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University on Watch: Crisis in the Academy


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University on Watch is an enthralling, heart-breaking, and enlightening student biography. A must-read for college administrators & faculty.

As a retired college faculty member and administrator, I find myself having to distinguish my reaction to the actions of J. Peters and the ways he finds the English Department at the fictional New Liberty University at fault for not intervening in his mental illness from my actual review of the narrative.

At its heart, this book is an autobiography written under a pen name, even though the author classified it as a "psychological thriller" when putting it up for review. (The book is listed as autobiography in the sales listings). The use of a pen name makes sense here, as the author often distinguishes between J. Peters, the person he was during his break, and his "healed" self. J. Peters tells his story of deciding to apply for doctoral studies at the school where he has yet to complete a bachelor's degree and the downward spiral he experienced as he becomes delusional and has a schizophrenic break. The irony, though, is that Peters always thinks he knows best, even as he seeks validation through entry into the graduate program. For instance, before being barred from courses in the department (and from entering the office), he takes a class with the chair and describes how at every turn he challenges and contradicts the professor during lectures, as well as how he rallies his friends as his "doctoral guard" spending thousands of dollars designing uniforms for them.

If Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces found himself brought to life and dropped in an undergraduate program in New York, his narrative might read like that of J. Peters'. The antics and voice of the narrator here certainly bring Ignatius Reilly to mind.

While there are many spots where Peters realizes his view of the events between the denial of admission to the doctoral program in English and his release from the state mental hospital was distorted and delusional, even at the end the narrator still views the English department at fault for those events. Simply put, though, it isn't the job of English faculty or administration to diagnose students or determine when something more than entitlement is at play when students act out. The book can be a great help, however, in displaying instances where student counseling referrals are warranted.

Reviewed by

Angelic Rodgers lives in the Little Rock area with her wife, two unruly cats, and two codependent dogs. She is currently working on her sixth novel. You can keep up with her at

One Last Toast with My Friends

About the author

Bold 10 Under 10 award recipient Max E. Guttman ’08, MSW ’12. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), therapist, and disability rights advocate, J. fights for those without a voice in various systems of care. view profile

Published on December 20, 2020

30000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Psychological Thriller

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