Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category

Former Taliban Officals for Obama

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

This is one of those stories that sounds all sensational at first, then descends into meaninglessness when you really look at it:

Here’s an odd tidbit from the Facebook data stream, via a friend who is Facebook “friends” with Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, the former roving Taliban Ambassador now studying at Yale.

Rahmatullah was, until recently, a member of the university’s Facebook group for Obama supporters; he left the group November 19.

“I had no political intentions when joining the group; and I left it because some friends objected to my being in the group,” Rahmatullah wrote me in response to a message sent through Facebook. He said he had joined because a Facebook friend invited him.

It means nothing of course (other than it admittedly is funny), but the usual suspects are on it.

As a sidenote, it appears Rahmatullah’s politics have evolved. He’s also a member of the Facebook group “Jews and Muslims at Yale.” He is also a member of “I scored higher in my SAT than George W. Bush,” though I doubt the validity of that claim.

Ahmadinejad, Worldwide Laughingstock

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

I was among those who opposed Columbia University’s decision to invite Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus, but after watching it unfold, I am revising my position. Columbia president Lee Bolinger’s introduction was classic and may just earn him a few fatwas. The questions were also good, and only confirmed what most of us already knew: Ahmadinejad is a colossal nutcase worthy of ridicule and derision. My personal favorite moment of the whole event was this:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/4_3RUwAJ_MI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The Iranian people are seeing this, and it can’t be improving their already low perceptions of their thug-in-chief. The decision to invite him was certainly a questionable but, having been made, I don’t think it could have been handled any better than it was.

Who Reads Blogs?

Monday, July 9th, 2007

I attempt to answer that question in my Master’s thesis, Who Reads Blogs: An Examination of Blog Readers. It isn’t exactly bathroom reading, but it is an attempt to better understand people who read blogs. Who knows; some of you might even enjoy reading it :-)

UPDATE: This post is taking part in the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Blog Survey

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Barb Kaye of the University of Tennessee College of Communications is conducting an online survey of blog readers. I encourage everyone to participate. Via Glenn Reynolds.

Academic Double Standards

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

The University of Tennessee has concluded that professor George White was not discriminated against in his denial of tenure:

The University of Tennessee released a report today finding no conclusive evidence of discrimination in the denial of tenure for faculty member George White.

White, a black assistant professor of history and Africana studies, sued UT this week after a battle over whether UT holds black and white faculty to the same standards and whether White was the victim of retaliation and discrimination.

I haven’t studied the situation, but I frankly doubt that race was a factor in the White case. I’d say some of his highly questionable activities (like having a military deserter speak to his class) and his controversial teaching style played a role.

While an undergrad at UT, I had a wonderful professor in the political science department. She taught International Political Economy with passion and a strong understanding of the subject. But she too was denied tenure, due to lack of publishing I was told (though I also heard that her publishing requirements were increased arbitrarily; I don’t know if that’s true). Yet her denial of tenure didn’t make headlines or cause any great uproar. Why do you think that was? My guess is because she was white.

I’m not saying that white people are routinely oppressed or discriminated against. But I am saying that all this outrage over George White is due more to his race than his academic record. Denial of tenure happens all the time, and most of the time no one other than the person denied cares very much. White’s supporters are very selective in who they support.

Blog Explosion Halts

Friday, April 27th, 2007

You know how we’ve been hearing about the rapid expansion of the blogosphere? Well, it appears it might have come to an end:

The number of active blogs tracked by Technorati has stalled at about 15 million. Now that’s still a remarkable number, even before one adds in quasi-blogs, such as pages on social network sites such as Myspace. But, compared with the conventional wisdom — that every human, and household pet, will eventually have a blog — the reality is sobering.

My theory? There is a limit to how much the blogosphere will actually grow. Oh sure, in theory, everyone could have their own blog, but in reality this will never happen. Not everyone, indeed, not even a majority of people care enough to start their other blogs. Others will start a blog, but quickly abandon it. Thus, it stands to reason that at some point, the blogosphere will reacha peak and stabilize in numbers.

Yet, 15 million is still an amazing number. Lack of growth doesn’t mean an end in influence. It simply means that those who do blog will likely be more committed to it. Even if the growth halts, there are enough blogs out there than anyone can find his or own niche. And, if not, he or she can still create his own.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

True Heroes

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

They can still be found:

“I just remember looking back and seeing him at the door,” the Virginia Tech senior recalled of her professor. “I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for him.”

By Tuesday morning, newspapers from Washington, D.C., to Jerusalem shared the story of how Librescu — a 76 year-old Holocaust survivor — blocked his classroom doorway from a gunman while his students leapt to freedom.

“It wouldn’t amaze me he would do such a thing,” fellow engineering professor Muhammad Hajj said. “He’s that kind of person, willing to take care of others, protect others.”

Who to Blame

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Michael Barone has an excellent column on the “blame America first crowd.” Money quote:

Where does this default assumption come from? And why is it so prevalent among our affluent educated class (which, after all, would seem to overlap considerably with the people being complained about?). It comes, I think, from our schools and, especially, from our colleges and universities. The first are staffed by liberals long accustomed to see America as full of problems needing solving; the latter have been packed full of the people cultural critic Roger Kimball calls “tenured radicals,” people who see this country and its people as the source of all evil in the world.

On campuses, students are bombarded with denunciations of dead white males and urged to engage in the deconstruction of all past learning and scholarship.

Read the entire column.

Indoctrinate U

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Evan Coyne Maloney has posted a trailer for his documentary on politics in academia. Evan and his partner, Stuart Browning, came to UT shortly after the controversy involving the UT Issues Committee and Sukhmani Singh Khalsa to gather information, interviewing myself and several friends. I look forward to their latest documentary.

Those Leftist Professors

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Cathy Young has an interesting and balanced look at the impact of an overwhelmingly liberal academic world. She concludes:

If a student doesn’t subscribe to the campus orthodoxy, the likely effect is not to convert her but to alienate her from intellectual life. Others learn only about a narrow range of ideas. One woman, a Ph.D. student in the social sciences at a Midwestern university, told me recently that when she started reading conservative, libertarian, or otherwise heretical blogs, “it was a whole perspective I had never been exposed to before in anything other than caricature.”

When that’s the norm, the harm is less to dissenters than to the life of the mind. It’s not good for any group of people to spend a lot of time listening only to like-minded others. It is especially bad for a profession whose lifeblood is the exchange of ideas.

Read it all.