CUNY Getting Ready to Launch Major New Online Education Initiative!

Dear Commons Community,

The City University of New York could offer hundreds of fully online programs by 2030, according to the public higher education system’s strategic plan released Wednesday.

CUNY set a goal to offer 287 online certificates and degrees in the next several years for students who prefer flexible options because of their responsibilities to family or jobs, or distance from physical campuses. If successful in that aim, the expansion would mark a seismic shift for CUNY since students returned to campus following pandemic-era school closures. In 2021, there were only 82 programs students could altogether complete online, university data show.

“The prosperity of New York and the legendary cutting-edge talent of CUNY are intertwined,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez in a statement.

“Moving forward, it is imperative that we ensure the University’s ability to meet the evolving needs of students and employers across the region.”

The virtual programs were just one prong of a full seven-year, systemwide plan to increase career opportunities, student services and research that benefits the public. The process was led by a steering committee that convened town halls and other sessions over 18 months.

CUNY plans to add 30 online degrees and certificates across 20 campuses over the next year, based in part on a market analysis of its programs finished in December. Faculty training programs and technology infrastructure are also being made available.

The faculty union at CUNY has raised concerns.

“We are still learning about this initiative,” Penny Lewis, secretary of the Professional Staff Congress, wrote in the union newspaper last month. “But what we do know so far has given us cause for alarm.”  Lewis said it seems “extremely likely” that a large online initiative would take time and resources away from current courses and faculty. She also noted that CUNY already offers the School of Professional Studies, which specializes in online degree programs.

“We don’t want CUNY to approach the ‘degree mill’ status to which some online programs have sunk across the country,” Lewis wrote.

The union has already filed charges with the Public Employment Relations Board, a union spokesperson confirmed, as instructional design work performed by union members would be outsourced under a nearly $8 million contract approved this spring.

Some faculty at CUNY were teaching online in the late 1990s.  This initiative was a long time in coming.  We hope it is implemented successfully and gracefully!


U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Affirmative Action in College Admissions!

Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday struck down affirmative action in college admissions, declaring race cannot be a factor and forcing institutions of higher education to look for new ways to achieve diverse student bodies.

Previously, the Supreme Court had allowed the use of race in admissions in decisions reaching back to 1978. And it had twice upheld race-conscious college admissions programs in the past 20 years, including as recently as 2016.

Now, however, with a six-justice conservative majority, the justices overturned admissions plans at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, the nation’s oldest private and public colleges, respectively.  As reported by the Associated Press.

Chief Justice John Roberts said that for too long universities have “concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

Leaders of scores of universities said Thursday that they were disappointed by what they see as a blow to diversity. Yet many also voiced optimism that they would find new ways to admit more Black and Hispanic students, despite evidence that eliminating the practice often leads to steep enrollment decreases among them.

President Joe Biden said he disagreed with the decision and asked the Education Department to explore policies that could help colleges build diverse student bodies. He also pushed against policies like legacy preferences — admissions boosts given to the children of alumni — that tend to help white, wealthy students.

“We should never allow the country to walk away from the dream upon which it was founded,” Biden told reporters. “We need a new path forward, a path consistent with the law that protects diversity and expands opportunity.”

Yet evidence from states that previously outlawed affirmative action show it will be a daunting challenge.

As an alternative to affirmative action, colleges from California to Florida have tried a range of strategies to achieve the diversity they say is essential to their campuses. Many have given greater preference to low-income families. Others started admitting top students from every community in their state.

But years of experimentation — often prompted by state-level bans on considering race in admissions — left no clear solution. In states requiring race-neutral policies, many colleges saw enrollment drops among Black and Hispanic students, especially at selective colleges that historically have been mostly white.

Given the current makeup of the Court, this decision was expected.  It will be a major blow for diversity in our colleges and our society as a whole.



Gail Collins on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign for president and third party candidates!

Analysis: RFK Jr.'s reign of error: Correcting the record about yet another  false claim he just made | CNN Politics

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Gail Collins, has a piece this morning reviewing the candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for he Democratic presidential nomination.  Entitled, “You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Campaign Is About You,” she reviews Kennedy’s possibilities for the nomination and while she concluded that he has very little chance of winning, he could still cause some problems for President Joe Biden.  She also comments on whether he or others might consider a third-party nomination.  She reminds her readers that:

“ Chances are, for instance, that all the conservatives who voted for Ross Perot in 1992 weren’t really hoping he’d tilt the election to Bill Clinton. Or that the liberals who backed Ralph Nader in 2000 weren’t intending to help George Bush sneak past Al Gore. And if you’re ever in the mood to obsess about this matter, we’ll get together and have a long conversation about William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt.

