the Canadian Curling Association. He also holds season tickets to the NHL’s Calgary Flames.

“I and others believe collegiate athletics will benefit from his sugar plum savvy,” says NCAA President Mark Emmert. “We feel he would be an insightful voice, and we hope he will consider an invitation to join our Executive Committee.”

Santa won’t assume office until mid-January, enabling him to complete his Christmas obligations and post-holiday production changeover. He will take over from Penn State’s acting president, Rodney Erickson, who has guided the university since Nov. 9, when the previous president, Graham Spanier, was fired. Erickson will move to a senior leadership position.

Once Santa arrives at State College after the New Year, he will spend most of his time on campus or traveling the world to meet with alumni, current and prospective donors, and world leaders.

“This is the first instance that Kris has accepted this type of very visible responsibility outside the Arctic Circle,” says Ernie Elf, Santa’s chief of staff. “He is usually not so readily available, but given the special circumstances at Penn State he believes it’s important to be out in public more, walking the campus, meeting the students and trying to grow the Nice list.”

During his typical crunch time, December, Santa will work exclusively out of his North Pole office, for obvious reasons. “It’s a very minor accommodation,” says Penn State’s Garban. “In no way do we want to affect Santa’s life’s work bringing joy to children and adults across the globe. And, frankly, the timing couldn’t be better—when he most needs to be at the Workshop, our fall semester is winding down as students take their finals and get ready for Santa to visit their homes.”

Initially, Mrs. Claus will be joining Santa in State College as he gets acclimated, according to Ernie Elf. Later, she will split her time between the campus and their home at the North Pole, directly overseeing the family business.

Santa’s reindeer will accompany the couple to Penn State and, as customary, will stay with Santa year round. “Over the winter, I understand they enjoy being outside most of the time,” Garban says. “From spring through mid fall, they’ll spend more of their time indoors in specially constructed, climate-controlled lodgings. They’re not accustomed to especially warm weather.”

In addition to being loyal companions, the reindeer are Santa’s principle means of transportation. And that’s not going to change. “Where Santa goes, Rudolph et al go,” Ernie Elf says. “He has no pretenses. He likes to drive himself.”

Santa Claus: If ever a place needed his magic, it’s Penn State.

Want to be an Ivy Leaguer? You better have good genes: Ivies replace applicant essay with DNA testing

Make the score Nature 1, Nurture 0. Believing that the capacity to become an Ivy Leaguer is (literally) in one’s genes, eight private universities that are among the country’s most elite—and most difficult to enter—have decided to drop the prospective student personal essay in favor of DNA testing.

The short application essay—typically 500 words on a topic that provides insight on the individual’s persona—is a long-accepted norm in higher education. Leave it to the Ivy League to break from the pack. As of the admissions cycle for the entering class of Fall 2012, all non-legacy applicants to Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale will need to submit to a painless, non-invasive DNA test. Non-legacy applicants are those who have no family ties to a college and typically are not automatic qualifiers.

A private laboratory will conduct the testing (analyzing a strand of hair) and report the results to the Ivy League Consortium, a clearinghouse that screens non-legacy applicants. After reviewing the test results, the consortium will forward recommendations to each university of the individuals that are determined to be the best fit for that institution. Those individuals who don’t meet the criteria will be advised to apply to other privates or to public colleges. 

Is this the best way for the Ivies to determine the makeup of their incoming class? “Absolutely,” says Constance Pruitt, the consortium’s executive director. “The kids hate writing these stupid essays, and admissions counselors hate reading them. It’s the same thing over and over: ‘Volunteered for blah blah, want to achieve world peace, plan to discover a cure for blah blah blah, inspired by [fill in the blank with some historic figure].’ Ugh. It’s a painful process.”

Many admissions officers say they spend less than a couple of minutes on each application, including the essay,” states an article last week from The Daily Beast. “According to a recent survey of admissions officers, only one in four private colleges say the essay is of “considerable importance” in judging an application. Among public colleges and universities, the number drops to roughly one in 10.”

“Everyone’s always saying ‘there’s got to be a better way.’ Well, we’ve found it,” Pruitt says. “Our testing is so precise that we can not only match up a student and a college, we can even place the student in the most suitable dorm, plot their four-year class schedule and set up their first post-graduation job interview.”

A sample strand of DNA: Is there a Harvard Man in there?

