When Jay Keyser arrived at MIT in 1977 to head theDepartment of Linguistics and Philosophy, he writes, he "felt like a fishthat had been introduced to water for the first time." At MIT, acolleague grabbed him by the lapels to discuss dark matter; Noam Chomsky calledhim "boss" (double SOB spelled backward?); and engaging in conflictresolution made him feel like "a marriage counselor trying to reconcile aunion between a Jehovah's witness and a vampire."In Mens et Mania, Keyserrecounts his academic and administrative adventures during a career of morethan thirty years. Keyserdescribes the administrative side of his MIT life, not only as department headbut also as Associate Provost and Special Assistant to the Chancellor. Keyserhad to run a department ("budgets were like horoscopes") andnegotiate student grievances -- from thelegality of showing Deep Throat in a dormitory to theuproar caused by the arrests of students for antiapartheid demonstrations.Keyser also describes a visiting Japanese delegation horrified by the disrepairof the linguistics department offices (Chomsky tells them "Our motto is:Physically shabby. Intellectually first class."); convincing a studentnot to jump off the roof of the Green Building; and recent attempts to look atMIT through a corporate lens. And he explains the special faculty-student bondat MIT: the faculty sees the students as themselves thirty years earlier. Keyser observes that MIT is hard toget into and even harder to leave, for faculty as well as for students. Writingabout retirement, Keyser quotes the song Groucho Marx sang in AnimalCrackers as he was leaving a party -- "Hello, I mustbe going." Students famously say "Tech is hell." Keyser says,"It's been a helluva party." This entertaining andthought-provoking memoir will make readers glad that Keyser hasn't quiteleft.
Subjects: History, Education
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