But for the moment, let’s look at Cornel West, a former Harvard professor now seeking the nomination of the Green Party, a perfect example of a group that promotes liberal causes in a way that can help the least-liberal candidate win.

West is being assisted by Jill Stein, who was the Green Party nominee in 2016. When she won more votes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania than Donald Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in each state.”

Collins offers important commentary!

Her entire column is below.



The New York Times

“You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Campaign Is About You”

By Gail Collins

Opinion Columnist

January 29, 2023

Let’s start with some positive things about Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign for president.

Tick, tick, tick …

OK, I really do have some. Sort of. But let’s get the downside out of the way first.

There’s his anti-vax crusade. Kennedy has claimed that Covid vaccinations are responsible for practically every evil in the world — last year, in a best-selling book, he accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of using the pandemic to trigger a “coup d’état against Western democracy.”

And he’s lashed into Joe Biden for pandemic restrictions that he once compared to Nazi Germany. Some of his relatives recoiled at that point. But R.F.K. Jr. holds no grudges. In his announcement speech he assured the crowd: “I bear no ill will … to any of them.”

Which is certainly a good thing, given that even Kennedy’s wife, Cheryl Hines, disagreed when he claimed that the pandemic regulations were worse than Nazi Germany. (Back then, he argued, you could at least “hide in the attic like Anne Frank.”)

Now Kennedy is running for the Democratic presidential nomination against Joe Biden. And while he isn’t going to win, he’ll certainly draw a lot of attention. Even loyal Democrats have gotten kinda bored with our current president, and nobody really loves the idea of him celebrating his 86th birthday in the White House.

It’s very clear that many of the folks who’ve told pollsters they want to nominate R.F.K. Jr. for president are just relating to the name. But he’s earned some of his high profile. There was a time — a very long time ago — when the world knew him mainly as a battler for the environment. Talking with everybody from Oprah to the Waterbury Democratic Town Committee.

Mentioning that last one so I can tell you a story about a visit Kennedy made there once, back during the Clinton era. “He spoke forever,” a Connecticut friend of mine recalled. “He explained how estuaries work. He used that word.” It was not the normal pitch you gave to the regular Democrats in Waterbury, but nevertheless, my friend remembers the audience rapt from beginning to end.

That was then. Now, Kennedy is troubled by spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that makes his voice sound hoarse and strange. And even though he must realize his anti-pharmaceutical ranting is not going to win him the nomination, he doesn’t seem quite able to contain himself. Recently, he’s claimed vaccine research and prescription drugs have been responsible for everything from H.I.V. to school shootings.

“Prior to the introduction of Prozac,” he told an online audience, “we had almost none of these events in our country and we’ve never seen them in human history, where people walk into a schoolroom of children or strangers and start shooting people.”

Obviously even a great environmental record won’t wipe away all this crazy stuff. But one very good thing about Kennedy’s presidential campaign is that he’s actually planning to run in the presidential primaries. Take on Joe Biden, head-to-head. Could be a problem for the president, what with his likely decision to skip the first two contests in New Hampshire and Iowa in order to start in the more diverse South Carolina. If Kennedy wins instead, a lot of Democrats who are dissatisfied with the status quo may be seriously tempted to look his way.

That’s Biden’s problem. He’ll survive. But so far, what Kennedy is apparently not going to do is run as a third-party candidate.

Let’s celebrate him for that. After all, it’d be a lot easier to run as a third-party candidate than trying to beat back Biden in Democratic primaries around the country. Your name will be in the news all the way through to Election Day. Only problem is that you can easily siphon votes away from the regular party candidate and throw the race to somebody none of your supporters really want at all.

Chances are, for instance, that all the conservatives who voted for Ross Perot in 1992 weren’t really hoping he’d tilt the election to Bill Clinton. Or that the liberals who backed Ralph Nader in 2000 weren’t intending to help George Bush sneak past Al Gore. And if you’re ever in the mood to obsess about this matter, we’ll get together and have a long conversation about William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt.

But for the moment, let’s look at Cornel West, a former Harvard professor now seeking the nomination of the Green Party, a perfect example of a group that promotes liberal causes in a way that can help the least-liberal candidate win.

