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Wednesday, January 1st, 2025
7:42 am - Thoughts on education
I've been on lj over 12 years now, and I've had lots of thoughts on education [also, I was posting stuff on marypat.org in longer form from 1996 - 2002; I've also written a lot at the Actuarial Outpost on this subject]

So this post is simply to amass posts as I find them, and categorize them. I am defining "education" very broadly here. I may be linking to some friends-locked posts, and will note that when I link. Some of these posts may need to be moved around for better organization.

12 Days of LearningCollapse )

My thoughts for starting schools, business related to educationCollapse )

Responses to Charles MurrayCollapse )

Gifted education/IQ stuffCollapse )

Math educationCollapse )

Online educationCollapse )

Females and math and scienceCollapse )

Actuarial educationCollapse )

UncategorizedCollapse )

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Friday, February 19th, 2016
3:18 pm - I found my patron saint....kinda
Growing up Catholic, one has a couple explicit times where one can pick a patron saint. At my baptism, my given names - Mary and Patricia - gives me two saints: the BVM and St. Patrick. (It's a bloody giveaway for my Irish Catholic background, natch.) But my parents picked those names... and since I was named after my mom's oldest sister, it was really my grandparents who picked those names.

At confirmation, I got to pick someone for myself, and I picked the newly-canonized St. Teresa Benedicta. As with many saints who were in a religious order, she had a different name at birth: Edith Stein. Part of why St. Teresa Benedicta was martyred was related to that birth name -- she was born to a Jewish family. So at confirmation, I took Teresa Benedicta Edith Stein as my confirmation name. Throw it all in!

In the run-up to Lent this year, at one of the Catholic sites I visited, there was a link to a Random Saint Name Generator. I figured "What the heaven" and went for it.

It gave me: Saint Agostina Pietrantoni. I will come back to that link in a moment. That's not the description I saw originally.

This is what I saw: Entry for Saint Agostina Petrantoni at CatholicSaints.info. This popped out at me:

We will lie down for such a long time after death that it is worth while to keep standing while we are alive. Let us work now; one day we will rest.
We can sleep when we're dead. Yeah, this is my saint.

But now let us get the context for that quote from the saint:

One day, for having seized a knife from a patient, she was attacked and beaten, and the sisters began to fear for her. [.....]

Even when she contracted tuberculosis, shortly before her death, she asked with insistence the Superior for permission to remain at her post [.....]

The police and the hospital administrators knew of his turbulence and when he was expelled from the ward for his extreme misbehaviour, he threatened to take revenge on sister Agostina who had nothing to do with it. He wrote on a note: “Sister Agostina, you don't have more than one month of life, you will die killed by my own hands". On the evening of November 12, 1894 the sisters, worried for her health, had asked her to take some days off. Sister Agostina replied, "We will have rest for such a long time after death that it would be good if we do some standing up while we live!"
On the morning of 13 November the killer waited for her in a dark corridor leading to the pantry. He stabbed her three times on the shoulder, the left arm and the jugular, before she could realize what happened. Then, after a scuffle with the only witness at the scene, Romanelli plunged the dagger in her chest. “Mother of mine, help me," were her last words.



Maybe I can sleep before I die.

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Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
6:47 am - Happy Birthday, Bon!
Now she goes to 11!

time for the hit parade!Collapse )

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Sunday, February 7th, 2016
9:27 pm - I think I'm turning Japanese...
....well, maybe not.

But Stu has been on a tear lately incorporating Japanese cuisine and cooking techniques into our family's food and DAYUM! It's yummy!

Thought I'd brag on my man for a bit. We went to a Japanese grocery store down in White Plains today, which was amusing as I was the only person in the family who could read an eensy bit of Japanese (and it was only the kana, but that's good enough for food labels, which also have a few things in English for FDA regs, I assume).

The girls picked out candy (Mo got gummies, Bon got hard sugar candies). We got Japanese chopsticks (they're pointy, not blunt), and Bon got Hello Kitty training chopsticks (they have a finger ring and a spring on them, but you can remove various elements as proficiency increases). I picked up a yogurt drink I remembered from my time in Japan (we'll see how that goes at breakfast). And we got various meats and sauces.

One note before Stu-bragging: we were hyuuuuge. The grocery aisles were narrow, and this is not unique to Japanese groceries -- it reminded me of the stores in Manhattan. I forgot how large Stu is compared to small city spaces. I guess I understand why he doesn't want to go back to NYC. He literally does not fit. It's mainly that he's tall and has really broad shoulders. I'm not tall, but I'm fat (different from when we left NYC). And our kids... well, we just take up a lot of space. Someone can be physically small but fill space well beyond their boundaries. Anyway, we were like elephants in there, so I was happy when Stu took our entourage while I was checking out.

