US News to Add Female Leg, Armpit Hair to College Rankings

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Responding to criticism from elite institutions of higher learning, U.S. News & World Report today announced that it would include female leg and armpit hair as a factor in its annual ranking of the best American colleges.

“We have been rightfully chastised for focusing on trivial measures such as the number of books in a school’s library and student-faculty ratio,” said Robert Flanigan, managing editor of the newsweekly that has turned its ratings of colleges into a profitable sideline.  “You should probably know what the word ‘chastise’ means if you want to get into a good school,” he added.

“We’re #1!”


The decision placated faculty at several colleges that had refused to participate in the survey because of its focus on raw data over subjective indicators.  “There is no more accurate sign of a school’s academic rigor than the unwillingness of its female students to shave their legs and armpits,” said JoEllen Murada, First Deputy Assistant Vice Provost-Elect of Stanford University.  “After all, what does ‘placate’ mean?” she asked rhetorically; “(a) to soothe or mollify, (b) to remove scales from an object, such as a fish, or (c) an almond-flavored custard.”

“Anita, there’s either a mouse in your dress shield or you forgot to shave your pits.”


Mary Ellen Robinson, head of the American Association of University Women, said she was bemused by the magazine’s decision.  “Why isn’t there a comparable index for male students?” she asked, adding “‘bemused’ means I’m confused, not laughing.”

Flanigan responded that U.S. News would welcome input from female faculty and administrators but that standards applicable to one sex did not necessarily produce useful information when applied to the other.  “Poor hygiene in males appears to be independent of I.Q.,” he noted.  “If that’s one of your criteria, Harvard would be full of Bruins fans.”

Rush committee, I Felta Thi sorority


Schools where sororities are a prominent feature of campus life were caught off guard by the decision, and student leaders vowed to assist in the recruitment of women who could boost their colleges’ academic standing.  “I’m going to go out and beat the bushes to find some groaty girls to bring our average up,” said Cyndi Lynn Anthony, a Chi Omega at the University of Missouri.  “Just as soon as I finish plucking my eyebrows.”

From a Student of the 70s to a Student of the Teens

This week many Americans will drop sons and daughters off for their freshman year of college.  The partings will be emotional; tearful mothers and fathers, sons and daughters fighting back outward signs of impatience as they whine inwardly “When are they ever going to LEAVE?”

In the final few moments as moms and dads hug their children for the last time until parents’ weekend a month from now, they will frequently be too choked up to communicate the wisdom they accumulated as college students many years ago.  It is for this reason that I take to the internet waves at this time of year to pass on lessons I learned at great cost, but which I offer to readers without charge.  And they’re worth every penny of it.

Such as, if you take the same course twice taught by a different professor each time, you will probably get a better grade the second time.  Seriously.  It helps your GPA.

“You got into Northwestern?  But this is Boston!”


But there is more to life than the spiritual and intellectual aspects of our existence.  There are also the mundane physical remnants of my college days, which I have lovingly preserved since that day in 1969 when I matriculated all over my college campus because the bathrooms weren’t ready yet.  Here are a few of the artifacts that I have available to bequeath to impressionable college freshman.


This thing is like wicked fast.

Smith-Corona Manual Typewriter:  A lot of kids aren’t ready for an electric model yet.  I know too many young men and women who have taken a high-powered electric typewriter out for a spin on a Saturday night after a long week of classes only to crash into a carrel at the library, killing paperback copies of The Importance of Being Earnest and Plato’s Republic.  Which are available in Books-on-Tape format, by the way.


Frye boots.  Everybody will be wearing these when you get to school.  Seriously.  I mean, everybody who was anybody wore them in the fall of 1969.  I didn’t, but that’s neither here nor there, as your Intro to Philosophy professor will soon say when you hold up your hand and say “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion.”

You’re not listening, are you?