West is being assisted by Jill Stein, who was the Green Party nominee in 2016. When she won more votes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania than Donald Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in each state.

Just saying.

To summarize: People, if you’re bored with Joe Biden and believe that what this country really needs is a Democratic presidential nominee who seems to feel pandemic restrictions are nearly as dangerous as Nazis, go ahead and vote for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

It’s a free country, after all.

We’re electing idiots’: Liz Cheney on whether she would launch independent presidential bid!

Liz Cheney Says America Is 'Electing Idiots' | The View - YouTube

Dear Commons Community,

Former congresswoman Liz Cheney on Monday said the country faces major issues, spurred on by “a situation where we’re electing idiots.”

Asked by moderator David Rubenstein at an event at the 92nd Street Y here in New York whether she would launch a third-party presidential bid as an independent, if it would hurt former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, the former lawmaker answered. “The country right now faces hugely challenging and fundamentally important issues.”

“And what we’ve done in our politics is create a situation where we’re electing idiots,” she added, prompting applause from the audience. She added later “I think electing serious people can’t be partisan.”

Earlier in the conversation, Cheney said she wouldn’t run for president if she thought it would help Trump return to the White House.

“I really believe, and I’ve never believed something as strongly as I know this, that the single most important thing for the country is Donald Trump can’t be anywhere near the Oval Office again,” she said.

It’s not the first time in recent weeks that Cheney has criticized Trump, or her fellow Republicans. At a commencement speech last month, Cheney said “After the 2020 election and the attack of January 6th, my fellow Republicans wanted me to lie. They wanted me to say that the 2020 election was stolen, that the attack of January 6th wasn’t a big deal, and that Donald Trump wasn’t dangerous.”

“I had to choose between lying and losing my position in House leadership,” the former Republican lawmaker said.

Cheney served three terms in the House of Representatives, eventually rising to the No. 3 Republican leadership position in the lower chamber. She has been a vocal critic of the former president, and she was the vice chair of the now-dissolved House select committee investigating the Capitol attack.

Cheney last year lost a primary election to Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, who now represents Wyoming’s House district.

Cheney is a shining light in American politics.  I hope she is able to reclaim a position in our federal government!


Donald Trump threatens to boycott 2024 Republican debate because Fox News does not cover his campaign events!

Fox News vs. Donald Trump, Round 2: Chris Wallace on Megyn Kelly, Facing  Insults, and Asking Tough Questions

Dear Commons Community,

Donald Trump threatened on Monday to skip the first Republican debate, complaining that one of the sponsors, Fox News, has ignored his recent campaign events.

Fox did not broadcast Trump’s weekend speeches in Washington, D.C., and Michigan and “then wants me to show up and get them ratings for their ‘Presidential’ Debate, where I’m leading the field by 40 points,” Trump said on Truth Social.

“Sorry FoxNews, life doesn’t work that way!!!” the former president added.

Trump made his latest threat as a rising number of Republicans are trying to pressure him into participating in the debates. As reprotedd by USA Tiday

Reince Priebus, a former Trump White House Chief of Staff and Republican Party chairman, predicted on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump would eventually jump in, if only to respond to rivals like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“I think it’ll happen,” Priebus said, adding that the nation is in the midst of “middle finger politics … the world of Wrestlemania politics, the world where, you know, attention is what everyone is seeking in order to get support.”

Republicans opponents have also urged Trump to debate, saying he owes it to GOP primary voters.

Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, has been particularly vocal, saying the only reason Trump would refuse to debate is fear.

“If Trump doesn’t want to debate then he doesn’t want to be president,” Christie tweeted Monday.

Trump has long suggested he would avoid Republican debates, in part because of sponsoring organizations.

In recent years, Trump has attacked coverage on Fox News, which will supply questioners for the Milwaukee debate. Trump previously praised the network but now complains that they favor Republican rival Ron DeSantis.

The former president and 2024 Republican nomination frontrunner has also attacked officials with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, which is planning to host a Republican debate in September.

Poor Trump – Fox News does not love him anymore!


In a Major Win for Fair Elections – The U.S. Supreme Court rules against giving state legislatures unchecked control over federal elections!

Supreme Court searches for middle ground in North Carolina elections case

Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to impose new limits on state courts reviewing certain election-related issues by ruling against Republicans in North Carolina fighting for a congressional district map that would heavily favor their candidates.