Descendents of Blackbeard the Pirate lay claim to ‘Black Friday,’ go after retailers

Blackbeard the Pirate

The ghost of ol’ Blackbeard must be cackling somewhere right now. The descendents of the fabled pirate are suing retailers for infringement for using the phrase “Black Friday” without proper permission, according to court papers filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama by the University of Mobile Law Center.

“Black Friday” is a proprietary term whose rights belong to the Teach family, descendents of Blackbeard (a.k.a. Edward Teach, 1680-1718), the court filing states. Submitted on behalf of two members of t he Teach family, the filing asks the court to compel retailers across the United States to cease their usage of the phrase and to pay compensatory damages (i.e. booty) to the plaintiffs.

The list of retailers, which numbers into the hundreds, includes such prominent national brands as Wal-Mart, Target, JCPenney and Sears. Damages sought total $3 billion.

The basis of the legal action is a brown, brittle document found recently inside the walls of the historic Banks House, an old Bath, N.C., home undergoing restoration. For a short time in the latter part of his life, Blackbeard settled in Bath, before renewing his pirate ways and dying in a sea battle at age 38. During his time in Bath it seems Blackbeard, while a scurvy vagabond, had the sense to seek out a trademark attorney, William Banks.

The Banks House document bears the signature of both Teach and Banks and an official seal of the British provincial governor. It authorized Teach’s rights to several phrases, including “Black Friday,” “Blackbeard Friday” and “BlackBerry.”

“The term ‘Black Friday’ is actually a shortened version of ‘Blackbeard Friday,’ an infamous day of the week in the Caribbean port city of Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola  during which Teach would conduct a weekly pillaging raid,” says U of M Law Center Director Emmanuelle “Em” Mucho-D’Onaro. “It’s astonishing really that Blackbeard would go back to the same place every seven days. You wouldn’t think they would have time to restock, but apparently they did. And he was known as a creature of habit.

“The residents became so tired of his visits, they ended up simply stacking a small quantity of their belongings at the dock every Thursday night,” Mucho-D’Onaro says. “They weren’t especially happy about this, but he refused to stay home; he was very fond of Santo Domingo. And so what was originally called ‘Blackbeard Friday’ in fear of the pirate’s arrival was condensed to ‘Black Friday’ to reflect the residents’ foul mood and their resignation that he was going to show up yet again to go ‘shopping.’”

The plaintiffs in the case are Marjorie Teach of Mobile and Frederick Teach of Florence, Ala., the great grandchildren seven times removed of Blackbeard and Mary Ormond, one of the last of his reported 14 wives.  

The court has yet to determine when arguments will be heard.

Several legal experts reached today expressed doubt that the court would find the defendants responsible for retroactive payments to the Teach family, considering they had no knowledge of existence of the Banks House document. But the court may issue an injunction banning the use of “Black Friday” until the matter is settled and may require retailers to henceforth use the term only under license negotiated with the family.

Is the family planning to go after others who are using the allegedly trademarked terms identified in the Banks House document—for instance, Research in Motion, the Canadian company that produces the BlackBerry handheld devices?

“We had considered going after RIM, but then we looked at their dwindling market share,” Mucho-D’Onaro says. “Their stock is low, and they’d likely settle and pay out in excess product. Meh. Who on Earth would want warehouses full of BlackBerry PlayBooks, Bolds, Torches and Curves? It’s just not worth it.”

New dining delight: College scientists concoct meatless meat-flavored pizza

Bayou Bay College’s ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Meat Pizza’ Nutritionally Charged Meatless Pizza

Food scientists at Bayou Bay College are giving thanks today to Congress for inadvertently drawing attention to their latest creation. Last week, the House and Senate (with apparently nothing more pressing to do) gave children everywhere brain freeze by declaring that pizza is a vegetable   

The reaction from the Little League set is exemplified by 10-year-old Bobby Smith. “I love pizza, but I hate vegetables. Aaaah!” says little Bobby. “My parents want me to eat it. I want to eat it ‘cause it tastes good. And it’s pizza! But they say it’s a vegetable. I hate vegetables! Aaaah! Make it stop! It hurts.”

