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January 26, 2012 5:22 PM Yale and the Freemason Sea Monster Connection

By Daniel Luzer

1880sVisionoftheFuture

Academics often complain about the way colleges are run today. In an effort to cut costs higher education increasingly relies on adjunct faculty and teacher assistants to instruct undergraduates. This causes all sorts of trouble in the job market for professors but, as far as actual undergraduate education is concerned, it’s hard to get angry about this. They are mostly graduate students at the university, after all. Surely they know what they’re doing.

Well not always. According to an article by J.K Trotter at Ivy Gate:

Around noon on Wednesday, the Assistant Dean of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences removed a fifth-year comparative literature graduate student named Margherita Viggiano from her teaching duties in Professor Alexander Nemerov’s… art history course. Apparently Viggiano wasn’t getting along with other teaching fellows, whom Viggiano told in an email on Monday that she “[has] been mobbed and discriminated against in spite of the paradoxical fact that [she] was the only critic to share the artists’ inner frame of reference: Catholicism.”
In response, Viggiano fired off several essay-length emails in which she calls Edward Barnaby, the Assistant Dean and English professor, a “corrupted hypocrite”; “the opposite of professionalism”; “an accomplice of academic dishonesty”; and accuses Barnaby of discriminating against her for being a Catholic woman. (Among many, many other things.)

Perhaps. It seem more likely, however, that Barnaby was concerned because Viggiano did things like distributing a PDF to her students that explains an elaborate Yale plot to corrupt students (or something). As Trotter put it, Viggiano apparently believes that Yale is,

colluding with a clandestine network of Freemasons; arranging art with “satanic symbolism” in order to corrupt undergraduate students; organizing slander against various individuals; and being, in Viggiano’s wording, “a new Leviathan, the New-England sea-monster.”

Here’s the handout, ostensibly about the James Jackson Jarves Collection of Old Masters paintings that Yale owns, that the teaching assistant distributed to students.

This is not, by the way, the average slapdash, rambling, conspiracy theory. This is quite intricate, 22-page explanation of this bizarro Yale of Viggiano’s imagination. It has illustrations. And footnotes.

“I really just can’t believe that they would let this girl teach students!” one Yale student told Trotter. “Hell, I can’t believe that she was accepted as a student herself!” [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • troglodyte on January 27, 2012 10:05 AM:

    The absence of paragraphs in Viggiano's screed is the most obvious indicator of monomania. Although the entire handout is 22 pages, only the first few are composed by Viggiano, the rest are snippets of other works pasted in for background. In a graduate school application, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish innovative creativity from madness. Because true madness is rare among applicants, universities usually take the chance, and cull the students in the first year or two.