So Stu brag time: sukiyaki tonight! Hot damn! Stu & I even got to dip the beef in raw egg and it's soooooo good (know where your eggs come from, y'all! Stu buys from the farm, so if they give us salmonella, we'll know. And bitch at them. Personally.) Oh man, that was luxury. I can see why I got to eat it only once while I was in Japan.

And I just finished off a red bean bun, which was my fave treat while there. Mmmm.

I think it's only fair to culturally appropriate from the secondmost-culturally-appropriating-cultures out there.

Number one is New York, obviously.

Okay, fine, the U.S.

But still.

New York.

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Sunday, January 24th, 2016
10:07 am - More letting go - being in the moment
So the pain is just doing it's thing. This morning, it takes the form of stabbing me in the head just above my right eyebrow.

ASIDE: If you've never read it before, read The Brothers Karamazov. It's a great book and I wonder why nobody told me about it. I'm going to buy the audiobook version I like best -- and b/c I like the reader so much, I'm going to buy/borrow more audio CDs he's done. I also recommend the Last Lion series (major Churchill bio) which this reader also does the audiobook for. I'm currently listening to the first volume.

Anyway, I'm going to be disconnected here, because. Because because because.

I tell people I feel like shit, then I sit down and spit out a 2000-word article on Excel. And then I feel like shit again. Sometimes the pain is face stabbing (right now). Sometimes it's weakness and soreness all along one side. Sometimes it's spasms and a burning sensation. It's amazing what one's nerves can do when they really want to work out.

One thing I've found helps is do mini-challenges on hackerrank. I had fun doing the RegEx challenge, and while I barely got anywhere on the recent math challenge, I'm going to finish up the dice one eventually. Maybe try multiple approaches, because it sounds like they're recommending a Monte Carlo approach, and I think I can think of a recursive equation/linear algebra approach.

But the point is if I can keep my brain occupied with some sort of problem, it does help.

It does seem that it is the case that I can get started on a challenge and it does drive the attention on pain away... but I can sustain that for only so long.

Anyway, there is a cause-effect going the other way as well. If the pain is too bad, then I can't even get started. But if I'm able to type, I can do it.

Time to do some list comprehensions! See you later!

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Sunday, January 3rd, 2016
4:25 pm - On unsolicited advice
I will take unsolicited advice along with the sentiment with which it is given. I understand you're trying to be helpful.

But people kinda missed my point when I said I gave up trying to lose weight.

It's not because I don't know tactics/strategies for weight loss. I know how to lose weight. I've done it before (and I did actually lose some weight last year). It's not necessarily that difficult... if there weren't a higher priority for me.

The thing is, you missed my main point: my pain issues have been getting worse, and the stuff I do with just feeling okay with being alive involves doing things that preclude weight loss. It doesn't really take the pain away, but it does help keep me from hating life. I'm not really gaining weight, which is fine by me. I'm fluctuating around 185, which is better than fluctuating around 200.

It's not my weight causing my pain, so don't even start with that. It's my brain and neck. And yes, I've been working at this for 5 years now. I'm happy to listen to pain relief advice for stuff that comes from migraines & disc disease.

So yes, I appreciate that you're trying to be helpful, but you're mistaking my priorities.

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Friday, January 1st, 2016
5:36 pm - Letting go of 2015
I tried.

I tried losing weight (I actually did -- lost ten pounds. From 195 down to 185 somewhat permanently, but then I went down to 180 and then bounced back up to 185)

I tried increasing exercise.

But the pain keeps coming back and I've decided fuck it.

Yes, I've got new meds, for migraines (propanolalalalala or whatever). But weather systems overpower the meds. And eating/drinking (and lots of MST3K and/or opera) is what I go to when it's bad. Screw the exercise and screw the weight.

So I've decided just to stop with that and let that crap go.

Yes, I should exercise more and yes I need to lose weight. I'm obese.

But I've decided other things are more important. I've mainly decided a bunch of stuff I'm just not going to do or think about.

Because fuck that shit.

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Sunday, December 20th, 2015
1:37 pm - The Pain Awakens
Well, not really, but I like being current.

I have a series of pics, but I'm not going to share them. When I have bad facial pain, I often take pictures of myself, mainly to see if I can see the pain on my face. To say I look unhappy in the pics is an understatement, but I've started doing something new: smiling when I take a couple of the pics.

Generally, when I'm having a bad pain situation, I just tell people. I don't hide that I feel like shit. I'm not interested. Thing is, I can hide it if I want to, and I've tried... it's just a bad idea.