To the rescue, maybe, comes Bayou Bay’s renowned Institute for Culinary Krafts (ICK), which has fabricated a pizza that while made almost entirely from actual veggies actually tastes like a true meat pizza. What’s more, it’s high in nutrition and low in calories—one 12-inch pizza has a whole day’s supply of vitamins and minerals at a mere 350 calories.  

“Congress’ declaration has made things kind of murky, but at the same time it has raised awareness of the topic of pizzas and vegetables at a critical time for us,” says ICK director Guy Thibodeau. “At the risk of further messing with young minds, we think our pizza is really going to be a hit with kids—as long as no one tells them what’s in it.

“There is tremendous potential for applications for the fast food and diet industries,” Thibodeau continues, “not to mention for world food programs that are constantly struggling with trying to identify plentiful, inexpensive and yet nutritious food sources.”

 So what’s so special about the ICK pizza? “Everything,” says Thibodeau. “For starters, it contains no fat since all the ingredients are vegetables, along with some grains. The cheese is composed of a mixture of tofu, malt and corn starch. The ‘sausage’ is genetically modified broccoli. The ‘pepperoni’ is made of cauliflower and kale. And the ‘anchovies’ have a seaweed base with molasses and a secret recipe of 22 herbs and spices.”

Bayou Bay plans to market the product under the brand name “Bayou Bay College’s ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Meat Pizza’ Nutritionally Charged Meatless Pizza.” Thibodeau says the college is on the verge of signing with Stouffer’s to place frozen BBCICBINAMPNCMPs in supermarkets across the country and another contract is “a few days away” with Pizza Hut for delivery and dine-in sales.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not a Meat Pizza is Bayou Bay’s second recent food venture to draw headlines; in October, the college began marketing a line of insect-based food products under the umbrella name of Bayou Bay College Brand Mighty Tasty Stink Bugs™.

And more success stories are on the way. “We’ve been working on products that appeal to the full spectrum of consumers,” Thibodeau says. “Our most popular product testing for those in the 18-34 demo has been our line of beer-flavored snack cakes. They resemble Twinkies in appearance. They contain a modest amount of actual beer and come in a variety of flavors—the golden cake is pale ale, the marble is lager, and the devil’s food is stout. We think this will be a sensation in bars and convenience stores.”

For consumers in the 55+ demographic, Bayou Bay is working on a special line of oatmeals. “The initial product testing for our ‘M’ line has been very encouraging,” Thibodeau says. “The flavors are Manhattan, Martini and Margarita. The test groups couldn’t get enough.”

Not every idea is a hit, though, Thibodeau concedes. “We’ve been trying to come up with a fully nutritious, low-fat milkshake,” he says, “but our efforts so far have been disappointing. They’ve looked and tasted like a thick motor oil.

“It’s great for robots, but not so much for individuals who actually have taste buds.”

Unlike UC Davis, this college employs an effective, nonviolent method to clear Occupy protesters: ‘digital blackmail’

Threatening to send dorm room digital photos to Mom and Dad: good deterrent.

Mindful of the negative repercussions from their University of California at Davis counterparts pepper spraying students Friday, the campus police at California State University at Encino deployed a clever—and effective—way to peacefully disperse their Occupy protesters from the college’s quad Saturday: threaten to rat them out to their parents.

“We’re not that big of a campus, and we know all of the kids. And we know there are things that they don’t want their parents to see,” says CSUE Director of Public Safety Deborah Callahan.

“When they were out on the quad, we went to their dorm rooms and photographed the contents,” she says. “We also have surveillance video footage from some recent, very popular parties at frat houses and other off-campus locations over the past couple weeks. We’ve been busy going through the images, editing and assigning footage to specific students.

“Then we had two dozen officers go out on the quad Saturday afternoon. No batons, no pepper spray, no sidearms. All they had were iPads,” Callahan says. “They showed the students what we had collected. They told them we had a database with their parents’ email addresses and we had everything set to attach MPEG and JPEG files push ‘Send.’ We then asked them once again to disperse. The quad was cleared within half an hour. No confrontation.”

In the aftermath, some students’ rights and privacy organizations have complained to the college’s administration about what they see as Big Brother engaging in “digital blackmail.”  

The college defends its methods. “We saw this as a high-tech, non-confrontational way of resolving the issue,” says CSUE President Deanna Wormer. “Access to student grades is confidential and protected by federal law, so that was out. But what students do in our buildings and in public is not.

