Wildcat Wishes

Ohio State fans like me are spoiled.  We expect our sports teams to win the vast majority of their games, to routinely move on to post-season tournaments and bowl games, and to win national championships every year.

Not every school is like that.  I realized that when Richard went to Northwestern and I started following the Wildcats.  NU has long had the reputation for being the toughest school, academically, in the Big Ten and the easiest, athletically, for the other schools to trounce.  Northwestern students may have been the first to come up with the “you’ll be working for us one day” chant directed at opposing teams.

In the past 20 years, Northwestern football has stopped being a doormat and has become very tough and competitive.  And Northwestern basketball has steadily improved under the careful tutelage of their excellent coach Bill Carmody.  However, the Wildcats have never been to the NCAA Tournament.  That’s right, never.  As in, not in the history of mankind.  Zero.  Nada.  Zilch.  Goose egg.

This year, though, the Wildcats have a chance to get off the schneid.  Entering the Big Ten Tournament, they stand at 18-12 overall, and 8-10 in the Big Ten.  They have two great scorers, in John Shurna and Drew Crawford, a pretty good point guard in Dave Sobolewski, and a number of role players that Coach Carmody has molded into a good team.  They shoot the three, run a Princeton-style offense that can burn teams with back cuts, and can stick around and pull games out at the end.  If they could somehow win a few games in the Big Ten Tournament, they might actually earn that first invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

I’m rooting for them to do so.  So please, Webner House readers — won’t you also root for the Wildcats this weekend?  It’s high time for them to partake of some March Madness, Northwestern style.

Embarrassment In Evanston

Northwestern University is dealing with an embarrassing story that is, I think, symptomatic of some deeper problems with higher education in America.

The story has to do with a popular class called Human Sexuality that is taught by a psychology professor.  The class often offers optional after-class events, such as presentations by panels of convicted sex offenders, question and answer sessions with “swingers,” and similar programming.  Last week, however, the optional after-class event featured a naked, non-student woman being repeatedly sexually stimulated by a provocatively named sex toy.  Moreover, the man who presented the demonstration says Northwestern will pay him between $300 and $500 for the performance.

Not surprisingly, once the story leaked there was an uproar.  Equally predictably, the professor defended the presentation as being educational about sexual diversity.  The professor says his students are open-minded about such things, and added in a statement that students find “the events to be quite valuable, typically, because engaging real people in conversation provides useful examples and extensions of concepts students learn about in traditional academic ways.”

I am sick to death of absurd activity being defended in the name of “academic freedom” and “intellectual curiosity.”  Is a university professor really unable to appreciate that having a university pay someone to present a naked woman being stimulated by a sex toy is offensive and inconsistent with an institution of higher learning?  Does the professor really not understand that such a demonstration is better suited to an X-rated theater or a Dutch sex show?  Is it too much to expect that people might actually have a sense of propriety about something so outlandish?  This is the kind of story that makes American colleges seem like an increasingly ribald joke, obsessed with pandering to the hedonistic and prurient interests of students who are more interested in having a good time than actually becoming educated.