Things come and go in spurts. I'm on new meds (beta blockers), and at the very least it seems to be helping the pain-induced high blood pressure. I still feel the pain though.

At this point, I've given up on certain things. I will blog (whether here or on STUMP (heh, the pic of Rahm Emanuel that's up top looks like my face right now)) when I feel like it. I've got stuff I want to say, but not so much that I will literally hurt myself saying it.

I've just plain given up on losing weight or getting exercise. I keep starting trying on both and then the pain means I just chow down or drink up. I will read what I fucking feel like reading, and I just can't get up any excitement for the new Star Wars movie. It will be too loud, and loudness hurts. I'll wait til we get it on DVD, and then Stu & I will watch it. Or maybe I'll watch it by myself, because he likes things louder. I will stop buying crochet and knit kits for myself (but I'll teach the girls - they like knitting, at least). I wish it were cold and it's not.

And I'm stopping here, because my shoulder hurts and this is enough.

current mood: pain

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Monday, November 23rd, 2015
7:00 pm - On student evaluations
The difference between this Doonesbury cartoon and my teaching evaluations is that the numerical scores don't mean anything for what I teach.

My students bitched when I pointed that out to them, so I've stopped telling them that.

I =do= read every freeform answer my students write in the evaluations, and they often put in useful info there. The thing is, I wish they had told me earlier in the semester, but I guess the next semester's students get the benefit.

The reason my numerical scores don't matter is two-fold:

1. I'm teaching college courses as a hobby. Not as a living. If poor evaluations get me fired, meh. I happened to have sucked, and them's the breaks. But my core living doesn't depend on it.

2. What I teach... they have a difficult time finding people who are willing to teach it and =can= teach it.

Mind you, if I super-sucked, I would probably get the boot. And rightfully so. But student numerical evaluation scores will not necessarily indicate that the instructor sucks. What do they know?

But I do teach certain things where numbers do matter -- and I'm going to see how it turns out. It's not a numerical score... it's how many people are willing to pay for the class. I have an Excel class that's coming up, and some may be signing up due to my prior publications on Excel. But if I want to continue getting students for this kind of class, I need to give them value.

So I listen to what they have to say -- what do they need to know? What do they want to know? What don't they care about? To be sure, I could argue to make them want to care... but if I can't make the case, that's on me.

Anyway, college kids - by all means, give info to your fellow college students for their information, but the numbers give me no actionable info. Please please PLEASE! write out remarks. That's the only way your teachers know what you mean by a 3 rating vs. a 10 rating. If your 3 rating is bitching about having to write a 5-page paper on a 100-page book.... yeah, your fellow students would like to know, and your prof would like to know to ignore what you have to say.

Maybe some profs live and die by these scores, but for professionals who are teaching on the side because they enjoy teaching... they'll more be disappointed in the students than they'll feel bad about themselves.

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Wednesday, November 4th, 2015
5:20 am - D has a story to tell
The Scary Little Witch

Well, dangit, the embed code doesn't work in lj. fooey.

The link is here:

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Sunday, November 1st, 2015
1:37 pm - Political philosophy with Bon
Bon: I think the Vikings were better than the Romans.

me: why?

Bon: Well, the Romans had nice stuff, but the Vikings conquered less.

me: There were countries that don't exist anymore that didn't conquer anybody. Were they the best of all?

Bon: I don't care. I like the Vikings better.

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Saturday, October 17th, 2015
7:43 pm - Pain is such a bore
About a month ago, I talked about a regression in my pain situation.

(I don't care to fix that linkage)

It got worse.

Unfortunately, I'm in a bad way right now, so I can't be as coherent as I'd like. But the thing is, for 5 years, from August 2010 til Wednesday of this past week, all my pain was on my right side.

On Wednesday, it decided to invade my left side.

The problem is, lots of left side pain is associated with heart attacks. And my dad died of a heart attack when he was 38. And I'm 41.

To be sure, I never smoked, like my dad did. But most smokers didn't ... and still don't ... have heart attacks at age 38. And I heard of more family history than gave me pause.

So when I felt my left arm go dead and lots of pain in my left jaw on Wednesday, I thought it could be a heart attack.

It wasn't.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a cardiac event that gets me eventually. And I may never know, because I'm so used to having pain everywhere. It's essentially coming directly from my spine from fucked up nerves.

The worst thing of the pain, other than not being to detect heart attacks, is that it pulls my focus to nothing but the pain. It's difficult for me to see anything outside the pain.


and it's not really hooked to anything real, other than maybe some vertebrae out of alignment. or whatever. The pain seems to be worst when I've been "on" for a while and see a time to relax -- I'm always the worst on the weekends, because the pain sees I've got nothing up against it.