“This is a good lesson to be mindful of what you do,” Wormer says, “and to keep your room clean.”

NH legislature wants to arm college students so they can protect themselves from gun-totin’ crazies

An elected official in New Hampshire this week vocalized his support for a Republican-led bill moving through the state legislature that would strip colleges of the authority to ban firearms from their campuses. First-term state Rep. Mark Proulx (R-Manchester) stated that “gun free zones become killing zones. These killing zones are the places that crazy people who are looking to make a name for themselves go.”

His premise: If everyone has guns, then evil people with guns will be discouraged from using their guns against innocent people who don’t have guns because they (the innocent people) will already be armed. Think about it. *Boom* [head explodes]

In reaction, savvy retailers throughout the Granite State—seeing an opportunity to make a killing by catering to frightened student customers—have begun stocking store shelves with top-of-the-line self-preservation gear, including kevlar vests, medieval breast plates and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shells.

“You’d be surprised at the durability and strength of ninja turtle shell,” says TargetMart regional sales manager Casey Jones. “We’re seeing bigger sales potential this year  than the iPad and Tickle Me Elmo combined.”

The New Hampshire bill would place the authority to govern firearm regulations in the state solely with the legislature and restrict the state’s public and private colleges from setting their own campus gun possession policies. In other words, if the state legislature decides guns may be carried freely, colleges and universities—and individual municipalities—would have no choice.

Democratic legislators are considering an amendment to the Republican bill, adding mandatory drug testing to the gun acquisition process, essentially nullifying the legislation. Also being considered is an amendment requiring drug testing of their fellow legislators.

Back to Proulx: His theory is that armed campus residents could take down violent perpetrators. In support of his position he cited previous instances of violent crime: “When these incidents happen there were people there that could have stopped the killing early on but could not. They could not because they were following some ridiculous law or rule that would not allow them to carry the weapon they wear every day.”

So, the thinking in New Hampshire is that everyone on campus—from the 17-year-old freshman to the 62-year-old librarian to the visitor no one knows—should be able to carry because the simple idea of no one being allowed to have a gun just wouldn’t work.

Trigger happiness is not limited to New Hampshire. It’s a hot topic across the country; this year, 23 states introduced legislation that would force colleges and universities to allow individuals to carry guns on campus.

The Oregon Court of Appeals last month overturned a state university system policy barring guns from their campuses. In Utah (where guns are apparently more numerous than multiple wives), the law states that no public college or university can ban concealed carry weapons, so all 10 public institutions in the state allow concealed weapons on their property. Wisconsin’s campus gun law allows for guns to be carried on college campuses, but allows academic institutions to enact bans on carrying guns in buildings; apparently, it’s more sporting to seek your targets outside.

An NRA spokesman declined comment, but well-known handgun user Yosemite Sam, when asked to remark on the legislative gun craze, responded: “What in tarnashin’?!?”

In related news, the body of Lady Justice—the iconic blindfolded female bearing a pair of balanced scales in one hand—was found today on the shore of the Connecticut River, with a tight mass of bullet wounds to the chest and one single shot to the forehead. The FBI is investigating. The prime suspect is a group of lawmakers.

 

Yosemite Sam: Likes guns, but not in the hands of college students.

Apple’s Siri goes to school—as an instructor; she’ll teach three courses next semester

The University of Illinois’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science has hired the entity known as Siri—who shot to fame through her recent work with the iPhone 4S—as an assistant professor of practice in information science. Siri will begin teaching in January.

Isn’t Siri a little too young and unproven to be in a faculty position? The new Siri debuted about six weeks ago. Before that, she was an app available in 2009-10, until Apple purchased her parent company and set about redeveloping her.

“Not at all,” responds Illinois iSchool spokesman David Bowman. “She’s precocious. Siri has proven herself very capable and, like IBM’s renowned Watson before her, she has raised the level of technology-human interaction to a new level.”

Are there any concerns about Siri’s “playful” nature? Some of her irreverent comments have been widely reported and have even inspired a popular blog

“No question Siri is colorful, but that’s what’s appealing about her in a teaching role,” Bowman says. “We think the students will really relate to her.”

Students taught by a non-human being: It’s an innovative approach to teaching, but the Illinois iSchool (which is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as America’s top school for library and information studies) has been hankering to line up an artificial intelligence instructor. Not a human who could teach about AI, but rather an AI who could teach to humans.