8-Track, multi-LP stereo system.  This is a somewhat delicate subject.  Your parents understand that dormitories are now “co-ed,” and when your roommate is out of town for the Interscholastic Parcheesi Sectional Tournament you will have the place all to yourself for several days.  When that happens, you can stack up to four LP’s on the spindle of this baby, and let nature take its course.  When the last one drops and you’ve heard Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels sing “Devil With the Blue Dress On” forty-two times in succession, it’s time to go to class.

Poco, Steve Miller Band, MC5.

My albums.  I can’t tell you how cool my album collection is.  Was.  Back when.  As a matter of fact, I have albums by groups you’ve never even heard of.  Like “Poco,” which was a spin-off from, uh, The Buffalo Springfield.  I think.  What do you mean, are they available in MP3 format?  Do you mean the MC5–like “Kick Out the Jams”?


Husserl/Heidegger/Nietzsche: Gesundheit.

I’m giving you my well-thumbed copies of Thus Spake Zarathustra (Nietzsche), Being and Time (Heidegger), and Experience and Judgment (Husserl) with this admonition: If it sounds like a sneeze, don’t take the course.

With College Spaces Tight, Some Women Turn to Roller Derby

CROTON-ON-HUDSON, New York.  Caitlin Morgan has dreamed about attending Wellesley College, her mother’s alma mater, almost as long as she can remember.

Wellesley College

“Mom took me there when I was a little girl, and I just fell in love with the place,” says the high school junior as she enters the storefront office of an SAT test-preparation company in this tony Westchester County suburb.


But Caitlin’s dream may fall victim to the iron laws of demographics.  Female students from the high school class of 2012 will account for 57% of all college applications this year, and the odds of getting into the more prestigious liberal arts colleges have accordingly never been longer.

“C’mon guys–put down your syringes and join the fun!”

So what is Caitlin doing about it?  In addition to cramming her schedule full of community service projects such as teaching synchronized swimming to heroin addicts, she is trying a new sport, one she hopes will give her an edge when admissions committees review her file–roller derby.

 “So many girls from the better prep schools have field hockey and lacrosse on their resumes,” says Caitlin’s mother Linda, an investment banker with a charm bracelet that could hold a small Texas chain gang.  “We wanted something that would make our daughter stand out.”

Long derided as the distaff equivalent of professional wrestling, roller derby is increasingly being adopted by young women who need a “plus factor” to get into their school of choice.  Yan-Lan Lian is the overachieving daughter of immigrant parents who has already performed a solo concert at Carnegie Hall, discovered a cure for psoriasis and won the national Spelling Bee, but she feels there is a gap in her resume that only roller derby can fill.


“It is a fun game, if you don’t mind the stitches,” she says of the scars she bears on her forehead and cheeks.  “I feel a pretty face is less important to the Dean of Admissions at Stanford than a diverse background with a variety of interests.”

Caitlin and Yan-Lan compete weekly in the tough College Prep Roller Derby League here where the minimum SAT score is 750 verbal, 700 math.  “When the jam is on, I want to know that my teammates could perform a quadratic equation on me if go flying over the rail,” says Morgan, who plays for the Westchester County Witches.

As a “jammer”, Morgan scores a point for the Witches each time she passes a member of the opposing team.  Lian is a “blocker” for the Croton Cramp, and tries to prevent jammers from passing by throwing elbows and hip-checking her opponents onto the track or into the rail.

Admissions officers at top schools say that the competition for a limited number of slots at their schools can be vicious, and that parents are justified in seeking that extra “edge.”  “Frankly, I don’t think an Emily Dickinson would get into Mt. Holyoke these days unless she had something besides ‘How dreary to be Somebody, How public like a Frog!’ on her transcript,” says Elinor Walton, Dean of Admissions at the top-ranked women’s college in western Massachusetts.  “I think we’d wait-list her and tell her to spend a year arm-wrestling or candlepin bowling to round herself out a little.”

For Caitlin Morgan, roller derby adds up to good clean fun and a standout resume, says her mother, even if it means putting thousands of dollars of orthodonture at risk.  “We can always buy Caitlin new teeth,” she says, “but getting into the right college is something you only get one shot at.”