The justices ruled in a 6-3 vote that the North Carolina Supreme Court was acting within its authority in concluding that the map constituted a partisan gerrymander under the state Constitution.

In doing so, the court declined to embrace a broad version of a hitherto obscure legal argument called the “independent state legislature” theory, which Republicans say limits the authority of state courts to strike down certain election laws enacted by state legislatures. Supporters of former President Donald Trump cited the theory in various cases during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath.

The ruling was widely welcomed by voting rights groups and Democrats who had been worried about the implications of a ruling that would curb state court power in 2024 and beyond.  As reported by NBC News.

“Today the Supreme Court rejected the fringe independent state legislature theory that threatened to upend our democracy and dismantle our system of checks and balances,” former President Barack Obama tweeted.

The independent state legislature argument hinges on language in the Elections Clause of the Constitution that says election rules “shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”

Supporters of the theory, which has never been endorsed by the Supreme Court, say the language supports the notion that, when it comes to federal election rules, legislatures have ultimate power under state law, potentially irrespective of potential constraints imposed by state constitutions.


Majority                                                                                                                     Dissenting

Roberts      Sotomayor      Kagan   Kavanaugh      Barrett        Jackson                  Thomas      Gorsuch        Alito

“State courts retain the authority to apply state constitutional restraints when legislatures act on the power conferred on them by the Elections Clause,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

He added, though, that state courts do not have “free rein” when there are conflicts with federal law. In those situations, federal courts can intervene, the court concluded.

“In interpreting state law in this area, state courts may not so exceed the bounds of ordinary judicial review as to unconstitutionally intrude upon the role specifically reserved to state legislatures,” Roberts said.

After the then-Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court in North Carolina issued the ruling last year, the court flipped to Republican control following November’s midterm elections and recently overturned the decision, a move that prompted questions about whether the justices even needed to decide the case.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by fellow conservatives Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Neil Gorsuch, said the case was moot as a result.

Thomas complained that the decision will lead to further confusion in lower courts that could give rise to more cases like the Supreme Court’s own Bush v. Gore ruling issued in 2000, which ultimately led to Republican George W. Bush taking office as president.

The court, Thomas said, “opens a new field for Bush-style controversies over state election law — and a far more uncertain one.”

Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh made it clear in a separate opinion that the court is likely to visit the scope of state court authority in a later case.

In Tuesday’s ruling, the court “recognized and articulated a general principle for federal court review of state court decisions in federal election cases,” he said.

“In the future, the court should and presumably will distill that general principle into a more specific standard,” he added.

The congressional map in North Carolina will be re-drawn ahead of the 2024 election anyway because of a state law provision that says interim maps can be used for only one election cycle. As a result of the North Carolina Supreme Court’s most recent ruling, that map is likely to tilt heavily toward Republicans.

A Supreme Court ruling that embraced the theory would have affected not only redistricting disputes, but also other election-related rules about issues like mail-in voting and voter access to the polls that legislatures might seek to enact even when state courts have held that those rules violate state constitutions. The theory could also bring into question the power of governors to veto legislation.

Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist embraced a version of the theory in 2000 in Bush v. Gore. During December’s oral argument, several justices cited Rehnquist’s opinion, which did not secure a majority at the time, in support of the notion that there should be some constraints on the scope of state officials, including judges, to make changes to election laws enacted by legislatures that are not anchored in law.

The North Carolina case was being closely watched for its potential impact on next year’s presidential election.

“The Supreme Court took an important and crucial step today in protecting our system of checks and balances,” said Hilary Harris Klein, a lawyer at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which challenged the Republican-drawn maps in North Carolina.

“Today’s decision will ensure that voters will continue to have the full protection of state constitutions against harmful and anti-democratic voter suppression and election manipulation,” she added.

Eric Holder, who served as attorney general in the Obama administration and now backs Democratic redistricting efforts, said the ruling “preserved the vital role state courts play in protecting free elections and fair maps for the American people.”

But Jason Torchinsky, a Republican lawyer who works on elections litigation, said the court “made clear that state Supreme Courts cannot become supreme legislatures,” and predicted more cases on the issue.

Republicans led by Tim Moore, the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, invoked the theory after the state Supreme Court struck down the congressional district map in February of last year.