Fuck you pain.

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Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
6:53 am - What Should be Taught - Part 1: Japan Bans the Humanities?
Well, this story about Japanese universities being asked to slash their humanities & social sciences departments was a bit of a surprise:

Alarm Over Huge Cuts to Humanities and Social Sciences at Japanese Universities

The cuts, at the Education Ministry's request, have caused profound concern among academics

More than two dozen Japanese universities have announced that they will reduce or altogether eliminate their academic programs in the humanities and social sciences, following a dictum from Tokyo to focus on disciplines that “better meet society’s needs.”

Times Higher Education reports that of the 60 Japanese universities that offer courses in these subjects, 26 will comply to some extent with the government’s proposal, which came in a June 8 letter from Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura. In it, he encouraged Japan’s institutes of higher education to take “active steps to abolish [these programs]” or convert them to scholastic opportunities in the natural sciences.

Two immediate reactions: it is possible that these departments had some bloat and needed to be trimmed.

The other was: what is the higher education model in Japan?

The second one is due to a variety of factors, the primary one being that I know the United States' model of higher education is weird compared to the rest of the world.

Let us consider some of the stuff that makes the U.S. higher education system weird:

  • While selective colleges/universities exist here, pretty much anybody who has a high school diploma can find a college that will take them. Even if they're going to need remedial (i.e. middle school level) classes
  • There is government funding for higher education for even extremely weak students
  • While lots of undergrad students are in the 18 - 25 year old range, it's not unusual to have much older students, even ones who already have degrees in other subjects, to go back to university. Some retired people go into degree programs
  • To get a degree in a "4-year" program, you pick a major to get a degree in... and about half of your academic credits will be in subjects not in your major, and many of them will not be slightly in your major at all
  • The general requirements are so broad that most people don't really need to pick a major til they're junior level. Even then, they my switch their major
  • STEM students are generally required to take at least a few humanities/social science classes at a junior level, sometimes having majors in the subject in the same class. I happen to remember the ones I took: sociolinguistics, science fiction literature, and a math/music composition course. I also took Japanese to 3rd year (and audited a semester in 4th year), and did some freshman/sophomore level classes. Psych 101 was a lot of fun and tempted me to sign up for a Psychology of Personality course which I dropped after one lecture when I realize there was going to be precious little science in it (unlike the Psych 101, which had a lot about experimental support for theories... this class was just going to be nattering about theory.) That's when I picked sociolinguistics instead, which was a good choice. I wrote my final paper on language policy in South Africa, which I found to be extremely interesting.

Yes, I"m pro-humanitiesCollapse )

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Saturday, September 19th, 2015
7:51 pm - Pain and pain and pain again
HereSome stuff.

It's just... I don't know. Look, I didn't need an actual physical condition for me to question the perfectability of Man, God, but dammit.ere's the deal.
Here's the deal.

In some prior posts, I had hope. I had hope that the pain would ebb. Maybe go away until entire decrepitude.

To be sure, total decrepitude can happen in one's 40s, but that's not terribly common now.

Here's how the pain has been this past week: on Wednesday morning, something in my neck popped. I have been feeling it in my face ever since. I had a massage, and I felt better for a few hours, but it came back. I'm going to the chiropractor on Monday, and it will probably relieve some stuff... but I know it doesn't last.

Before that =pop= I had gotten a shitload of writing done. But I keep running into these roadblocks. I noticed some practices I've picked up -- one-finger moves on the computer, or even driving, that pushes me through the current item and it's pushed off til when I hope I am not in so much pain.

And that's as far as I can get right now. The more I talk, the worst it gets. Typing isn't necessarily bad, but I've gotten to the point where I need to stop.

So. Bye.

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Sunday, August 16th, 2015
9:46 pm - On the Amazon-torturing-its-white-collar-workers-boo-hoo piece
Oh save me:

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

AUGUST 15, 2015
SEATTLE — On Monday mornings, fresh recruits line up for an orientation intended to catapult them into Amazon’s singular way of working.

They are told to forget the “poor habits” they learned at previous jobs, one employee recalled. When they “hit the wall” from the unrelenting pace, there is only one solution: “Climb the wall,” others reported. To be the best Amazonians they can be, they should be guided by the leadership principles, 14 rules inscribed on handy laminated cards. When quizzed days later, those with perfect scores earn a virtual award proclaiming, “I’m Peculiar” — the company’s proud phrase for overturning workplace conventions.

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Many of the newcomers filing in on Mondays may not be there in a few years. The company’s winners dream up innovations that they roll out to a quarter-billion customers and accrue small fortunes in soaring stock. Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.