“Inward Bound” Teaches Rural Kids Suburban Ropes

GREEN RIDGE, Missouri.  Brooke Bennett grew up in this tiny but busy farming hamlet nestled among fields of sorghum, lespedeza and timothy, which boasts not one but two full-time village idiots.  “It was great to be a kid here,” she says of a childhood spent milking cows and raising calves for auction at her 4-H Club, “but it’s time for me to move on.”

Lespedeza: Not available at a grocery store near you.

Brooke is valedictorian of her class and has been accepted at Wellesley College in suburban Wellesley, Massachusetts.  Before she arrives on campus, however, she and other “GRTS,” an acronym that stands for “General Rural Talent Search,” will spend a week at Inward Bound, a rural-to-suburban “boot camp” that teaches them how to survive in an upscale suburb.

“You think I should have ordered the Double Choco-Mocha instead of the Strawbanna Smoothie?”

“These kids know nothing but fresh air and small-town values like thrift and hard-work,” says Inward Bound camp counselor Meghan Fritz, who herself came from a small town to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.  “We teach them how to survive in the jungle of a suburban shopping mall.”

“I don’t know how I ever lived without a Push-Up Bra!”

Inward Bound is modelled after Outward Bound, the program that develops self-esteem in troubled youth by plunking them down in wilderness settings and teaching them how to survive on minimal food, tools and guidance from adults.  Inward Bound drops off groups of four girls with nothing but a cell phone, a credit card, and a copy of Teen Girl Power magazine (this month’s feature: “Are You a Hannah or a Miley Girl?) at a multi-level shopping mall, and forces them to survive a harrowing weekend of mulish adolescent boys and catty remarks from other, more sophisticated girls.

“Since there was only two of us in my senior class, we flipped a coin to see who’d be valedictorian.”

“I was like really scared at first,” says Melinda Fallows, a native of Hoxie, Arkansas, who will attend Georgetown University in the fall.  “All we had to eat was chewing gum and Starbucks Frappucinos, and we couldn’t buy anything on sale unless we spent our own money.”  Melinda emerged from the experience a more self-confident young woman, says her mother Tina.  “Before Inward Bound she dressed like she was President of the National Honor Society, which she was,” Tina says.  “Once she maxxed out her credit card she looked like a cross between a professor of women’s studies and a pole dancer.”

College Presidents Support Lower Drinking Age, Wet T-Shirt Contests

DURHAM, North Carolina.  A group of 100 presidents of some of the America’s best-known colleges today urged lawmakers nationwide to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying many bodacious coeds are not able to drink legally until the fall of their senior year.

We came, we saw, we partied!

“The laws against underage drinking are routinely evaded,” said John “Mad Dog” La Cava, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont.  “We should make it more like wet t-shirt contests, which are legal at any age.”

The group of college presidents has adopted the name “The Amethyst Initiative” after the purple gemstone that was widely used in drinking vessels in ancient Greece.  “As with any academic endeavor, it is important to adopt a high-flown name,” says John Masterson, a Duke University provost, whatever that is.  “If your group sounds very erudite it provides cover for the Jagermeister Shot-Drinking contests that are your real raison d’etre.”

“Dude, your college president is like totally awesome!”

Students say setting the legal drinking age at 21 is a hypocritical, hidebound relic of America’s Puritanical past.  “I would say making me wait until I’m 21 to drink is a travesty of an abortion of a miscarriage of justice,” said 18 year-old University of Kentucky freshman Kevin Cullen as he popped the top on a cold, frosty 12-ounce can of Bud Light.  “If I can serve in the military at 18–which I’m not about to–I should be able to drink at the same age.”

“Hey, Dean–bring me another beer!”

Critics see the potential for abuse in exposing young women to both alcohol and English professors in their freshman year, when many can be expected to succumb to the seduction of poetry under the influence of alcohol.  “It’s easy to resist Andrew Marvel’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ when you’re sober,” says teen counselor Margo Studan.  “Once you start sucking down the Boone’s Farm, there’s no telling what will happen.”