The state court ruled then that the 14 congressional districts — which Republicans drew to maximize the influence of GOP voters in a state strongly contested by both main parties — were “unlawful partisan gerrymanders.” The court’s then-liberal majority said the maps violated various state constitutional provisions, one of which requires that “all elections be free.”

Voting rights advocates and Democratic voters had turned to the state court after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that partisan gerrymandering claims could not be heard in federal court, but left open the possibility that state courts could address the issue.

Moore and other Republicans immediately asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the maps, saying the state court had overstepped its authority. The high court agreed to take up the case, but it left in place a replacement map used for last year’s midterm elections. Democrats and Republicans each won seven seats.

The Supreme Court in 2020 refused to intervene in the various election-related cases that raised the theory, but during the litigation four conservative justices indicated some support for it, giving its supporters hope that they might be a majority willing to embrace it.

There are several versions of the argument, some of which would merely limit the authority of state courts in certain circumstances and others that would go further in giving state legislatures virtually unchecked authority.

Those backing the theory in briefs filed at the court included John Eastman, the lawyer involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election who argued that then-Vice President Mike Pence could block the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021.

Various conservative groups that push for greater restrictions on voting and claim that voter fraud is a major issue have also backed the theory.

Democrats and voting rights activists issued stark warnings about the potential impact of the case in light of the attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, although many high-profile GOP candidates who denied or questioned Biden’s victory lost in last year’s midterm elections.

This decision is a win for democracy!


New Book – “Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature” by Sarah Hart!

The cream-colored cover of Sarah Hart’s “Once Upon a Prime” features a three-dimensional paper sculpture, in yellow and green, consisting of writing interspersed with mathematical formulas. The text is black. Dear Commons Community,

I have just finished reading Once Upon a Prime – The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart, professor of mathematics at Birbeck, University of London. She is also the thirty-third Gresham Professor of Geometry, the first woman to hold the position since its inception in 1597.  Once Upon a Prime… shows us the myriad ways in which mathematics and literature are connected.  She uses Herman Melville, George, Eliot, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sofya Kovalevskaya and other literary luminaries to present her case.     I found the examples thought-provoking.  For some of her examples, be prepared to get into the math weeds a bit.  Below is a review that appeared in the New York Times Book Review.

Interesting, fun book!.



The New York Times Book Review

Mathletes and Poets: Allies at Last!

By Jordan Ellenberg

April 11, 2023

ONCE UPON A PRIME: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature, by Sarah Hart

C.P. Snow opens a famed 1959 essay, “The Two Cultures,” with an anecdote about a dinner at Cambridge, during which a visiting historian attempted to make conversation with the men on either side of him, only to be met with bemused grunts. The scholar’s host quickly set him at ease, explaining, “Oh, those are mathematicians! We never talk to them.”

The gap between Snow’s “two cultures” — that of humanists and that of scientists — is no narrower (and no less grunty) in 2023. And mathematicians are often understood to sit on the far end of this divide, somewhere in an abstract realm, without even relatable atom-smashers or charismatic megafauna to chat about with their humanistic peers.

Not so, says Sarah Hart, in her wide-ranging and thoroughly winning “Once Upon a Prime.” Hart couldn’t be better placed to revisit the relationship between mathematical and literary study. She’s an accomplished group theorist at the University of London and the current Gresham professor of geometry, a position so old that its first occupant invented long division, and whose mission has always involved mathematical outreach to the general public — history dons included.

Hart’s argument is that mathematics, far from being in tension with the literary, is bound up with it and always has been. The evidence comes in two flavors: First, Hart finds mathematical influence in literature itself. She unfolds the permutational structure that governs poetic forms like sestinas (explaining along the way why you could have a poem that worked like a sestina with three rotating end words instead of six, but not with four). And she finds mathematical infrastructure underlying contemporary novels like Amor Towles’s “A Gentleman in Moscow” and Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries,” both of which, it turns out, are built on sequences of powers of two.

We also meet the French experimentalists of the Oulipo school, who among other things like to write novels without the vowel e (or, more challengingly, with only the vowel e), and still lesser-known writers who stretch their books even more forcefully onto a mathematical frame. I cannot say I’m eager to read the novel “Mobius the Stripper,” but I’m glad to know it exists. Hart’s excavation of the hidden patterns in these books allows her to teach a little math along the way — some spinach with the dessert, perhaps, but the exposition is well done and the unusual context renders it fresh.