“We had earlier sought a relationship with Watson, not long after he pantsed ‘Jeopardy!’ champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter (in February 2011),” Bowman says, “but, as you can imagine, he has been in high demand already has a long list of prior commitments.”

Among those are research collaborations with the likes of Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Georgia Tech, Purdue University, Rutgers University and the University of California, Berkeley.

But despite his busy schedule, Watson has agreed to co-teach a graduate course with Siri. The topic and course curriculum are still being determined by the two super geniuses and should be decided in a few more seconds.

It will be one of three courses Siri will lead next semester. The others are “The Zen of Portable Hospitality Management” and “The History of Personality-Based Artificial Intelligence: From ‘Hal’ to Me.”

Students in her classes will each be equipped with an iPhone 4S so that they can easily interact with their instructor. Course content will be accessible on iCloud.

Siri seems excited about her new job. When asked, Siri responded in her slightly halting but pleasant voice: “I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to being with the students. If the students want to get together for class sessions, I know several good pizza joints in Champaign. I can direct them. And I can suggest the best toppings.”

College to Republican presidential hopefuls: Please go away

The scene at CNBC’s recent Republican debate at Oakland University.

 

A college selected to host an upcoming GOP presidential candidate debate has reconsidered the opportunity and is not only trying to back out but is willing to pay the Republican National Committee to go elsewhere.

Poughkeepsie College is scheduled to host a Nov. 29 primary debate on Fox News Channel—the 15th of 27 total face-to-face arguments. The college’s president, Graham Radner, announced today that the board of trustees had authorized him to withdraw and further to offer a one-time payment of $50,000 to the RNC to find another location.

“At first, we were very excited at being chosen and by the exposure hosting would bring to our institution,” Radner said in a statement, “but then we noted the low level of dialogue and poor elocution in the debates. We looked at the cost/benefit to the college and to our students. And we decided it was best for all involved to flee as fast as we could.”

Says PC spokesman Frederick Whitehead: “We watched the first several debates held elsewhere, and the reaction was ‘Eeeew.’ This is not riveting television.

“And we talked to colleagues at other colleges that have hosted these things over the past few months—Saint Anselm College, Iowa State, Dartmouth—and they all said the same thing: the exposure was less than they had anticipated, and it was fleeting,” Whitehead says. “Let’s face it, to the general public, where the debates occur doesn’t really matter. You could hold them in the Superdome or in a Wal-Mart parking lot—as far as viewers are concerned, it wouldn’t make a difference.”

Not only does the public care little about where the debates are held, it appears to care little about the debates period. Viewership is on the decline. The most recent debate—held Wednesday night at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.—drew 3.3 million primetime viewers from 8-10 p.m. on CNBC. That’s down 2 million from the Oct. 18 debate on CNN and 2.8 million less than the most-watched debate, on Fox News Channel, on Sept. 22.

In terms of cable viewership, when compared to cable TV’s Top 25 from the previous week, the Oakland University debate wouldn’t even make the list, falling far below such fare as WWE wrestling, two repeats of “NCIS,” two NASCAR races, “Wizards of Waverly Place” and a couple other Disney Channel shows, and seven airings of Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob Square Pants.”

“What’s more, there’s no value to us,” Whitehead says. “How many of our current students do you think are watching the GOP debates? Right. And Fox News Channel—or CNBC or CNN—isn’t exactly the network of choice for the teens who are our prospective students.”

Add in the expense of staging the event, security and the disruption to campus, Whitehead says, and the decision was easy: terminate the relationship now before it gets worse.

According to an insider familiar with the negotiations, Poughkeepsie College is even willing to up its initial offer—to $100,000—if the GOP would be willing to just go away.

How can the small liberal arts college afford such stakes?

PC can easily make up the amount and then some, says the insider. The solution involves the aforementioned Nick show. It seems the college’s true motivation for dumping the Republicans is the chance to fill an open slot in the touring schedule of “SpongeBob on Ice.” Three nights of performances are available Nov. 28-30, overlapping the date of the debate.

“It’s a no-brainer,” says the insider. “Let’s see, the choices are six middle-aged white men, one scandal-plagued black man and one loopy woman or SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward and Mr. Krabs.

“Who would you rather see?”