Okay, let me make a list of quintessential abused non-manual-labor workers:
get a drink. we"ll be here a whileCollapse )

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8:45 am - My Vocation: figure stuff out and tell other people
I've been reading stuff on medium.com -- I originally got there reading pieces from @munilass (Kristi Culpepper).

As a result, I get an email digest of stories, and I'm sure it's following me, serving up the types of posts I'm more interested in and less of what I'm not. Or maybe it's just randomness. It's not my business, so I don't really care. I'm on so many news/email feeds, if my attention isn't grabbed (BY THIS ONE EASY TRICK, YOU WON'T BELIEVE IT!), I just move on.

I came across this post, via another responding to it.

I will excerpt:
live to work, work to live, whatever works for youCollapse )

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Tuesday, August 11th, 2015
7:09 am - Make Men Take Time Off Because EQUALITY!!!
Dear lord, not this shit again:

But a move like Netflix’s, if undertaken by more companies across more industries, could very much help to narrow the wage gap. Both men and women would keep earning through the birth of a child, eliminating the portion of the gap accounted for by women taking unpaid leave after giving birth. Policies like Netflix’s might also help keep women in the workforce: Why drop out to take care of your kid if you’re still getting a full-time paycheck and you can return to work with flexible, part-time hours?

There’s just one hitch: What if the only people who took advantage of an unlimited leave policy were women? What if those women were mommy-tracked away from the most intense, remunerative parts of a business, toward more marginal, lower-paying positions? The truth is that this already happens in many businesses. Unlimited does not mean “consequence-free,” after all.

I know I've written about this "great idea" before, but I'm too lazy (or, rather, too busy) to bother to find it.

there will be a graphCollapse )

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Saturday, July 18th, 2015
7:47 am - Good morning...good morning!
I've always been an early-riser.

A note: I don't necessarily sleep less than other people. Last night, I fell asleep around 8 or 9pm (I don't keep track). When I was at NCSSM, I often went to bed around 7 or 8pm.

caffeine in my brainCollapse )

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Saturday, July 11th, 2015
9:21 am - Story of a train-rider
On Thursday, I took a trip to DC for a public hearing on public pension practice. I am not ready to write about that right now. I am ready to write about my excursion.

During my trip (yay for train wifi) I wrote:

i love riding the train. so much more pleasant than flying

Which led to multiple responses from my other train-loving friends.

I posted stuff about my trip during the day, such as this sign that greeted me in Baltimore:

So let me describe my trip of that day.
We"re going to be here a whileCollapse )


The thing I'm getting at is that I really enjoyed figuring out how to get around these issues. This served me well over the years, especially in fall 2001, when I had to keep re-figuring out my path mid-stream as subway lines would get shut down here and there.

It didn't help me as much in August 2003, when the power shut down citywide, and my options were minuscule. In that case, I had to trek across midtown, climb up 23 flights of stairs by way of a flashlight strapped to my forehead, and then yelling at Stu via cell the next day that he'd best get me from midtown, I don't care that the traffic lights still don't work.

In any case, the only thing I'd change if I did the DC day trip thing again was to take a nap on the Amtrak from DC to NY. Because you don't want to be napping on the late Metro-North trains.

But other than trying to not sleep through my station, it was a pretty low-stress trip day, which wouldn't have been the case if I had to fly.

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Sunday, June 14th, 2015
9:31 am - Women and STEM academia fix: Be Professional
This is not a recommendation to women in STEM academia. This is a rec to STEM academia.

You need to be more like corporations. Because we don't allow for people bitching that a senior guy gets pushed out of his position for saying idiotic stuff:

"Three things happen when [girls] are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry," he said. According to one of the attendees, the joke was greeted by a "deathly, deathly silence."

In a normal world, a world which valued the freedom to make a doofus of oneself, that should have been the end of it. Seventy-two-year-old man of science makes outdated joke, tumbleweed rolls by, The End.

Twitter went into meltdown. Journalists kicked up a fuss. His comments were branded "shocking and bewildering." (You find a silly joke bewildering? You really should get out more.) And then came the denouement to this latest outburst of confected fury: Hunt "resigned" from UCL, where he was honorary professor.

"Resign" is in quote marks because it's pretty clear he was elbowed out. Consider UCL's statement about his leaving. "UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome [Hunt's resignation] is compatible with our commitment to gender equality."


Sorry, was that supposed to be a joke?

Could someone explain to me how that was supposed to be funny... even decades ago, I'm not seeing how that would be funny. I'm not saying I was offended by the "joke", just that I don't see how that's a joke.
Read more...Collapse )

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