Most novels aren’t built on a mathematical chassis, but Hart rolls out a surprisingly vast array of writers who had a taste for the discipline, and who depict math or mathematicians in their books. George Eliot’s novels are full of such incident, and in her own letters we see her turning that way for solace when life presents difficulties: “I take walks, play on the piano, read Voltaire, talk to my friends, and just take a dose of mathematics every day.” This matter-of-fact list — Voltaire, friends and math all together without a hint of incongruity — is a good reminder that the gulf between “two cultures” isn’t the way things have to be.

Hart hits some of the expected favorites, like “Flatland,” “Life of Pi” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” but also novelties: I didn’t know Edgar Allan Poe and O. Henry both wrote cryptography stories, nor that Ford Madox Ford and Joseph Conrad wrote a joint novel, “The Inheritors,” about an invasion of Earth by entities from the fourth dimension. These Dimensionists are described as “a race clear-sighted, eminently practical, incredible; with no ideals, prejudices, or remorse; with no feeling for art and no reverence for life; free from any ethical tradition; callous to pain, weakness, suffering and death.” This could almost be a contemporary expression of anxiety about artificial intelligence.

Or it could be a somewhat amped-up rendition of stereotypes about mathematicians. Hart is biting and funny in her critique of this too-common literary depiction of the mathematical mind: “the beguiling fantasy that scientists, and especially mathematicians, are driven by pure reason, that cleverness can get you out of any fix, and that everything can finally make sense if you can just ramify the ninth-dimensional asymptotes over a tangential vector field. Sadly, you can’t, first, because life isn’t like that, and second, because I’ve just made up all those phrases, so they are meaningless.”


That, in the end, is Hart’s message: that here in the third dimension, people are pretty much alike, and strive for beauty and meaning in similar ways whether they’re finding those things in words or sounds or equations. David Foster Wallace, who started out in the mathiest precincts of analytic philosophy, called this phenomenon “the click,” and said: “It was real lucky that just when I stopped being able to get the click from math logic I started to be able to get it from fiction.” Karl Weierstrass, in an 1883 letter to his student Sofya Kovalevskaya, wrote: “A mathematician who is not somewhat of a poet, will never be a complete mathematician.” (Though there’s of course the question of who gets to be considered a poet — I’ve seen this line referenced many times, but not until I was preparing this review did I learn that the quote cuts off the part of the sentence specifying that the problematically nonpoetic mathematicians were especially to be found among “those from the semitic tribe.”)

Kovalevskaya herself is perhaps the most powerful figure in Hart’s book, appearing triply: as a notable mathematician, as a literary character (in Alice Munro’s story “Too Much Happiness”) and as a novelist, the author of “Nihilist Girl.” Asked how she could reconcile her literary and mathematical interests, Kovalevskaya responded: “Many people who have never had occasion to learn what mathematics is confuse it with arithmetic and consider it a dry and arid science. In actual fact it is the science which demands the utmost imagination.” The mistake Kovalevskaya warns against remains a very common one. Readers of Hart’s book won’t make it again.


Welcome  Anthony Fauci to Academia – Professor at Georgetown!

Dr. Anthony Fauci joins Georgetown University as 'distinguished' professor

Dear Commons Community,

Dr. Anthony Fauci is joining the faculty at Georgetown University in his first position after a decades-long government career that included a leading role during the Covid pandemic.

Starting next week, Fauci will be a professor at the school of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. He will also work in the McCourt School of Public Policy. As reported by NBC News.

“I am delighted to join the Georgetown family, an institution steeped in clinical and academic excellence with an emphasis on the Jesuit tradition of public service,” Fauci said in a statement Monday. “This is a natural extension of my scientific, clinical and public health career, which was initially grounded from my high school and college days where I was exposed to intellectual rigor, integrity and service-mindedness of Jesuit institutions.”

Fauci served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from 1984 to 2022. He was also chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.

Fauci was a top researcher focusing on infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, Ebola and Zika. He quickly became a household name in March 2020 during the rapid spread of Covid-19.

But he was also a frequent target of conservatives who were critical of his Covid safety recommendations. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a GOP presidential candidate, this month referred to a “Faucian dystopia” when describing aspects of the pandemic, while former President Donald Trump, has called Fauci a “disaster.”

When announcing in August 2022 that he would be leaving the federal government, Fauci did not specify any next steps, though he said he was not retiring.

“I want to use what I have learned as NIAID Director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats,” Fauci said in an Aug. 22 statement.

Fauci, who received his undergraduate degree from the College of the Holy Cross, has several personal connections to Georgetown University. He and his wife, Christine Grady, were married in Georgetown’s Dahlgren Chapel, and Grady earned her undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees at Georgetown. Additionally, their three daughters were born at Georgetown Hospital.

“I ask myself, now, at this stage in my life, what do I have to offer to society?” Fauci said in a Q&A accompanying Georgetown’s news release on Monday. “Sure, I could do more experiments in the lab and have my lab going, but given what I’ve been through, I think what I have to offer is experience and inspiration to the younger generation of students. If I accomplish that, I think I’ll make a major contribution to Georgetown.”

Welcome to the academia and thank you again for saving so many of us during COVID!


Maureen Dowd: Save Turner Classic Movies!

How a brand refresh is helping TCM's quest to keep classic film relevant |

Dear Commons Community,

Maureen Dowd’s column yesterday entitled, “Save Turner Classic Movies”, is right on when it comes to the importance of TCM for both therapeutic and entertainment value.  Here is an except of what she had to say.

“I have never had a stylist, interior decorator, life coach or psychiatrist. I have used TCM for all that, and it has gotten me through bouts of sickness, stress, mourning and insomnia. Studying the channel’s film noir femmes fatales taught me that women could be tough and play the game better than any man. Watching screwball comedies taught me the value of a zany streak.

So naturally, when news broke this past week that Warner Bros. Discovery had jettisoned the top five executives at TCM and the specter was raised that the channel might be in jeopardy, I was distraught.

TCM is more than a cable channel. It’s a public good, like libraries or the Smithsonian. It enshrines our cinematic past. Anyone in power in Hollywood should feel it is a matter of honor to protect this legacy.

I knew that David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery, loved TCM and watched it all day long in his office and on weekend mornings. He had texted me while watching “Annie Hall” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”

He tried to reassure jittery Hollywood titans who, like me, believe TCM is part of their identity; he had a Zoom meeting with Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson on Wednesday.

“We need TCM as a singular source of inspiration and history that is accessible to everyone,” Spielberg told me later.

I called Zaslav on Friday, too, just to make sure my femmes fatales weren’t getting taken away.


“Let me start with this,” he said. “This is my favorite channel. I think it’s critically important. It’s like a trust. It tells you where America was and where America’s going. It defines how people see this country. This is a beautiful living history.”

We can learn everything from how Cary Grant gets dressed for a date, he said, to why it’s better to be the white hat in a western than the black hat. (I learned that when my older brother showed me “Shane.”)

Zaslav said he was keeping Ben Mankiewicz and the other TCM hosts and wanted to spend more money on the channel and market it better. He has a vision of people like Spielberg, Scorsese, Anderson and Guillermo del Toro getting involved in programming and curating, and he would love to see actors like George Clooney talking about the movies that inspired them.

“I think it could be bigger and more powerful with more reach,” Zaslav said. “This is going to be a magical thing.”

I’ll be watching.”

I will be watching also.  TCM is the best thing on television.



Video: Chris Christie Slams Trump’s ‘Absurd’ New Claim That He Is Being Indicted for You!

Chris Christie Can Redeem Himself by Hitting Trump Hard

Dear Commons Community,

 Chris Christie slammed Donald Trump after he told a D.C. crowd he was “indicted for” them.

Christie, who is facing off against Trump to become the 2024 GOP presidential nominee, took aim at the former president after he defined an indictment from “radical left Democrats” as a “great badge of courage” at a Faith & Freedom Coalition conference over the weekend.

“I’m being indicted for you. And I believe the ‘you’ is more than 200 million people that love our country. They’re out there and they love our country,” said Trump before the crowd cheered him on.

Christie, who endorsed Trump’s 2016 campaign and was a Trump ally before the Capitol riot, slammed the remarks during an appearance (see video below) on ABC’s “This Week.”

“He had the audacity to say that he got indicted for us. Now I don’t know how it benefited the American people for him to take highly sensitive intelligence and secret documents out of the White House to stonewall the government on returning them for over a year and a half to subject himself to a raid by the FBI even though they had asked him voluntarily to return this stuff,” Christie said.

“And, to then be subject to an indictment which is obviously going to be one of great trouble for the country because no one wants to see this happen. Donald Trump says that’s for us? It’s absurd.”

Absurd indeed!